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jschyun

Urasawa

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Cheers!

No, unfortunately I have not. Indeed, Hiro did work under him before Masa moved to NYC.

From what I hear, although the food is at the very least comparable, the 'experience' is not always as pleasurable.

At which one?

Many reports have indicated that the experience at Masa often leaves people cold and feeling indifferent, while Hiro Urasawa is warm, gracious, and generous with his spirit.

Ah, thanks for clarifying. For what it's worth, I thought the experience at Masa was great. He was very friendly, generous and interactive, and seemed to be enjoying himself. Nothing cold or indifferent about it. Then again, since it's live humans we're talking about, so I'm sure the experience varies from visit to visit. Looking forward to Urasawa in the near future!


Edited by LPShanet (log)

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To those who have been recently: How much was the cost of the meal alone(w/o tax and tips/drinks)

Ive been reading some places where the meal alone costs $300, with tax and tips it should come out to around $375.

Other sources claim that the meal alone is $350. Anyone?

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To those who have been recently: How much was the cost of the meal alone(w/o tax and tips/drinks)

Ive been reading some places where the meal alone costs $300, with tax and tips it should come out to around $375.

Other sources claim that the meal alone is $350. Anyone?

I haven't been since last year, when it was $300 without drinks, tax and tip. I don't know if it has gone up, but its worth it.

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To those who have been recently: How much was the cost of the meal alone(w/o tax and tips/drinks)

Ive been reading some places where the meal alone costs $300, with tax and tips it should come out to around $375.

Other sources claim that the meal alone is $350. Anyone?

I haven't been since last year, when it was $300 without drinks, tax and tip. I don't know if it has gone up, but its worth it.

My tab a year ago with only one of us drinking sake (premium, I'm sure) came to about $500 a person.

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Many reports have indicated that the experience at Masa often leaves people cold and feeling indifferent, while Hiro Urasawa is warm, gracious, and generous with his spirit.

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Great post. My personal taste notwithstanding, I agree with most. The guy is great.

I only regret that in my visit there were not so many Wagyu courses, only two. I was not so amazed by it and somehow feel that will have to give it more tries.

For more wagyu, maybe try Totoraku (the "secret" Japanese beef place) next time? I've not been but maybe Carolyn Tillie can chime in about how it compares (or not) to Urasawa.

Totoraku is a stunning restaurant and very much like Urasawa, the joy of the experience is the interaction with Chef Kaz. While Urasawa giggles and entices with his fish offerings in an austere and elegant setting, Chef Kaz beguiles and astounds with all matters of beef in a setting -- ahem -- less austere and more cozy. For a true die-hard Japanese food fan, if one had the money and stamina, I would eat about both restaurants on consecutive nights for what could be considered an insanely complete experience (if you can get into Totoraku).

Totoraku does not serve Wagyu. The quality is nonetheless amazing. These are two totally different restaurants and other than being Japanese don't really compare to each other. Urasawa is kaseiki/sushi while Totoraku is yakiniku.

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Well, talk about whetting one's curiosity (Totoraku). There is something so special about "private" restaurants. I came across a thread here earlier about a private apartment being turned into a restaurant and test kitchen. I think the general public is looking for just that kind of exclusive dining experience.

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I don't know about in the States, but in the UK and major European cities (Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin that I am aware of), there is a thriving supperclub movement


Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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If there’s one restaurant in the US that intrigues me for the past few years, it will be Urasawa. After receiving several (very) good reviews among serious diners in many forums, I cannot help but make Urasawa as one of the must-visited places for haute cuisine. Besides, after a short trip to Tokyo 2-3 years ago, Japanese cuisine becomes my 2nd fav. after, of course, french cuisine. Also, I find if you give yourself enough time (say 1 month or so), the reservation here is not that troublesome, compared to say the constantly busy French Laundry/per se.

Food (and wine) - 95/100

I believe many readers already know about the history of Urasawa from Ginza Sushi-ko and being a disciple of Masa etc. so I will not elaborate further here. Instead, let’s go directly to the food. Urasawa is one of a few restaurants that could combine kaiseki and sushi together. My meal had about 9 kaiseki dishes and some of the memorable ones are:

- Buta no Kakuni: Braised pork belly is prepared for two days and pretty much has no fat (only the collagen left). It was scrumptious - the top part has similar texture of toro or wagyu beef while the bottom meat is more flavorful. If I have to choose the best dish of the night, it will be the one.

