Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sushi Zo - Sushi Off The Beaten Path

On Wednesday, D and I were experiencing a IGTESN (I Got To Eat Sushi Now) moment. After 20 minutes of wondering where to eat, we decided check out Sushi Zo after reading an article our friend wrote in the Rafu Shimpo. According to Rickmond Wong at the Rafu Shimpo, "Sushi Zo is at the forefront of a new boom in edomae-style sushi bars, restaurants that specialize in serving fish the traditional way, like in “Edo-period Tokyo a century ago.” In other words, it's old school.

Sushi Zo is headed and owned by Keizo Seki, a former Hide Sushi chef who is insanely particular in how sushi is to be served and eaten. You won't find any green-capped Low Sodium Kikkoman bottles of shoyu here. At Sushi Zo, Keizo makes his own shoyu, which is superb and does what shoyu is suppose to do with sushi...accentuate the sushi's strengths rather than mask it's imperfections.

D and I went wild for Zo's sushi rice. Served room temperature, his rice melds perfectly with each slice of sushi. I looooved his sushi rice. Sooo yummy! As much as I admire Keizo's detail and attention to making the perfect sushi, it's quite intimidating eating in front of him. If you plan to sit at the sushi bar, you better eat your sushi when he places it right in front of you. Keizo didn't like that I was taking my time as I took pictures of each sushi. After several passive aggressive remarks (a very Japanese way of confrontation) about me taking pictures and not eating, I was intimidated and started to take rapid shots of the sushi before Keizo said anything else. Another Sushi Zo eating tip, make sure you eat everything. The girls next to us dumped the rice from their nigiri onto a plate and Keizo sure wasn't happy with that. Again, he made several passive aggressive sneers at them. The girls didn't get it, and just giggled, "We didn't like the rice." I was waiting for him to pull out his samurai sword and behead the two giggling patrons. But he didn't (sigh), instead he waved bye to them and continued working on our omakase menu.

Ok...let's get down to business. How was the sushi??? His sushi was marvelous! His fish, which is flown in from Japan FOUR times a week is nothing but fresh and OISHII!

A. Awabi (Abalone) - This was the first time eating abalone so I didn't know what to compare it to. It was super yummy and had a buttery fish taste. However, it was super crunchy. It felt like I was gnawing on someone's nose.
B. Blue Fin Tuna - Super yum! Keizo brushed it with some of his special special shoyu behind the counter.
C. Kanpachi with Yuzu Kosho- PERFECT!
D. Kurodai (Black Snapper) - This was my first time eating Black Snapper. It looked like Tai (red snapper) but the meat was softer.
E. Amaebi - This was D's. I got Aji shimo. D was looking forward to the ebi's head...but it never came. Sigh.
F. Aji (Spanish Mackerel) - I thought I hated mackerel. Mackerel will always remind me of when we used mackerel as bait when my dad took me fishing on the pier. Anyways, the aji shimo was yummy.
G. Freshly steamed Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver) - The best ankimo I've ever had. I looooooved how Keizo served it warm. Oishii~!
H. Hotatagai (Scallops) - Sprinkled with fresh yuzu and special sea salt. Very good.
I. Miso Butterfish - I just smacked my hand on the table. The butterfish was DAAANG good!
J.Giant clam with Shiso - Chewy. Shiso. Not a big fan.
K. Toro - His toro was good. But I was still thinking about the butterfish.
L. Albacore - Good.
M. Tai (Red Snapper) - Sweet.
N.Hamachi (Yellowtail) - We were fascinated with the ridges he made on our slices. He's got some major knife skills.
O. Ikura (Salmon Roe) - For years I've tried to dodge these shiny red balls of fish juice. Ikura to me, belongs on a treble hook and eventually in the bellies of future trout dinners. Again, I was "berry berry bigu shocku" (surprised) in how yummy ikura could be. Keizo soaks his ikura in his special shoyu. So each egg was a joy smoky katsuo/shoyu wonder. YUMM!
P. Unagi (Grilled Eel) - His unagi was yummy but I wished I ended my omakase with his yummy ikura.

After our omakase, D and I ordered piece of butterfish, hamachi, ankimo and blue fish tuna because we were still hungry. But before handing us our check, the waitress gave us some special yuzu juice. I called it "Yuzu-ade." Nothing spectacular, but definitely a nice treat to end our big sushi night out.

