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Restaurants & Bars 5

Echigo v. Wasabe v. Mori v. Sasabune+$10 lunch(long rant)

LA Cheesemonger | Mar 29, 200207:03 PM

Link is for the reply on Sushi lunch specials. I would have to disagree with that post about Fujiyoshi. Since it is open on Sun., I have ordered takeout nigiri sushi half a dozen times. Staff and both younger and older sushi chef run on cruise control(not very attentive, inept at service). Echigo's $10 nigiri sushi special kicks butt over Fujiyoshi as far as quality goes. Having eaten at the bar for dinner at Fujiyoshi, I can say that the quality is the same for takeout too. I always ask for no wasabi as it always detracts from the flavors of perfect rice and fish...too spicy(and yes, I am a chilihead, authentic Bangkok style Thai food lover too). Unless you get fresh Japanese wasabi, and only a smidgen is dabbed on the fish...then, and only then, does the combination work well. Fujiyoshi's chefs automatically plop wasabi in the sushi, regardless that I have the waitress write it down on the menu and highlight with pink marker. Fresh fish? Hmmm, hit and miss more so than the more expensive sushi restaurants, quality varies considerably at Fujiyoshi(price you pay for low cost sushi?). There is a long bar, with a number of species repeated along the bar. Had excellent salmon and so-so salmon. Toro, if you sit down at the bar and are lucky to spot otoro, then you can point to it and get it for the same price as the $5 chu-toro(buttery, marbled fat---good to excellent when I had it). But takeout, one time, less visually appealing chu-toro was better than the pieces of marbled toro used to make for my 3 orders. The marbled toro may have been farm raised Spanish bluefin toro. Farm raised toro is a joke, bland and chewy; that is usually what you get for $50-60/lb. that you get at Mitsuwa or Marukai supermarkets. Echigo's fish is a step above Fujiyoshi(same for the prices), so the $10 lunch special is a better deal. Echigo will do takeout if they are not busy, no matter that the waitresses who answer the phone say otherwise....good to know for those who work near by and want the lunch special.

Echigo, been open only for about a month now, with freshness about on par with Wasabe. Mori, Echigo, and Wasabe serve warm rice, but I like Mori best. Mori is warm with delicious flavor with just the right texture. Echigo is almost hot, too warm---I got there at opening time, being the only person there, and the chef does not pack it tight enough when making nigiri, and it has a somewhat gelatinous/sticky component despite the fact that it falls apart-Mori's is more 'al dente'. Chef explains he wants the rice warm and that you should use the chopsticks to kind of scoop up the nigiri---fine if you are deftly adept with chopsticks. For Kevin, who only seems to post the same question about how much it costs; omakase $43 including $7 tip, no drinks, a number of 1/2 portions, so figure 35-55 per person. Echigo, the chef is more chatty than Wasabe's Katsu, telling me that Katsu-san is from Sasabune?---sushi chefs tend to mumble in muted voices, in Hawaii, reason that chef does not know any of the high-end sushi chef's in LA. Wasabe's menu(Dec. 2001) is exactly the same as the summer LA Times calendar live review, same everything! But at Wasabe I got boring baby octopus(never fresh, so it tastes like squid, no flavor at all), with 2 small slivers of octopus head. The head is 2 toned in color, half white, with the outer part red/purple. Tastes like mild proscuitto or ham, excellent. More variety at Wasabe, but Echigo's bar is shorter in lenght. Echigo's uniform colored/textured East Coast bluefin chu-toro at $8(2 pieces) was buttery. Had only one handroll at Echigo, which I thought was unagi(sea eel) at first, but it was just a thin sliver of grilled? salmon...interesting but I would have prefered crab, and the seaweed was not as fresh as you get at Wasabe or Mori. Echigo's prices aver. around $4-5 for nigiri: most expensive items on chalkboard; toro, live large Santa Barbara shrimp, and chewy abalone sashimi, all at $8. Maguro had the sweet soy sauce mentioned in the thread about 3-5pgs down on Chowhounds. Not too sweet, works to a degree, and the ponzu sauce is not cloyingly sweet like at Wasabe(drowned out the mild flavors of various glissening varieties of fresh whitefish, what a waste of fish!). Geez, some people are overly sensitive to servers that hover attentively, like that mentioned about Echigo. Did not happen to me, both women stayed away unless removing individual serving dishes. Mori is near tops for inventiveness and artful/visual presentation(you pay dearly for it however), and usually top notch fresh seafood. Echigo is about on par with Wasabe(rent is much higher on S.M. Blvd., 1blk. w. of Bundy, than Tustin) as far as style, freshness, and cost. I do not care if Tori Spelling eats there, I will NEVER eat at Sasabune on Sawtelle. Walked in there, immediately "confronted" by B'chy, callously indifferent, waitress(this young thing was Japanese, not a Chinese illegal immigrant working in a dim sum restuarant); who demanded "How many"(I was by myself)? I asked if they do takeout(good way to scope out a sushi bar before spending too much, if they can't give you halfway decent takeout, then....), and she in her gruff manner said, "No.". I asked how much the toro costs, she left to take care of (or berate masochistic customers) others before she came back to me, saying something like $12, then telling me that the bar is omakase only...just an atrocious attitude...hey, I go out to relax and have a pleasurable evening, other wise I'd stay home and barbeque up the real ultimate LA gourmet burger!
Nazi waitress has more attitude than the infamous Shige Fungo at Shibucho. Speaking of Shibucho, why is it that even Wasabe's squid tastes like nothing, and Shige manages to serve up something that actually has flavor, mild 'nuttiness'?
Although I shall not comment in detail about the outstanding meals at Shibucho, as the few times I have been to this most expensive place, I went with a wine enthusiast buddy that Rafi has seen there before; i.e., had an insider meal, everytime Shige just writes 'Sushi $80' on the bill for the 2 of us...probably Shige's cost only.

OK people, please post your e-mail addresses so we who have questions of less importance(to the general chowhounds readers), can ask for a reply. Use a anonymous e-mail account(when I get one, I'll post) if you want to protect your identity. Also, next time I post/troll these boards I shall repeat a call for higher standards of reviews/more detailed complex reporting. For now, everyone who has their own computers, go to www.outpost.com; buy the discontinued Umax 6400 Firewire(scans twice as fast as most USB models) scanner for $50, and scan in menus, menus, menus...so chowhound readers can request you e-mail them copies. Reason, for example, my favorite Rowland Heights dim sum/yum cha restaurant has weekend specials that I have the waitresses write down in Chinese so that I do not have the trouble ordering it again(usually get takeout, then reheat at home in the bamboo steamer), for these waitresses and managers typically do not speak English with much of a vocabulary---I could send you copies of the Chinese and describe the dumplings better that way. Take lots, lots of notes too; sometimes when the chef or servers see you doing this, they suspect you are a 'real' restaurant reviewer---might get you better service. And how about going to the next step, get a digital camera and either post(geez, that would bring chowhounds servers to a virtual standstill) or e-mail us actual pictures of the mouthwatering morsels you are describing....picture worth a 1000 words. I mean, when you go on vacation to various spots around the globe, do you not take pictures, and bring home copies of menus(Michelin 3-star restuarants) so you can show your friends? Spent for now, more organized post in a few months.

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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