I started driving down Hollywood Boulevard with sushi in my thoughts. I had just dined at Ike about two weeks ago and was treated to a fantastic meal by the man himself. I started to think about Echigo and that amazing blue crab hand roll of his, but fate took me to West Hollywood and Wa Sushi Bistro and I dont think I will ever be the same.
We walked into a crowded restaurant, always a good sign, and with no reservation had to wait outside. Luckily there were two lawn chairs and the waitresses were more than obliged to send us sapporos as we gazed inside. The place itself really isnt much to talk about - cramped, on the second floor of a strip mall and loaded with the blue hue of neon signs. Ive never been to Matsuhisa but I assume it must be nicer than this. Wa makes a place like R23 look like, well, R23.
And then the food started. We ordered omakase and the chef asked us what we liked, didnt like, hot and cold dishes. We promptly replied; "everything" and so it began. The first course was a bonito salad. I love bonito, mackrel and the like - the salad was no exception. Paired with a ponzu dressing, red onions and greens - the strong flavors of the bonito became a great opener for the rest of the meal.
Second course was three slices of tuna topped with finely chopped green onion, truffle and then drizzled with sizzling oil. There were also red peppercorns, cracked all over the plate. The tuna mustve been a chu toro - it had that look and that taste. In fact the the blocks of fish here really did stand out and it wasnt the dim lighting believe me. And yes, this course was as good as it sounds - one of the best things I have ever eating in my life.
The third course was a ceviche, the first of second to be served in a martini glass. All in all very good, but we have all had ceviche. Was it tasty? Yes. Was it my favorite on the menu that evening? No. It was a wonderful break of tangy, citrus shellfish and thats all that needs to be said about that.
The fourth course was lobster tempura, bathed in a sirracha, masago sauce, also served in a martini glass. This,much like the second was as close to God as one could be while still maintaining a pulse. Chunk after chunk of crisp lobster bliss. A lot of people say that lobster is best prepared boiled with some butter - I challenge them to try this version.
The fifth course was sushi - that which I wanted before all this madness began. One piece of salmon dressed in lemon and sea salt, japanese red snapper topped with a dot of sundried tomato and strawberry jam, toro, and a mini hand roll. Salmon was solid, not as fatty as some others that I have had but it was clear this was a copper river variety holding its own unique rich taste. The absence of soy sauce really allowed the flavor to develop - amazing what a 2 inch piece of fish can do. The snapper was really wild - the topping gave of an aromatic of saffron, cashew - thoughts of spicy Pakistani biriyanis came through my mind as raw fish was melting on my tongue. The toro was and always is toro - fatty, decadent - it was like a rib eye served at 45 degrees - in a good way. The hand roll was oddly enough the show stopper of this plate. More lobster came to play, tiny asparagus and a special sauce. This course could have done me in but Wa had more plans for me.
The sixth course was sizzling kobe beef. Enoki mushrooms, shitake and red onions were the companions for this lightly breaded, perfect medium rare beef entree. I really had no idea where this meal was going when I said "your choice" - I mean when you crave sushi youre not exactly craving beef. That being said it was a wonderful progression - very tasty and got me to stop craving more sushi which has lead to some frightening bills.
The seventh course was a vanilla creme brulee, as good as any I have had at either the swankiest steak house or stuffy french restaurant. My friend had the green tea flan - very tasty as well but he did at one point snatch the creme brulee away for me for his second, third and fourth taste. We split four large Sapporos and a large bottle of cold sake. The bill with a 20% tip for both of us was $250. And it was worth every penny.