My good friend Limster visited last week. I enjoy eating Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, and we stopped at the board favourites Din Tai Fung, Guelaguetza in Palms and Brodard with excellent results.
For the fourth meal Limster wanted experimental Japanese and chose Ubon for a mid-range option (he hit French Laundry that weekend with Bay Area chowhounds). As you may know, it's on Beverly at La Cienega and is the cheapest restaurant in the Nobu/Matsuhisa corporate empire. Judge for yourselves whether this was great foolishness, but we chose to ask for $60 omakase instead of the $50 set menu - including California rolls I wasn't dying to try - or the udon and soba which I generally prefer to get from a specialist. The menu:
Mix ceviche. Fresh assortment served inside an orange - beautiful presentation was a consistent theme. High marks for toothsome ikura (salmon roe) and the white fish whatever it was..
New style sashimi with fresh shrimp. Eliciting coos of delight from the waitron, this also proved to be our pick of the night. Excellent thinly sliced chu toro (medium fatty) and sublime sweet sweet ama ebi which appeared to have been briefly torched, served in a great oil and citrus sauce. Several of our dishes included acid/fat combinations but this was the most delicious by far.
Black cod with saikyo miso. A Nobu favourite, this was very pleasing with firm yet flaky texture in the cod. Sauce was a little too sweet but forgivable with fish this good.
Tuna tataki. Regulation sashimi/salad offering, with fancy daikon-rolled frisee presentation. I liked this fine but it suffered by comparison with the more unusual fare we'd just had.
Shrimp tempura with spicy-creamy sauce. A concept sort of akin to the 'salad prawns' one finds at HK-style dim sum sometimes. Shrimp were great but somewhat soggy from sitting in the very-lemony chilli mayonnaise sauce. I enjoyed this dish a lot but wished it had been substantially hotter, the level of chilli heat was Beverly Hills appropriate.
Sushi. Cucumber maki, OK. Nigiri with hamachi and maguro. Good but not outstanding. In the context of our meal I wanted something more innovative.
Miso soup. Storebought tofu.
Mochi ice cream. We chose strawberry, mango, adzuki (red bean) and green tea, rejecting vanilla and coffee. These were surprisingly excellent, sticky mochi encasing flavourful ice cream on the verge of melting... melting! Eat them fast.
To summarise: this was a really expensive meal for me but I left happy. It would have been even costlier to assemble the same meal ala carte, and there were enough unusual and funky combinations to offset the traditional stuff. One could save $ by eating noodles and adding some of the best dishes from the ala carte menu. The nature of the meal wasn't in the truest spirit of omakase where one brilliant chef creates for you out of her or his imagination; this was cookbook fare and you could buy the book on your way out. Nevertheless, I'd go back for the well-executed new Japanese with Peruvian touches.
Low End Theory