I know I owe some of you (kevin, J.L., etc.) the review of my full omakase experience at Kiriko from last month, but since dineLA ends in a week, I wanted to get my review of Yojisan out in case it's useful to anyone considering it.
Earlier this week I decided to try Yojisan in Beverly Hills, chef Yoji Tajima and chef/restaurateur Giacomino Drago’s second joint venture after SHU in Bel Air. The prix fixe lunch is $25 and does include a dessert course, something which many of the dineLA restaurants have dropped from their lunch menus.
I got to the restaurant just after noon and it was fairly empty, with no one at the sushi bar and two tables occupied (it filled out quite a bit by the time I left just after 1 PM). The decor was cool and modern, and I was seated at the bar. My itamae was Yoji-san himself, who was very personable, regularly inquiring to make sure I was enjoying my meal.
The first course was a choice of duck ceviche or beef tataki. I chose the former for lunch today. This was not a traditional ceviche, where the protein is diced or cubed and then “cooked” (denatured) by the acid in citrus juices, at least it didn’t seem to be.
In this case, the duck was thinly sliced, not cubed, and did have a very light sear on the skin. It did not taste particularly citrusy, and the consistency was that of pan-seared duck breast, rare and tender. The dressing it was sitting in was quite tart and reminded me of ceviche, but the sweetness of the grape tomatoes helped to temper it. The romaine hearts were fresh and crisp.
The second course was a choice between 7 pieces of chef’s-choice sushi (and 4 pieces of California roll) or half lobster gratinar. Again, I chose the former for lunch today. The sushi came out on one platter. The 7 pieces were as follows: aji (Spanish mackerel), awabi (abalone), bincho (albacore), hirame (halibut), ibodai (Japanese butterfish), maguro (tuna), sake (salmon).
The shari (sushi rice) was a little softer, more cooked through, than I preferred, but not unpleasantly so. The nigiri pieces on the platter were all fairly small anyway, so it wasn’t very noticeable. It was most apparent in the California roll, with the amount of rice it contained, but it was not a big deal, and the roll was otherwise unremarkable.
Some of the nigiri, like the maguro and sake (sockeye), were pretty standard. The bincho (fresh albacore, according to the Specials menu, so not seared) and hirame were better than average, as was the aji. The awabi was cooked and was expectedly rubbery, and the yuzukosho (yuzu and pepper sauce) was a little too strong for the abalone.
The best piece of nigiri was the ibodai. This was my first time having this fish as sushi, and it was quite good, mildly fatty and really deep-flavored. I was glad that it was served with the skin on (burned with a blowtorch), as it seems (based on Google Images search results) that the skin is usually trimmed off. I also liked that, with the negi (scallion), Yoji-san also sliced up some shiso leaf for the topping, which I didn’t realize until I tasted it.
I was still a bit hungry, so I ordered a few pieces of sushi a la carte:
Since I generally prefer hikarimono (silver-skinned fish) for its fishy (in a good way) flavor, I ordered a piece of iwashi (sardine) nigiri, which was on the Specials menu. The iwashi was incredibly soft, and had a sweet yet unctuous flavor. I liked the light saucing that Yoji-san used on this piece (and on the other sauced pieces). The sauce itself was also very mild.
Next, I ordered a piece of hotate (scallop) nigiri, also on the Specials menu, which was topped with yuzukosho and black sprinkles (maybe black pepper, maybe kelp). I’m ambivalent about yuzukosho. I’ve had it be flavorful and complementary to the items it topped at Shunji and Kiriko, but I’ve also had it be overpowering at SUGARFISH. Yojisan’s fell somewhere in between. It didn’t work that well with the awabi above, but luckily the hotate was bright and sweet and plump, and the pepperiness accentuated the flavor of the scallop rather than covered it up.
Next, I ordered a piece of bintoro (fresh albacore belly) nigiri, another Specials menu item, which was topped with a wasabi pickle sauce. This was an amazing piece of sushi. It was very soft, without a trace of gristle, and the wasabi pickle sauce, which I’ve never had before, was the perfect complement, adding a bit of salinity and tartness to the fattiness of the fish. Much, much better than the albacore belly at SUGARFISH.
To wrap up the sushi, I decided to have another piece ibodai nigiri. The piece was larger than what came with the dineLA course, for which I was grateful, as it was just as delicious.
[I forgot to note the exact prices of the individual nigiri but I believe they were just over $3 per piece, except for the bintoro, which was just over $7 for the single piece.]
For the dessert course, I chose the homemade green tea pudding. It had the consistency of panna cotta, and was not overly sweet. The caramel sauce was quite subtle and worked well with the matcha. I’m a sucker for flan and panna cotta, so I’d order this again in a heartbeat.
In conclusion, I would definitely go back to Yojisan. The dineLA deal is pretty good; the green tea pudding is normally $8.50, and figuring the four pieces of California roll at $3.50 ($7.00 for a regular order), that’s already $12. $13 more for the duck ceviche and 7 (albeit small) pieces of nigiri is a pretty good deal.
Still, I wouldn’t have ordered California roll, and I liked the sushi a la carte better anyway, so if I do go back for the dineLA lunch menu, I would likely choose the beef tataki (just to try something different, though the duck was excellent) and the lobster gratinar, and just order a few pieces of sushi individually to round out the meal.
[Full-size photos, with captions, at http://theoffalo.com/2012/07/yojisans...]