With America still stuck in one of the biggest recession since The Great Depression, days and nights of eating out have been hard to come by. We get it, so we pulled out some of the hottest restaurants and bars out of our little black book that has some of the happiest of happy hours around. Whether the hotspot is a chill bar to hang out with your friends or it’s an upscale restaurant to lure in a love interest, we got your back.
My girlfriend Carolyn and I got invited to a media dinner at Osaka, a sleek new Peruvian Asian fusion restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a wonderfully classic and elegant place to go to for an extravagant girls night out or a quiet evening with your family. You can sit at the bar, the main room, or the garden terrace, depending on the kind of ambiance you’re looking for.
The menu focuses on traditional Peruvian ingredients blended with Asian flavors from Japan, Thailand, and China. The resulting dishes are an array of innovative ceviches, tiraditos, robata, and signature entrées. The thing about menus at places like this is most of the time A. I don’t know what half the food really is (and I can only guess at what it will taste like) and B. I want to eat everything. What the heck is a tiradito? Is nikkei a kind of fish? And can I try everything on your menu?
For those of you out there who are as indecisive and hungry as I am, I’ve put together this mini guidebook of sorts for you to refer to if you ever stop by this savvy new joint.
We introduced Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto — one of only 60 master sake sommeliers in the world and recent recipient of the Sake Samurai Award from the Japan Sake Brewers Association — to you in our Winter 2010-11 issue. Now you can try Matsumoto’s famous pairings for yourself.
Starting Wednesday, December 1, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant debuts its new sake pairing menu, available at all 11 Southern California locations. The self-guided exploration of Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto’s list features 12 different sakes and encourages diners to delve into the traditional Japanese beverage. Matsumoto has designed the new pairing menu to include simple tasting notes on each sake and suggestions for matching the best bites.
Kabuki’s new pairing menu features sakes from across the board, including Kiku Masamune ($3.50 glass/$10.50 carafe), a best-selling sake in Tokyo, with clean, tart berry flavors that pair well with Grilled Calamari ($7.95); Mu ($27.95, 300ml bottle), a fruity, well-rounded award winner complements the Kabuki Roll ($10.95); and the unfiltered, California-brewed Sho Chiku Bai Nigori ($10.95, 300ml bottle), whose sweet and milky nuances are perfect for Kabuki’s Fire Cracker ($6.95).
Take advantage of the pairing menu all day or at select Kabuki Japanese Restaurant‘s special Reverse Happy Hour. No more rushing to get to happy hour by 5 pm. (Who gets off that early in this economic environment of do-more-with-less?) At Kabuki’s Reverse Happy Hour, you can stroll in after a late night at work and treat yourself to $1 rolls and sake cocktail specials.
From 9 p.m. until closing, Monday through Thursday, order from a special menu of Executive Chef Masa Kurihara’s traditional and innovative sushi, specialty rolls, and appetizers, and receive a second order for only $1. Rolls start at $2.95 and include the Spicy Tuna Roll; Gold Rush Roll; and Rose Roll with Lightly Battered Shrimp Tempura, A-Grade Avocado, and Spicy Tuna. Appetizers such as Gyoza Dumplings; Broiled Mussels on Half Shell; and Fire Cracker with Spicy Tuna, Chopped Tomato, and Eggroll Chips are all under $5, and edamame comes with the purchase of any sushi order.
Of course, don’t forget what makes happy hour so happy — cocktails! Matsumoto hand selects an assortment of sake, beer, wine and sake-based cocktails for the restaurant, including Reverse Happy Hour specials like the Ki-Bomb Sake Bomb ($3.75); Sapporo Draft Beer ($1.95/12 oz); Cedar Brook Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.25/glass); Sake Sangria ($4.25/glass); and the Saketini in Creamy Peach, Fuji Apple, or Pomegranate ($5.95). And since one cocktail is never enough, a second order is just $1 each.
Because seriously, after the economic year we’ve had, it’s time get happy.
WHAT: Kabuki Restaurant’s Reverse Happy Hour
WHEN: Monday-Thursday from 9 p.m. to close
Sunday from 8 p.m. to close
Kabuki Howard Hughes Center (West L.A.)
