I went last night to Ume no Hana in Beverly Hills with my husband. I would recommend this place if you like tofu and enjoy a traditional Kaiseki type meal. It is a chain restaurant in Japan with about 75 locations. This is the first one in the US. I imagine it is a little different than the ones in Japan because they have aimed these for the American palette.
The restaurant itself is beautiful with a zen like feel. There are 3 dining rooms and a VIP tatami room plus a full bar area. They make all their own tofu and yuba (tofu skin). There is a viewing window that you can see them make the yuba. Sidenote The bathrooms even have the Toto toilets with heated seats and bidets! Surprisingly, most of the wait staff are Americans and the back of the house are Japanese. Our waitress, Sally, was especially accommodating and very pleasant. When we would have a question about an item and she didnt know the answer she would go to the kitchen and ask them for an answer.
They serve a lunch course which starts at $25 and there are also a la carte items. Dinner courses start at $45 (which we had) and goes up to $100 or more. I thought $45 was reasonable since there were about 10 courses and they are not stingy on the portions. We started with a tofu salad with fried renkon (lotus root) and prosciutto (which was a little odd, but went well with the dish) dressed in a Japanese style vinaigrette. Then came yuba with wasabi and a dashi type sauce and then a softer tofu mixed with a dairy product which made the tofu like a firm pudding consistency this was served with a miso sauce.
In the middle of the table is a place to put hotpots. The unusual part of this is that it never gets hot to the touch. It only conducts heat when metal is placed on top. The pot gets hot, but the surface stays cool. For our course the hot pot portion was in a woven basket with a metal band at the bottom to conduct the heat. In it was a delicate tofu with greens and nama-fu (a fresh gluten cake made of wheat which you usually only find in stores in the dried form). This was served with sesame seeds, a sesame based sauce and grated ginger. There was also chawan mushi that you can order in the traditional style or with a spicy sauce or creamy sauce. I had the traditional which was very delicious and my husband had the spicy sauce which was similar to momijioroshi which is a red pepper paste used for shabu-shabu. There also were a couple of sushi and sashimi dishes, but they were more of an accent I would not go for the sushi. They also served a few skewered pieces which my favorite was another nama-fu. I believe these were grilled. When we ordered green tea a nice touch was that it was served in a tea set with 2 teacups and a teapot. All the presentation and dinnerware were beautiful typical of the Japanese style. There may have been a couple of other dishes, but I cant specifically remember.
All the courses are different. They dont just add extra dishes like most places do. They all have different ingredients. The more expensive courses have meat and seafood in them.
The meal cant be compared to eating at a Tofu House in Kyoto, but I would recommend Ume no Hana if you like tofu and a traditional Japanese experience.
Ume no Hana
443 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
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