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So is Tama Sushi really the best? Chowhound's rickmond goes undercover to investigates! (long but half-baked review)

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So is Tama Sushi really the best? Chowhound's rickmond goes undercover to investigates! (long but half-baked review)

rickmond | May 23, 2006 05:21 PM

With all the ballyhoo over Tama Sushi these past few days, I decided to check it out this past weekend with the mother and the female other. Went in and was immediately struck by the sleek modernist decor (definite plus points). Sat down and ordered the $50 omakase, while the female ordered the $30 one and the mother ordered the $20 sashimi dinner (because Atkins tells her to).

Went to the bathroom and appreciated the sleek and lovely faucet fixture and the concrete and smoked-glass, wood-trimminess of it all. A definite winning combination there.

Stood around in the hallway to read some of the blurbs about Michite Katsu, the chef and owner. It occured to me that I'd read about him before, and not just on chowhound, so I was starting to buy into the hype and got excited.

Came back to the table, where the waiter soon presented me (and me only, since I was having the top-of-the-line omakase) with a plate of 5 or 6 appetizers - whole baby squid, sweetly pickled, a couple slices of a compressed chicken mixture (not sure how else to describe it), a gelatinous thingy if i remember correctly, and a couple other things which escape me at the moment. How's that for spottiness? I knew i should have written this review sooner.

HOLY CRAP! Those were good, on par with what you might find at say, an ultra-high-end Japanese restaurants. Next came a fascinating soup - a light consomme with chunks of toro in the broth and a flaky pastry crust encasing it all. Damn good stuff. Damn good. Needless to say, at this point I was preparing myself to eat crow after all the debate here.

But then the nigiri sushi arrived.

And it...

Was not...

All that.

Don't get me wrong, it was decent, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it. The rice wasn't warm or crumbly (a la Nozawa) and was rather dense and hard. The "netta" as the S.O. informed me (meaning the fish part of the piece of nigiri sushi) were sliced too thick and too big, although that might bother a Japanese person more than a baka gaijin content to stuff his face lol. But the deal-breaker, even more than the oft-discussed non-grated wasabi, was that the fish just wasn't exceptionally fresh or delicious. It was merely serviceable.

Kiriko is better.
Nozawa is better.
R-23, back before the chef/ownership change, was better.
Mori Sushi is better.
And I'd imagine Urasawa is probably better although for now, I can't really afford to confirm it.

For those who might be wondering what nigiri were in my omakase, lemme see: chu-toro, baby yellowtail, hamachi, kanpachi, uni, blue crab, uhh...

Actually I don't much remember because the female and I mixed all ours up and shared with each other, since every item pretty much came in pairs. (I think I wound up eating most of hers to boot - something like 15 pieces of nigiri on top of the appetizers and the soup.)

The mother did have engawa sashimi, which is noteworthy.

Also noteworthy is that we were given a really fresh fruit plate to close out the meal and that Michite Katsu seems to be one heck of a nice guy.

At any rate, my overall assessment is that, yes, Tama is good for quantity at a reasonable price point. The appetizers were exceptional and almost worth the price of admission. The architecture and decor rock. But as far as sushi goes? It's not that special, and in that regard, I can't really rate it as the best in L.A. when there are many other reasonably-priced omakase - some with fresher fish - to be had around town.

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