Friday, October 1, 2010

Asanebo ~朝寝坊~

I love trying new restaurants, especially very very expensive ones. Too bad my wallet isn’t able to support that habit as frequently as my taste buds would like. But last weekend was one of those all to sporadic nights where I allowed myself to splurge. The receiver of my hard earned money was Asanebo in Studio City, a Michelin starred Japanese restaurant with a slightly modern twist celebrating their 19th anniversary this year.

After making our way all the way up to the valley, we had to circle a couple of times to get ourselves into the little strip mall parking lot that housed Asanebo. From the outside, with it's bright purple sign, one would never guess that there would be such a clean, brightly lit, traditionally japanese restaurant inside.

We managed to snag seats at the counter. Yay. We were seated in front of Macha-san, a friendly looking lad. All the sushi chefs were very friendly. No pretentiousness here. I, as usual, had to read the entire menu cover to cover before doing anything else. After a lot of hmmm-ing, we decided to do the mid range omakase. Asanebo offers a $75-$100 option, a $100-$125 option and a $125+ one. They’re all 7-8 courses but the quality of the ingredients changed depending on the level. My bank account would’ve preferred I stayed with the lowest option but hey, at least I didn’t let myself go all out...

The first course was matsutake mushrooms on two small squares of gomadofu (sesame tofu) in this amazingly fragrant and delicious yuzu accented broth. I wanted to drink it from the dish but restrained myself to getting as much as I could with the little spoon. For those of you who dont’ know what sesame tofu is, it’s firmer and chewier than regular silken tofu, but it’s smooth and creamy, not grainy like firm tofu. So so good.



Hopefully I'll get used to this blogging/picture taking thing soon...

Anyway, next up contained my favorite bite of food from the entire night. The overall dish was very good, but not my favorite. It was another cold kobachi, or little dish, containing a cooked nappa cabbage and shimeji mushroom mound set in the middle of another kind of delicious dashi based broth. On top were three of the most flavorful, perfectly grilled red snapper pieces I’ve ever eaten. Just plain, by itself, without any of the vegetables or broth that came in the dish--I’m salivating as I write this. The picture below is borrowed from Read that post on Asanebo too! The dish we got pretty much looked like the one below, except for the spinach. Ours had the nappage cabbage (hakusai) in it.

Third up was the halibut sashimi with black truffles and a peeled, marinated cherry tomato, with some sprouts. I ate all the sprouts first, then the tomato, then finally tackled the hirame-truffle pieces. I tend to save the best for last, and didn’t really want the flavor of the sprouts mixing with the fish.

Next was the least memorable dish of the night. It was a sliced tomato topped with blue crab, surrounded by grapeseed oil dressing. The server made a little sales pitch, saying we could buy the dressing and take it home if we liked it. It was good, but did they really have to make a little pool of it? It overwhelmed everything else, and I had to try to keep the little chunks of crab from diving into the dressing. I eat crab so infrequently that when I get the opportunity to consume some, I prefer that it actually taste like crab, not tangy grapeseed dressing...

After that, plates of Katsuo no Tataki were placed before us. I’m usually not a huge fan of katsuo and always end up choosing another type of fish over it if given the choice, but I’m glad I didn’t have a chance to pass it up this time. The fish was so fresh it didn’t have a chance to develop that katsuo smell--the reason most chefs make it into a tataki. Combined with the soy based sauce, green onions, grated ginger, and some sakura oroshi--grated daikon radish mixed with chilli paste--the katsuo turned into some flavorful mouthfuls.

Next up was SK’s favorite dish of the evening. The spoon on the left had a piece of tender and highly flavorful US bred Kobe beef. The right has a cube of Saikyoyaki fish. I don’t remember the type of fish but usually you tend to find Gindara (cod) saikyoyaki, and since it was a white fish I’m just going to pretend it was that. Both items were placed atop of piece of white peach compote, oddly magenta because it was made in cranberry juice. The beef was good but the flavor combination didn’t come close to the fish version. Both pieces were sweet, matching the direction my taste buds were traveling, but then the saltiness of the fish hit, just taking the sweetness to a whole new level of yummy.

A toro steak came next, on a sizzling platter. SK and I kept moving the pieces of vegetables around the dry edges of the plate, further grilling theuld items to enhance the smokiness, but mostly because we’re immature and just like to hear the sizzling sound. I wish they gave me that piece of toro raw. It probably would’ve tasted better. But they probably cooked it since it was old, not because it would taste better grilled. Very forgettable. Oh well.

I was surprised when they brought out the Matsutake no Dobin Mushi. I’ve always seen the dish on Japanese TV and read about it in cookbooks and magazine but had never actually consumed it. I still don’t see what the big deal with Matsutake is. They’re delicious, yes, but if I was going to pay that much money on something I’d rather spend it on meat or sushi. But, there’s no arguing about the comforting, earthy flavor it creates, and I could’ve kept drinking the dashi all night. It reminded me of my grandma. Awww.

Last came five pieces of nigiri sushi. Hirame, Albacore Tuna, Red Snapper, Maguro, and Salmon. This is the way sushi should be, not like the weirdness of Sasabune. Each piece was the perfect size, formed into the perfect density of rice, and nothing fell apart or crumbled. I could tell just how fresh everything was, but honestly I’ve had better maguro and red snapper. The hirame was perfect though, and the albacore was solid, although I wish it didn’t have so much stuff on it. I also wish they charged me a few dollars more so I could’ve eaten chutoro instead of maguro, but how were they to know that I’m not the biggest fan of maguro. I’ve only had it once where I thought it was amazing and to die for. and of course salmon. I like salmon but it’s such a cop out to me.

All in all, it was actually very delicious and were it not for the price I would definitely go again. But knowing me I won’t be going back for awhile sicne there are just too many new places to try. I’ve already lined up my next Japanese food extravaganza. SK and I made a date to try out Sushi Zo. Can’t wait.


11941 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 760-3348

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