6081 Center Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
975 East Birch St., #K
Brea, CA 92821
Kabuki Old Town Pasadena
88 W. Colorado Blvd., Suite 103
Pasadena, CA 91105
24045 Newhall Ranch Rd, #A-2
Valencia, CA 91354
When I was in high school, I always over-accessorized. A green shirt was not complete without a headband in a matching shade, funky over-sized earrings in a matching shade and bangles in a matching shade. A skirt had to be paired with colorful tights. My fingers needed to be blingin’ with rings. Hats, sunglasses, necklaces, pins, ribbons, stockings– nothing was off-limits.
As I’ve matured, I’ve started to tone down my fashion sense and appreciate the beauty in simplicity.
So I was thrilled when I got to check out a sushi restaurant with that same ideal in mind. sugarFISH, with locations in Brentwood, Marina Del Rey and the newly-opened downtown Los Angeles follows the philosophy of esteemed sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa, well known for his Trust Me-style sushi in Studio City.
According to the sugarFISH site, “Nozawa shuns ‘American-style’ extravagant rolls and fusion dishes. Instead he concentrates on the purity of his basic ingredients— nurturing relationships with the finest fish purveyors across the globe, cutting his fish with an artisan’s painstaking care, and even making his own fresh soy sauce and ponzu.”
My foodie friend, Jennifer was equally delighted at dining in the downtown locale with me and dishes about sugarFISH’s standout sushi experience.
Simple. Clean. Modern. Personal. Detail-oriented. Innovative. Neighbor-hood friendly.
That is how co-founder Emanuel Massimini, a native of Rome, would describe his newest sugarFISH location in downtown Los Angeles. There are three restaurants in total including the original Marina del Rey location and the popular Brentwood restaurant, and the founders are in the process of opening another one in Santa Monica.
United by the love of legendary sushi chef Nozawa, the founders wanted to allow diners to enjoy the luxury of quality fish on a daily basis.
The attention to quality and detail is apparent, and the ingredients are crucial. The seaweed comes from Japan and is particularly crisp, contrasting nicely with the soft fish and firm, moist rice. The sauces are a secret, and Nozawa’s son makes sure that each bite is one his father would approve of. Nozawa hand picks each cut of fish from the downtown LA fish market, and some specials are so limited he only offers 5 orders. He is known for his loosely packed rice, seasoned with the familiar tang of rice vinegar and a hint of sugar.
In order to provide quality food at an affordable price, sugarFISH relies on its lower margins, Trust Me menu, and streamlined kitchen.
That’s right—there is no sushi bar here.
We had the Trust Me Nozawa, the largest of the three Trust Me’s. The edamame was lightly salted, firm, and subtly sweet. We started with tuna sashimi in a ponzu sauce topped with green onions. Next came the salmon, snapper in ponzu, and albacore in ponzu. The albacore was thick and melted in our mouths like butter. Next came the halibut in a citrus ponzu and yellow tail, followed by a toro handroll and then a Boston blue crab handroll.
We were warned repeatedly throughout the night to eat the handrolls as soon as possible so that the seaweed stays crisp upon first bite. sugarFISH so particular about this that you cannot order a handroll to go. The special of the day was large scallop, which was sweet and silky and tasted of the sea. We ended with an ice cold, silky uni and a tender piece of unagi, the perfect dessert in my opinion.
The restaurant relies only on word of mouth to advertise, and they seek to create personal relationships with their customers. They focus on creating a consistent experience for customers, emphasizing “everyday efforts.”
The menu is the same but specials change daily. They are eco-friendly and use filtered water.
Massimini emphasizes the little things like details and consistency.
The back of the menu features the nutritional value and chemical content of the fish, a big worry for many seafood lovers. They were not required to do it but wanted to know what was in the food they were eating almost every day.
The name “sugarFISH” reflects the restaurant concept. It is simple, reminiscent of childhood, and has that wow-factor that Massamini and his co-founders strive to impart to its customers with each and every bite.
This food is definitely 100% Nozawa.
And we are definitely 100% returning for more sugarFISH in the near future.