I had written about and took the photos on my blog for the following almost two years ago (http://themetropolitanlounge.blogspot...). Be that as it may, even from my recent visit a couple months ago, I can safely say that the food quality and offerings haven't changed.
I know, I know: the $15 Sashimi Platter is of amazing value and going from there to paying close to around $100 (or higher) dining at the sushi bar is quite a jump. Even with that being said, I feel that not only is the price worth dining at the bar but also those ordering the sets from their menu are genuinely missing out on the best Sushi Gen has to offer.
If you get a chance, be sure to start out with the Mozuku (a slimy seaweed) in a vinegar-based sauce topped with grated mountain yam. Sorry I forgot to take a pic but it's definitely an ideal starter towards a fabulous and extremely authentic meal at the city where sushi started in America, Los Angeles. As I typically like to stick to tradition when dining at the sushi bar, I had ordered my sushi progressively from lightest to heaviest in terms of flavor.
I started out with Japanese Snapper (Tai). The sushi was seasoned with both yuzu juice for refreshing acidity and yuzu-kosho (fermented yuzu) to provide salt and a deep-flavor contrast with the fish. With both of these seasonings contributing to the Japanese Snapper's flavors, this was a great way to start the meal along with the freshness of the fish and the skin being left on the side in order to provide a textural contrast.
Wanting another fish of the lighter flavors yet something different from the Japanese Snapper, Engawa (Halibut Fin Meat) came next. As it's a bit chewier than Hirame (meat from the main body of the halibut) along with having its clean, light flavors, the Engawa was very delicious as it too was seasoned with yuzu juice and yuzu-kosho for the same reasons as the previous Tai.
Garnished instead with chopped shallots, green onion, ground ginger, and seasoned with ponzu (soy sauce seasoned with yuzu juice); the Spanish Mackerel (Aji) was served to us. The garnishes and the ponzu provide a refreshing contrast to the strong flavors of the mackerel along with the ponzu providing an umami flavor. In addition, one can tell that the seasonings and garnishes for the Aji are there to uplift its flavors instead of masking its "fishiness" in which there really wasn't much of by the fish itself. This was a surprise favorite for everyone in my dining party as Aji isn't typically ordered as frequent in the States which of course is unfortunate as it's a traditional sushi topping in Japan.
Next came Kohada (Gizzard Shad) which is, like Aji, one of the sushi toppings that isn't much ordered in the US yet it is standard in Japan. The flavors of the fish, like as of expected in makerel, were very strong, borderlined to being a bit "too fishy" even though it was still very delicious. It was fortunate that the lone topping of yuzu-kosho was there providing a different, strong flavor to complement the fish along with the vinagered rice providing refreshing acidity. It was these two components in which I felt saved it.
The progression now focused on fish with more deeper, meatier, and even perhaps buttery flavors. Yellowfin Tuna (Hamachi) came up. Even though I usually don't go for Hamachi, this was surprisingly very delicious as the fat content of the fish provided a nice buttery flavor without it being overwhelming. The freshness of the fish certainly helped as well. As the Hamachi wasn't seasoned at all like the previous sushi, the fish of this heavier class now requires the diner to dip the fish (not the rice) into the soy sauce. As wasabi is already added to the majority of sushi ordered, no additional wasabi's needed to be added or to be mixed into the soy sauce which is actually a sushi faux-pas. The slight dip of the fish in the soy sauce provided a strong, salty, umami flavor that went well together with the butteriness of the Hamachi.
Next came the most standard out of all the sushi, Lean Bluefin Tuna (Akami). Not only is the tuna of high quality and very fresh, it's meaty, savory flavors were very much appreciated.
Now, I present to you what are the most amazing, lip-drooling items at Sushi Gen: Chu-Toro (Medium Fatty Tuna on the left) and the grandest of all, O-Toro (Very Fatty Tuna on the right). First, lets start off with Chu-toro. It was quite evenly marbled which is what makes Chu-Toro what it is: an amazing blend of the fatty and the meaty, leaner flavors combined together in order to make its own unique character. Next, words can only mention so much of the grandeur lavishness of O-Toro. The distinct fatty segments of the tuna belly is what overrides the senses and makes those sensitive to fat extremely squeamish just by looking at it. This of course was extremely luscious in both flavor and texture. Only a small dip of soy sauce is required in order to fully bring out the breathtaking flavors of both Chu-Toro and O-Toro. As the chef was willing to give a piece each of Chu-Toro and O-Toro as it's two pieces per order, I was fortunate enough to taste both of them. But then again, who am I kidding? I'm going for the all out lusciousness of O-Toro only when I come back next time!
The next best thing came next: Sea Urchin (Uni) from Santa Barbara served as a gunkan-maki (battleship roll). Unlike Ikko in Orange County where they serve some of the best Uni, this isn't preseasoned in which at times I prefer it just as is with only a small dip in the soy sauce for seasoning so that I can taste and appreciate the full, distinct yet very clean flavors of fresh Uni. The texture of the uni was firm, not at all watery which also contributed to its extreme deliciousness.
To complete the almighty sushi trinity with O-Toro and Uni being the other two components, raw Sweet Shrimp (Amaebi) was then presented freshly before us with their heads being simmered into miso soup to be served later on. Not only was it not at all slimy as one might perceive it to be, the meat was very firm in texture and of course was very sweet in flavor as it should live up to its name.
One of my personal favorites, Ikura (Seasoned Salmon Roe) came next served as a gunkan-maki like the Uni. The eggs were very fresh as determined from its non-wrinkly, springy, firm texture. I swear, some people get weirded out from the sight of roe as they make a mental connotation of fish eggs with something icky. However, they shouldn't do so as people see caviar from sturgeon as luxurious yet not so much with Ikura as it's from Salmon. Be that as it may, the Ikura had a very deep savory flavor which only required a small dip of soy sauce in order to bring out fully its flavors as the roe was of course high in salt content yet not overwhelmingly salty.
Be sure to see Part 2!