Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sugarfish By Sushi Nozawa (Santa Monica)

When I compare and contrast the quality of food from coast to coast there are a few dishes that can be debated on, some you call even, and others where it is not even a question. When it comes to Sushi there is no doubt in my mind that the west coast reigns supreme. While there can be many different reasons why this is so I believe the proximity to its origin is the most germane.

One of the several restaurants that stick to its Japanese roots is Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa. The restaurant was founded by Kazunori Nozawa who retired earlier this year after 47 years of service. Nozawa began his tremendous career in Japan cleaning dishes and washing plates as he worked his way up the ladder. During his stay he spent a good deal of time traveling the vast regions of Japan learning to prepare different cuts of fish.

(Image via Yelp)

After opening up a restaurant in Tokyo with his family he moved to California to share this amazing cuisine. His first shop opened in Studio City and as his popularity grew Mr. Nozawa sprawled out to various other locations in the Los Angeles region. His retirement this past February was a blow to the culinary world and I for one am sad that I did not get to visit the Studio City location which closed shortly after.

On the Brightside his teachings were passed down and remain ingrained in the remaining restaurants, one of which I visited this past week. As I strolled down 2nd street on a cool Thursday afternoon I could not wait to experience a traditional sushi dinner. Once I arrived my eyes were dazzled by lovely fixtures which lined the walls.

Since the restaurant takes no reservations it is up to you to make the best judgment on when to go. I expected a mild wait on a Thursday night but was pleasantly surprised when I was told it would only take 10-15 minutes. Before I knew it we were being seated in a cozy little both with the menus right in front of us.

For those who are unaware of what traditional sushi is I can sum it up with one quick phrase, it’s all about fish. Most of us have been exposed to the Americanization of this Japanese delicacy with rolls filled with an abundant amount of different toppings which is then submerged in soy sauce. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that type of sushi I feel like it takes away from the true meaning and even masks the flavor of fish to a large extent.

(Salmon, Yellowtail, and Tuna Sashimi)

At this restaurant everything is about both the quality of the fish and rice. What makes it great is that Mr. Nozawa has designed the menu to be friendly to both experienced and novice eaters. For the latter you can choose one of three samplings of sushi which are called Trust Me, Trust Me/Lite, and The Nozawa. We decided to split the Nozawa which consists of organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon, snapper, yellowtail, halibut, a tono hand roll, blue crab hand roll, and the daily special which was seared scallops that day.   

Our meal began by nibbling on the edamame and sipping some cold sake. After a couple of minutes the plates began to come out. Once a plate was placed on our table the waiter would give a quick presentation of what the fish was and if it had any sauce on it. In the case of the latter it is advised that you do not add any soy sauce. Throughout the meal I used little to no soy sauce because I wanted to fully enjoy each cut of fish. I also ate a slice of ginger after each piece to refresh my pallet.

(Tono Hand Roll)

As our meal progressed I could not help but notice how each dish exceeded its predecessor.  It was as if Chef Nozawa designed the courses to resemble a roller-coaster of flavor. Each piece brought me to new heights and just when I would think the ride is over I would be blown away yet again. 

Overall I have nothing but great things to say about my experience here. The sushi is fantastic, it sticks to its traditional roots and it the price tag will not kill you. The servers were both reliable and informative and the ambiance was soothing. If you are in the area and in the mood for sushi I would recommend making this your destination. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dogtown Dogs (Los Angeles Food Truck)

The food truck scene has been latest fad in an ever changing industry. I documented it well in DC where it is still in its infancy and now that I live in LA I get to explore the birthplace of this industry. 

Currently I live and work in Santa Monica without a car so getting to any food trucks during my lunch break is a bit difficult and I have also been a bit lazy in finding online trackers as well as researching any particular trucks I wanted to find. Living here for just about 6 months now my sole experience with the mobile food industry came during a random outing on a Saturday night in Culver City. 

I knew this had to stop so I made a real effort to reserach any gatherings that take place nearby. While consulting with some friends I found out that there was a huge gathering of them on the first Friday of each month along a prosperous street called Abbot Kinney in Venice beach.  

(Image Via Yelp)

I walked after work along the lovely beach neighborhoods and through main street until I hit the famous stretch. In the past I used to go to food truck festivals every Friday in Downtown DC and be amazed at the 20 or so food stands that encircled the park. But after a couple of  I became a bit bored because I knew every truck there and had either tried them or had no inclination to. This was not the case here, in fact it was one of the few instances in my life were I felt overwhelmed at the shear amount of options I had in front of me. 

I did not let it overtake me because I came destined to try the famous grilled cheese truck which I had watched on Food Network. I started from the beginning of street and walked down what seemed like an endless array of shops, bars and food trucks. When I came to the end of the line I saw a small lot where a couple of trucks had aggregated. The first truck I laid my eyes on was Dogtown Dogs which is one of the more famous ones in LA that serves hot dogs slathered with variety of off the wall toppings. 

(Tater Tots)

After briefly scanning the menu I instantly became torn. If you do not know I absolutely love hot dogs and find it paramount that I meet a quota, if not I start to viciously crave them. It had been a couple of weeks since my last dog so once I saw the truck my cravings for one reached a 10 on the Oscar Mayer Scale. As hard as it was I decided to stick to my guns and look for the grilled cheese. I found it in the same lot and was ecstatic until I realized the line stretched longer than the sands of time. 

I knew then and there that it was my destiny to get my fix tonight and this truck would provide it. I gave the truck another quick scan and ended up ordering their Morning Commute and some tater tots. The Morning Commute consists of a dog wrapped in bacon which is adorned with a fried egg on top. I felt a bit devious ordering this, once it was handed to me I looked through my peripheral vision in search of anyone who would judge me for what I was about to eat. 

(Morning Commute)

I did my best golem impersonation (kidding) and took refuge to a place where I could enjoy this cylindrical concoction of mysterious ingredients wrapped in bacon with a runny egg. Having little to nothing to eat the whole day I bit in with reckless abandon. The dog was juicy and well flavored, the bacon wrapped around it made it even better and the egg wrapped everything together. Before I could even blink I finished the whole thing. I then proceeded to text any friends that have a similar passion for hot dogs this picture while I munched on some tater tots. I then stood there contemplating getting another hot dog but decided to pass.

I left feeling good with the decision I made. While this was not the path I had chosen, I ended up at a crossroads and changed course which is what happens to all of us everyday. Not only did I have a great meal, I now know of another truck that I will be keeping my eye on. If you love hot dogs like me and are in the Los Angeles area I recommend giving these guys a shot. They have a number of other flavor options that are sure to raise your eyebrows.