SASABUNE– East Coast vs. West Coast
12400 Wilshire Blvd. (Centinela Ave.) Los Angeles, CA 90025
“Trust Me” is the tagline of Sasabune restaurant in LA. Yes, I would probably trust the chef with just about anything after being served the meal that we had. We walked into the restaurant very early for a “snack” and then just simply couldn’t stop requesting additional plates of the chef’s divine creations. What makes Sasabune so incredible is the freshness of every ingredient. Each mouthful transports you to some fishing boat drifting off the coast of “the island” (aka Hawaii) in crystal blue waters. Each of the sauces the chef uses is house made daily and the only direction you are given is “soy sauce yes/ soy sauce no”. What also makes this sushi so distinctive is their use of warm rice. I am very partial to this technique as I believe it highlights the flavors of the fish.
The Omakase begins with two plates of sashimi one is a baby blue fin tuna and the other is an albacore served in a tangy ponzu sauce. I am tempted to pick up the plates and drink the remainder of the sauce but refrain for the sake of my dinner partner who I am sure is already embarrassed by the fact that I am photographing everything in sight.
First was the Hawaiian marinated tuna. Two types of tuna- yellowfin and bluefin- each in their own ponzu-type sauce.
The tuna dishes were followed by two more pieces of nigiri tuna- Maguro and Toro- only one of which required soy sauce.
The next two pieced of nigiri were Tai with bit of shizo leaf and special sauce and Hamachi.
Next was a fresh oyster with ponzu sauce (did not catch the origin) and a baked new Zealand mussel broiled with creamy mayonnaise.
Next was a buttery pairing of yellowtail and salmon with sesame seeds.
The next two items were a tender scallop (Boston) and Golden Eye Snapper
is the hot butter fish – I am not sure what a butter fish is but amazed that this fish is still in existence considering how delicious it is.
The last of the normal Omakase meal ends with the creamy, briny Blue crab hand roll. A perfect combination of textures with warm rice and crisp nori.
But of course everything was just so delicious that we kept going with some “dessert sushi”.
Uni from close to “the Island”- again, the chef makes it sound as if he just went out the back door and plucked this immaculate sea creature from sun kissed waters just for us. The creamy, earthy flavor was so clean it was unlike any other uni I have ever tasted.
The last two bites of our sensational meal were Toro ice cream and Spanish Mackerel.
Toro Ice cream?? I have absolutely never had anything like this in my life. You expect the fish to be like a tartare but as soon as it hits the heat of your mouth it begins to melt as smoothly as ice cream does. Incredible. The grand finale to our meal.
VS. NEW YORK
401 E. 73rd St., nr. First Ave. New York, NY 10021
I couldn’t help but try to do a comparison here. I had heard that Sasabune in New York was one of the top sushi restaurants in the entire city since I moved here a few years ago but never had a chance to make the trek uptown to the tiny ~30 seat restaurant.
While the Omakase menus appear very similar (with variations depending on what is available daily at the fish markets) the main difference between the two is the freshness of the fish. While the seafood in LA is mostly flown in directly from the crystal clear waters of Hawaii the fish served in the New York Location probably comes from all over and there is definitely a difference. The other slight variance between the two was the amount of sushi in the Omakase. In L.A. the typical meal includes 11 pieces whereas in New York they serve about 16 which is boarderline too much. However, the meal in New York was still outstanding and I would recommend it to any foodie.
Just as the meal is opened at the L.A. location, a dish of Albacore with a Ponzu sauce was placed in front of us. In terms of presentation NY was a bit sloppier in comparison to the beautifully fanned-out slices in L.A. A pile of minced fish rested in the center of slices that were randomly arranged on the plate.
Alongside the Albacore was a minced Mackerel with separate dipping sauce that also tasted like a variation of a ponzu.
My dinner partner was a bit turned off by the next dish of warm Monkfish Liver. I must admit that the “fois gras from the sea” might be a bit adventurous but it did, in fact, taste much like a goose or duck liver.
The next plate included two oysters a Kusshi (which comes from the Japanese word for “ultimate”) and a Kumamoto as well as two rings of raw squid stuffed with creamy Blue Crab and dressed with a bit of eel sauce and sesame seeds.
Next beautiful Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna nigiri.
A duo of Snappers was next- a Red Snapper and Black Snapper with Fluke. This was my first experience with Black Snapper and it was a firm, clean tasting white fish.
The next trio was Spanish Mackerel, Striped Bass and Uni from California. The Uni was delicious but still had slight tinge of metallic flavor that is often characteristic of uni.
Some warm sushi followed with hot butterfish and eel as well as a piece of melty Toro.
Back to the cool fish, we were served a silky Scallop, Scottish Salmon and Salmon Roe. The Roe were all perfectly distinct and separated, a sign that other eggs have not ruptured in the batch and they are truly fresh.
The last two pieces of nigiri were lovely bites of Yellowtail and Amberjack.
And finally, the meal ended with the traditional Blue Crab Hand Roll but in this case I thought it was a bit saltier than the one I had previously had.
After two incredible meals I had to make a decision.
AND THE WINNER IS: L.A., hands down. Go there.