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Restaurants & Bars 4

Umenohana Review (Long)

Ninja | Jan 16, 200503:11 AM

We went there a few nights ago and just wanted to write about our experience.

When you enter, the smell of new construction is obvious, if not even a bit overwhelming. The decor is right from Japan, with its use of blond wood and clean, minimalist style. The restaurant is huge - much too large for its target market (IMHO), and only about a fourth full.

We were seated in a comfortable booth and began our journey through an extravagant tofu-filled meal. They offer some a la carte dishes, but having been our first time, we opted for the $45 and $53 tasting course options.

Having just returned from Tokyo a few months ago, this is by far the most authentic Japanese-style restaurant in terms of flavor and decor that I've experienced in Los Angeles (not including some premier sushi places like Urusawa, Mori, or Nishimura). Although they did say that they had to "Americanize" some of the dishes, I quite enjoyed the subtle nuances in flavor of the various dishes.

I apologize for not having taken any notes, and, I regrettably don't remember most of the Japanese names of the dishes, but from what I can recall we had the following:

1st course: Firm tofu cake that tasted almost like a ricotta cheese
Yuba in a sweet, mild soy sauce with a touch of freshly grated wasabi
Freshly made yuba floating in soymilk that you season to your taste with sesame seeds, freshly grated ginger, and soy sauce
Zucchini and poached shrimp served with a light tofu sauce

2nd course: Small cubes of blue fin tuna and julienned mountain yam assembled in a checkered design, wrapped together by yuba skin
A trio of appetizers, including blue fin sashimi with momiji, uni with a touch of caviar, and yuba with salmon roe

3rd course: Mixed green salad in a light ponzu dressing with cubes of tofu, a few squares of Parma Proscuitto, and a couple of perfectly fried lotus root chips

4th course: Freshly made tofu served with two sauces: a gentle and brothy vegetable sauce and a very spicy mapo pork sauce (the soy milk began heating on a conduction range top on the table and finished cooking by the time we got to this course)

5th course: Lightly boiled tofu and yuba with baby spinach in a sesame paste
Grilled tofu steak

6th course: Chawan mushi, which is a delicate savory egg custard with water chestnuts and shrimp. You get a choice of regular, spicy or creamy. I preferred the regular, SO preferred the spicy

7th course: Tofu and chicken shumai wrapped in steamed rice noodles

8th course: 2 different types of grilled mochi cakes with shrimp croquette

9th course: 4 small bites of sushi (a piece of a California roll made with blue crab, a piece of spicy tuna maki, and 2 small balls of sushi rice topped with very thin slices of blue fin tuna and halibut)

Needless to say that by the end of the meal we were absolutely stuffed. My favorite courses were the shumai, the freshly made tofu, and the grilled mochi cakes. We ordered a 300 ml bottle of their house cold sake, which was $27. It was the cheapest cold sake on their list, but really quite tasty and worth the price. The total bill came out to $165 including tax and tip.

It’s not a cheap place, but definitely worth experiencing. We plan on going again to try the other tasting menus. It was a lovely evening – quite romantic and zen-like. Everyone from the hostess to the busboy was incredibly warm and friendly. Our server was wonderfully attentive and unobtrusive. It’s just a shame that they built such a huge restaurant because it will be a hard place to fill up with such a specific target market.

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