Yet another Sushi Zo rave. I went for lunch on a Tuesday and was one of the first people in at the bar in front of Keizo. The personal attention was nice. As things picked up, the cut and rice wavered slightly. I counted 42 pieces between the two of us and the total bill was a respectable $145 before tip. Price aside, I may give Mori a slight edge for now since Mori’s seasonal stuff is a little more interesting. If you figure in Quality/Price ratio, Zo is a better deal and also has a larger selection.
-Kanpachi sashimi with salt and yuzu. Delicious and very fatty kanpachi. Some of the best I’ve had anywhere.
-Kummamoto oyster: excellent, sweet and delicious.
-Toro (probably chu toro). Decent, but nothing remarkable
-Shima Aji. Delicious. Served skin off
-Uni. Santa Barbara. Very sweet.
-Steamed Ankimo. As good as everyone says it is. However, Ino in SF still has my vote for best of all time Ankimo.
-Sardine. Excellent quality.
-Isaki. A seasonal fish. Very fatty and delicious. One of the best items of the day along with the kanpachi.
-Butterfish. Seared and lightly cooked.
-Ono. Also seared and lightly cooked
-Sumi ika. Pretty good but just maybe a day old.
-Shoyu ikura. Very good but the ikura wasn’t as crisp and didn’t have as definite a pop as some of the others I’ve had.
-To end, the obligatory blue crab handroll.
Overall an impressive array. My favorites were the kanpachi, isaki, sardine, and shima aji. I felt the seared butterfish, ono, bonito, and albacore were the least remarkable. He also lists “madai” on the menu but judging from the price of $2.80, I doubt it’s real madai and probably just “red snapper”. The fresh wasabi was nice and he was very friendly, even taking time to make a joke about isaki. Zo is definitely tied with Mori for my all time favorite in LA and # 3 all time.
My personal list with the caveat that I have not been to Urasawa in LA or Masa in NYC and that those two may get higher than a 10.
10- Sushi Yasuda (NYC). Perfect rice (his own mix), 40 types of fish, 5 types of fatty toro, 5 types of fatty hamachi, and multiple types of fresh grilled eel. True madai, impeccable kinmedai, warasa, and hiramasa. Yasuda is the gold standard. Plus, he’s crazy and you have to love him.
9.75- Kuruma zushi (NYC). Stellar quality of fish and a nice variety. The variety and rice does not approach Yasuda.
9.0 - Mori Sushi (LA). Great quality and knife-work. The rice is wonderful. Perhaps the best I’ve tasted outside of Yasuda. The variety is somewhat limited (around 20 types) but he does have fine kohada, needlefish, barracuda, and winter buri. For all practical purposes, Mori and Zo are about equal in the quality of fish. Mori’s rice and knife-work have a slight edge while Zo has a greater variety of fish in general. The imported/seasonal stuff are about equal.
9.0 – Sushi Zo (LA). Excellent quality and variety. Keizo is young but already has the mischievous half-smile necessary that all great masters possess. His knife-work and rice is a little inconsitent at times (some slices are more strips and some pieces of rice were much smaller than others) but he does do a true omakase offering seasonal items such as isaki. Keizo also uses fresh wasabi.
9.0- Jewel Bako (NYC). Again, great quality, and great variety, but the size is a little precious and the chef's skill is nowhere near Yasuda's. Recent downgrade because I haven’t been in a while and have not heard any great reports about the place.
8.0 to 8.25-Kiriko (LA). The quality at times can be excellent but at times it can be slightly off (especially their kohada, aji, saba). The rice is a solid 8. On occasion, they do have fresh wasabi. The house-smoked salmon is excellent. The fresh matsutake soup is a must when in season. Not too much in terms of exciting variety although I did have live japanese mantis prawn and pristine baby bluefin tuna here.
8.0- Kaygetsu and Kappa (SF). Both have excellent fish quality, but limited selection. Kappa’s ranking is only for the quality of the sashimi since they don’t serve nigiri. Kaygetsu's fish may be upwards of a 8.5 if Toshi hides the good stuff behind the counter.
8.0- Nishimura (LA). Great quality, limited selection. Horrible attitude by the waitstaff. A very unpleasant dining experience. A 6 if you take the entire experience into account.
8.0- Kitsho (Cupertino, SF). The fish is great and the variety is excellent, not only for the southbay but for the SF area in general. Howard brings in some really good stuff like seasonal suzuki and kawahagi. His kinmedai and shima-aji are occasional misses. However, the cuts are a little bigger and less refined. The rice while improved is still hit or miss.
7.0- R23 (LA). Good quality, live abalone is available but in general, a limited variety.
7.0- Ino (SF). Great ankimo. Best I’ve had to date. Even better than Sushi Zo’s steamed ankimo. He has a small imported variety from Japan. Pikefish was memorable. Way too much wasabi.
6.0- Zushi Puzzle (SF). I want to like Roger but his fish was too warm for my taste. He does get some very interesting fish (like his pencilfish) but he may be more of a "interesting rolls" type guy vs. pure nigiri specialist. Roger did have Japanese uni on my visit.
5- Sasabune (LA). Good crab hand roll. Otherwise, watch out for the precut fish and don't be surprised if the skin is left on the mirugai. The hot rice is poorly seasoned and readily falls apart. It’s even worse when doused in sauce.