Omakase for two + four extra pieces of sushi + three beers = $150 (without tip). More than we've ever spent on sushi, but definitely worth the amount and quality Keizo put into each bite.

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90034
(310) 842-3977


Kirk said...

Hi Jeni - Looks like you had some really good stuff...I now need a sushi fix....

Renée said...

Since you and Dylan were at the sushi bar, did Keizo prepare the amaebi right in front of you? aka taking off it's shell and head while it was still alive? Those semi-wriggling pieces of amaebi are so tasty! Too bad he didn't fry up the head for you afterwards. I always get those after my order, but then I pass them off to my dining companions.

My major question, as Keizo seems very traditional and I assume he's the type to say "eat this piece as is, no soy/wasabi," if the rice dumping girls (how disrespectful) also dunked their sushi, or rather their self made sashimi, into baths of soy?

Chubbypanda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chubbypanda said...


Your post is likely to inspire "IGTESN" in anyone who reads it. It did in me, and I just finished breakfast!

(Can't stand spelling errors. Had to remove the last post to correct one.)

- Chubbypanda

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Holy shimesaba!! This all looks so good!

"It felt like I was gnawing on someone's nose." Classic! This is exactly why I don't like awabi. I hate kori-kori stuff....although I can handle nankotsu coz it tastes like chicken.

I must say though, if one orders amaebi then one expects shrimp heads...crunchy, deep-fried shrimp heads...shrimp heads, shrimp heads, eat 'em up, yum.

The Dabbler said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. you should add food-photographer to your food-blogger resume. those are some tasty looking pics.

onetomato said...

hi! first time commenting here. been reading your blog for a while though. i had sushi yesterday and now i crave it again thanks to you. damn it! by the way, if you like straight up nigiri sushi with the most delicious sushi rice i've ever had, (it's sometimes still warm) try hiko sushi on national. to die for! i guarantee it...

Dani said...

$150?! Wow. Impeccable sushi or a haircut by Alfred? I don't know which one I'd pick! I look at your blog when I get miss LA. I don't know if it hurts more or helps...especially with the tacos. I miss you.

Jeni said...

Kirk...I'm just getting you back for that time you went to Sushi Komasa.

Renee...good to see you back. How are you doing? Anyways, no, Keizo didn't prepare the shrimp in front of us. I remember seeing it limp dead when he pulled it out. Live shrimp is always good. And I'm like you, I don't eat the heads either. The eyeballs creep me out! And to answer question #2, yes Keizo told us exactly how to eat each piece (with shoyu, without shoyu, etc.) I don't remember what the girls were doing. They were just chattering away. They seemed pretty oblivious of Keizo. Anyways, thanks for stopping by!

Chubbypanda...I've been craving sushi since I wrote this post. Must....have....sushi!

TAG...yea...I can't take guja guju stuff either (tako, ika). Too much chewing! And if I ever eat next to you, you can have my ebi heads. Jeni no rike!

Thanks Dabbler! My uncle just gave me his old Nikon D70, I'm hoping to use that soon....well once I learn how to use it.

Thanks for reading Onetomato! I'll definitely hit up Hiko. Sounds Oishii!

Hi Dani! MMM...you can always alternate...Sushi this month, haircut next month. Wait a minute, you're in Alaska. What are you gonna do about your hair??? Keep on visiting girl.

MeowMix said...

Great review and pictures. I'm going again tonight and can't wait!

It's weird. I'd always see a lady in the back, grilling up shrimp heads and I'd get so excited.....but they'd never come!

Jeni said...

I am soooo jealous Meowmix!!! Take me with you. D and I have been craving to go back. But this week is budget week, so instead we'll be making some of our own nigiri. Anyways, where do the heads go??? Very very shady/creepy! Have fun tonight!

dani said...

The hair is growing out right now...it is really crazy. I have the female equivalent of a mullet. I think the best way for me to catch up with you is to leave comments on the food blog! hee hee. I am getting way too homesick reading the food blog, but I still read it anyways. I MISS HOME!

Jeni said...

Dani...avoid mullets at all cost. Might as well get a homemade bowl cut for now and wait for Alfred when (if) you come back. I'm enjoying your adventures in Juneau. I think you need to post on the good eats out there. Are there any??? Do they have moose taco trucks???

Paulchesne said...

Best sushi I've ever had!


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