Two of us went to yamakasa on Highland today for lunch. Mr. Kawasaki who used to be Shibutani's head underchef (sous-chef seems funny here) at Shibucho in the Yaohan/Mitsuwa marketplace downtown, who later took over under the names Tsukasa and Kawacho, and WHO DISAPPEARED, is here. We found him a while back and posted it.
So, omakase at the counter. This isn't completely fair as I've been going to his places for some time, and he knows my tastes. But here's most of what we had
1. shared ankimo (monkfish liver) sashimi. Three big pieces, not veiny, great, fresh like finest foie gras d'OIE - yes goose not duck. Delicate sauce, not overly vinegary like other places.
2. Single piece of hamachi sushi - buttery, fresh, not a hint of iodine, smooth.
3. He seared some tuna - two pieces for each us. Tasted like what every hamburger joint dreams of serving - charred and meaty and a bit rich from the melted fat and super-beefy.
4. Hand roll of a spicy lobster roll with flyingfishroe (tobiko) - this was great and I'm usually very reluctant about spicy anything - but it was a beast done in a way not found in Japan, so ok? good.
5. Sliced red snapper sashimi with yuzu and a sweetish sauce with a hint of nu-ta ( a sweet miso paste thing). The yuzu (a type of citron, not lemon, not citrUS, a Japanese etrog) peel brought out an acidity and a brininess in the snapper that amazed me. Really.
was quite surprized.
6. He went back and after a bit came out with HOT tempura dipping sauce in two bowls. We were now intrigued - then we came out with his creation: sliced eel wrapped around avocado and asparagus and then deep-fried or rather flash-fried. The eel (freshwater, unagi not anago [manyu not shanyu]) had become leaner as some of its own fat had melted into the flesh and out into the oil, the avocado warmed, and the whole thing with the tempura sauce was - well not a revelation but as some are found of saying darned good eatin. The flavors on the snapper had been more striking but this was a winner as well.
7. Uni handroll. I love this and usually finish with it, as he knows. But we were still hungry (well, not so hungry, but it had been a while since I'd eaten at Mr. Kawasaki's bar) so
8. negihama (scallion and yellowtail minced together) roll, sliced into 6 portions.
9. I like saba/mackarel, and asked for either that or kohada or iwashi (herringysardine-y fish). He suggested the kohada so had it and was wonderful, a bit strong but that's how it's supposed to taste. Not all fish are yellowtail, and venison shouldn't taste like steamed chicken breast.
10. nakaochi toro handroll (toro scraped off the bone and skin, with some finely chopped pickles/ozuki).
(note: we didn't both get the various handrolls or cut rolls, not all the sushi was order size and not everything is available to be ordered, the charred tuna was something he whipped up for us as was the eel dish - omakase: you takes yer chances)
Miso soups and water. Total with tax before tip (won't discuss tip amount here) about $37 a head.
Afterwards, drove down to the Monastery of the Angels, a convent of Dominican nuns known for their pumpkin bread near Gower and Franklin, and bought a box of their Rocca S., a butter toffee with almonds yes shockingly similar to almond roca, and a box of the peanut butter centered chocolates. Sort of an LA version of the candies made by the monjas in Spain and Mexico. Exceptionally yummy and no preservatives. Nice boxes too.
YAMAKASA JAPANESE RESTAURANT
1900 N HIGHLAND AVE
(NE corner mall at Franklin and Highland, NOT at hollywood highland development).
Kawasaki is off on Tuesdays, and not sure which day he works on the weekend.
The Monastery of the Angels
1977 Carmen Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068-4098
Giftshop closed on sundays and closes at 4:30 pm. one block n of franklin one block w of gower.
gift shop website below, click on homepage for more info -