Okay, I'm getting tired (and hungry)just thinking about reliving it, but here goes: In a year that has included fantastic meals at Water Grill, Lucques, not to mention some great "ethnic experiences", last night's dinner is up there, probably at the top.
The funny thing is -- the very advanced culinary experience that is shibucho wasn't even on our itinerary for the evening. My bf and I are regulars at Saito sushi, it's in our nabe, and we were about to go grab a quick bite there when we randomly decided to give Shibucho a try. (I'd read all the recs on this board, and was curious about it -- mucho arigato, guys.) Well, it's a cozy-looking place, but I have to say, our welcome wan't exactly warm. For those who haven't been, Chef (is Shibucho his name?) is a big, graying, intimidating kind of guy. Chatty with with regulars, chilly with newbies like us. (As the kindly Japanese woman who was sitting next to me tells it, it's important to go at least once a month to foster a relationship -- a tasty but extremely expensive prospect.) Anyway, when we said we'd like him to choose our dishes, Chef looked coolly at us and asked how much we'd like to spend. Because chef's choice would cost us about a hundred dollars -- apiece! Gulp!!! Bf and I looked at each other -- on the verge of walking out, or ordering some yellowtail and calling it a day. Then we decided to throw caution and cash to the wind -- after all, we were sure there was something to celebrate if we thought about it hard enough... As it turns out, a brilliant decision!
After we agreed to the prix fixe dinner (probably a better description than "omakase" in this case) chef's treatment of us improved considerably. Funny how that is... Dinner started with slices of albacore dressed with arugala and an olive oil vinegaigrette -- more like a tuna carpaccio than albacore that I'd had at sushi bars in the past, but great. Next was the best, most buttery toro I've ever had. Then terrific yellowtail -- interestingly served with significant skin attached. After that, things really took a turn towards the dazzling: a delicous, perfect for a warm night, cold eggplant dish. Out-of-this-world almost-haute-couture sashimi roll with salmon, sweet shrimp and caviar (not the trad sushi bar fish roe, real caviar.) A grilled filet of scorpian fish with an almost Mexican-tasting tomato onion salsa -- better than fish I ate recently at La Seranata, btw, and that's no small compliment. Then the real show-stopper; oysters in a wht wine chili flake broth, very Italian in flavor but better than any linguine with clams I've ever had. I usually prefer oysters raw but these were gustatory miracles -- not chewy or fishy, more like perfect poached eggs.
Rounding out this Japo-fusion feast, dessert was creme caramel (good) and tiramisu (fantastic -- and I'm not usually a tiramisu fan.) By the time the 200 dollar bill came (with soup and sake in addition to above), we didn't think it a bargain, but we were reasonably happy to pay it -- and totally ecstatic about the meal. There are probably ways to eat more simply and cheaply at Shibuco, but I think for an everday (if still not cheap) kind of sushi dinner I'd rather go to Saito. Or venture out to Nozawa or Sasabune. (Never been to Tsukasa, or what is the weho place called, Mori?) But for a special occasion dinner, even an impromptu and unexplained one like ours, it's hard to imagine a better place.
As a side note: Down the bar, some shibucho regulars had brought what was evidently very good wine -- which sushi chef decanted and tasted with showy professionalism. He suggested to us that next time we have wine with dinner rather than sake. I know there's been disagreement on that subject here, but it seemed to me with all the western influences in shibucho's cooking wine might indeed be a nice accompaniment. I don't know all that much about wine but his list looked impressive. Anyway, it's going to be awhile before I have to make that particular decision -- I can't afford to go back any time soon. However, if anyone out there is feeling flush, I highly recommend the shibucho experience.
And now, back to work...
p.s. Cafe Coco -- block west of Shibucho on Beverly. What the hell is it? Anybody been?