- The toro tataki with caviar is complex, but delicious. The toro itself is of high quality, wrapping some uni, scallion and turnip; it’s served on the light and refreshing ponzu sauce. Wondeful dish – it’s indeed important to start strong to give guest good impression

- Hoba yaki: served on big leaf are oily wagyu beef, fat prawn with nice texture and juicy scallop. Top quality ingredients served with sweet Kyoto miso sauce … yummy!

The other dishes are (they’re still good): goma dofu, great sashimi (toro, uni and kanpachi), unique, rich and dynamic chawan mushi (many different ingredients) and the famous shabu-shabu, serving A5 black beef and foie gras.

After this, we’re served 18-20 nigiri sushi. Like other top notch sushi places, the wasabi is freshly grated and the use of soy sauce was unnecessary. My favorite are: slightly cooked kagoshima beef and o-toro (marbled and melt in your mouth), abalone, shitake mushroom and giant clam for their wonderful texture and the sweetness of uni and shiro ebi. The sushi part was a bit tricky for me … it was great, but I’ve tasted better. I think if you’ve been to the place like Jiro Ginza or Mizutani, you will understand what I’m talking about. I had my best fishes (pretty much all kinds) in Jiro – including the luxurious uni, o-toro, kuruma ebi or simple ones like ika, kohada, anago, aji. Even when tamago is used as the classic test for sushi’s quality, Jiro still won. Urasawa has sponge-like and tasty tamago, Jiros’ is more firm and flavorful - Tamago - Sweet Egg Custard - (I thought it was a dessert cake at first). Regardless of that, Urasawa’s sushi is possibly the best in the US, even better than any places in HK and Singapore. I don’t find Hiro-san’s rice to be inferior to Yasuda – in fact I think the later one was rather over-rated.

During this meal, mostly the 1st half, the dishes were accompanied by flask of Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo of Niigata - Its fragrance is clean and crisp with a more defined flavor. An enjoyable cold sake! Oh, the dessert is a refreshing grapefruit jelly and rather-intense sesame ice cream with organic macha. The food verdict – 95/100 (2 ¾* by Michelin standard) – it’s the best meal I’ve had during my US trip last year (another one is per se). I feel that Urasawa faces similar situation as Ryugin, meaning Michelin wants to push both of them to the limit even though they’re already good enough to be 3-star, especially if you use the US or Hong Kong standard as a barometer.

Service (and ambiance) - 94/10

Though the restaurant is small, guests will not feel really cramped. The décor is simple and quite colorful. The staffs, both waiters and cooks, are quite minimal but it seems to be just right – whenever you need something, someone will show up and assist you. The main star of hospitality here is actually Hiro-san himself. He’s not only an excellent chef/itamae, but also a nice and friendly person – he will try to recognize each guest by name. Hence, dining here is more than just good food, it’s also entertaining, enjoyable and warmth. I would be more than happy to return here should I have time to stop by around LA.

The natural question after dining at Urasawa usually is: have you been to Masa? How do you compare both places? Well, I have not been to Masa … somehow I do not plan to do so in the near future too. There are a few reasons: the cost is the obvious one, the inconsistency of the food, the fact that you need to leave in 2 hours or less after throwing $600 or more, the idea of “forced” upselling (kobe beef, truffle and so on) in the middle of the meal and “expected” tips on top of your 20% service charge as well as rather cold service except if you’re served by Masa-san himself. So yeah, all of these push me away to try Masa at this moment.

Overall, this is a very pleasant dining experience (95 pts – 2 3/4*). I hardly find bad reviews about this place. I know and believe Hiro-san can still do even better than he is right now. I’m confident that in 2-3 years time, this place will be the 1st 3-star establishment in southern California area. Here are the pictures - Urasawa Spring '09

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I’ve never really expected that after a few US visits, my best restaurant will actually be Japanese. It’s located in the heart of 90210 shopping complex and it’s none other than Urasawa. Besides per se, Urasawa is the only ‘serious’ restaurant that I’ve visited more than once in the States. While the kitchen team in per se may often change and Thomas Keller doesn’t always be there, Urasawa is a lot ‘safer’ since the chef-owner will always be around – hence the quality and consistency is more guaranteed. And indeed, they never disappoint after my 3 visits in ’09-11

Food (and wine) - 96/100

Some of the memorable ‘kaiseki’ course I ate there are

- The seared toro with ankimo, turnip, caviar and yuzu dressing. Along with the shabu2, it’s probably the most popular dishes at Urasawa. The dish is balanced in which fatty tuna mixed well with creamy liver and caviar's brininess, the sauce is light enough not to dominate the dish

I will not claim I’m very knowledgeable in Japanese food, but I think I know enough. Yet, I’ve never eaten any sesame ‘tofu’ and houba yaki dishes except here.

- The goma dofu, a traditional Kyoto dish, integrates the light sesame flavor and uni’s creaminess. The dashi and wasabi will add more depth to this interesting dish

- Houba yaki is none other than dishes prepared on magnolia leaf that are served with Tama miso (grilled sesame paste with sake & sugar) sauce. Mine consists of Santa Barbara shrimp, Hokkaido scallop and Kobe beef The rich and delectable beef goes perfectly with the miso's flavor, the prawn is juicy and crisp, the scallop is delicate. The sauce is pleasantly sweet, but not cloying

- Matsuzaka Beef Tartar served with Russian Caviar, Pickled radish and Red bell pepper. It produces one of the best single bite in my life. The beef is sweet and decadent supported by generous portion of caviar's saltiness, the pepper is enjoyably tangy.

- The chawan mushi is also creatively prepared by Hiro-san. This time the egg custard is erved with Ikura (Salmon roes), shrimp, mushroom, Ginko, squash, gold leaf and Italian summer truffles. This dish is not only beautifully presented, but also very tasty - the texture is smooth and silky, complex with some tang and briny elements while the truffle is not too bad

- Dessert is not usually the strong aspect at Urasawa, but somehow I quite enjoyed the sesame ice cream served with Summer truffle and gold flake. The ice cream is rich and creamy, worked well with the earthy truffles

I will not go into much detail about the nigiri sushi I had (please take a look at the pictures on the link below). You will get about 20 pieces here and the order of serving may not always be the same. However, I notice some pattern is that Urasawa-san will serve the fish having the “softest” texture first with ‘warmest’ rice (usually 170-180 grains). As guest enjoy the meal, the fish’s texture will become firmer and firmer, then come the seafood-part. The sushi-omakase part at Urasawa is also the best sushi I’ve ever tasted in the US overall (even better than Yasuda, Gari, Azabo and Oya). After 3 wonderful meals at Urasawa, I’m thinking perhaps it’s the right time to try dining at Urasawa’s mentor – Masa at Time Warner in the future. It’s not yet reaching the high of Gagnaire or Passard in my note, but I’m gladly give 96 pts (high 2 ¾*) to Urasawa. If by US Michelin standard, mediocre restaurants such as le bernardin and eleven Madison park can get the highest accolade, without doubt Urasawa got to be a 3-star establishment as well.

Service (and ambiance) - 94/100

As far as the service is concerned, actually Hiro Urasawa himself is the ultimate host. He's always friendly, gracious and accommodating to all guests, whether you are a regular or first timer. I considered myself blessed that I've always been seated in front of Urasawa-san including the last visit with my wife even though we're about an hour late (we reached there almost 8 PM). When I ate alone, he would happily initiate a conversation. Additionally, he would not let any guest go to the restroom or leave the restaurant without having someone open the door for him/her. It may seem like a small gesture, but this kind of thoughtfulness (besides the delicious food) is the very thing that creates a memorable dining experience. The rest of the staffs are alright, but do not expect to engage/having many conversations with them.

The overall experience is very pleasant and satisfying (95.5/100 – 2 ¾* by Michelin standard). You will spend at least 3 hours in this temple of Japanese haute cuisine and leave happy & satiating =)

For more detailed reviews: Urasawa review

For the dishes’ pictures: Urasawa summer '10 & '11

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