Dinner Omakase at Hamasaku: A Pictorial Essay


#1

Yes, Hamasaku.

“But isn’t that a roll factory?” you may ask. At least, that’s exactly what I also thought of Hamasaku - That is, up until a few months ago, when the name Yoya Takahashi appeared on my radar.

Chef Yoya Takahashi hails from Kyoto. Brought in by the management at Hamasaku a few months ago to “shake things up a bit” (after an impressive interior renovation of the dining room), he wants to show the world that Hamasaku wasn’t just about crazy rolls (don’t worry, the rolls are most definitely still on the menu). Compared to some legendary sushi “lifers” such as Nozawa-san, Shige-san or Mori-san, Yoya-san is a relative newcomer to the sushi business, having practiced the art for “only” the last fifteen years. And in those years, I’ve been told, Yoya-san has developed his very own (some would say unorthodox) approach to sushi.

I was at Hamasaku that night to try that unique style for myself.

Immediately upon introductions, Yoya-san proved himself to be an extremely affable man. He welcomed me warmly to his counter and almost immediately pulled out a giant live ise ebi (spiny lobster) for our collective inspection. “Locally caught, just today!” he beamed. It was going to be the star of the evening.

Sake: Kikusui “Chrysanthemum Mist” (Junmai Ginjo)…

Otsumami: Buri “2 ways”, shirako, ise ebi sashimi with tomato & cucumber zest, and marinated ankimo…





Nigiri courses were about to start…

Bigeye akami (lean tuna) & medai (bluenose sea bass)…

A note about the shari: Yoya-san uses haiga-mai, which is half-milled rice. This means the outer bran layer has been removed, but the inner germ layer of the rice kernel is kept intact. Some people erroneously call it “half brown, half white rice” (it’s not a mixture; each grain of the haiga-mai undergoes the same half-milling). In Japan, Kansai-style vegetable nigiri traditionally employs haiga-mai, but I’ve never had it with more traditional neta. The haiga-mai does make for an “interesting” first bite of sushi - Definitely harder than your typical sushi rice, but I definitely “got used to it” after a few more courses. (Even now, a full week after my meal at Hamakasu, the jury is still out on whether I truly liked it or not. Go figure…)

Hotategai (giant scallop) “2 ways” (strap meat & adductor)… Yoya-san says we shouldn’t waste the perfectly good strap meat (“Mottainai!”)

Seared kamasu & Japanese mackerel… “I loooove barracuda,” confessed Yoya-san. We had a lot of great taisho/customer banter throughout the evening.

And now, another curveball… Robatayaki appeared next(!)
Tsukune (minced chicken) served with raw quail egg, duck breast with scallion, and tiger prawn with yuzu kosho… Though a bit odd in the usual order of the omakase, the robatayaki skewers were each excellent, with the tsukune tasting particularly fantastic. I really wanted a second helping of this stuff, but held back because I wanted to save space for other possibly delightful surprises headed my way.

The nigiri continued: Let’s get a Kawaba “Snow Weizen” birru…

Kaki (oyster) with ponzu…

Hata (grouper)…

Sumi ika (ink squid)…

Kue (longtooth grouper), slightly seared… I had only tried this in Japan before, and even then only in hot pot format. The nigiri was great, with what I would characterize as a smooth yet paradoxically chewy texture.

Ise ebi “gratin”, with béchamel cream, parmesano reggiano, mozzarella, taro root, green bean, heirloom tomato, fingerling potato, all topped with mentaiko & chives… AKA Ise ebi, the sequel. A very heavy dish mid-meal, but tasty nonetheless.

Santa Barbara murasaki uni & ikura… This was terrific uni! Maybe the uni season this year is not a total loss, after all.

Mirugai (geoduck clam) & aoyagi (orange clam)… “This is first time I serve mirugai at Hamasaku,” Yoya-san told me. I am honored.

Samekawa karei (sharkskin or roughskin flounder) from Japan & iwashi (sardine)… Both were superb.

Kohada (gizzard shad)…

Whoa! Another large format dish! Short rib braised in aka miso… Getting so very full at this point.

Buri (wild yellowtail)… At the peak of the season.

Anago…

Asari miso soup with the rest of that very large ise ebi, served with seaweed… The ise ebi strikes back. My goodness - that crustacean still had so, so much meat left on it!

Tamago… Uncle!!!

Dessert time! Tea, please…

Housemade tofu pudding with black sesame “soup”…

Aside from being more full than I’ve been in many, many dinners, I very much enjoyed my time with Yoya-san. His high energy vibe, interesting ingredients, and unusual pacing of the meal was a refreshing change of pace for me. On my next visit, however, I will probably tell Yoya-san to take it easy on the larger format dishes mid-meal.

Mission accomplished: Hamasaku is no longer “just another roll factory” in my book.

RECOMMENDED.

Hamasaku
11043 Santa Monica Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.479.7636


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#2

How much for the fucking meal sans drunks, tX and tip ???

Thanks man.

Then again with my limited dollars in fucking BK I still wouldnt likely experiment with this joint. And I’d most likely stick with Mori or Shunji.


#3

Glad someone’s finally talking about Yoya at Hamasaku.

Of note, he’s been there over 2 years now.


#4

Noted - Thanks for the correction, TonyC.


#5

Brilliant report and photos, thanks! I’ve seen a documentary on Hamasaku and Yoya from the youtube Munchies episode (he serves shirako and shark heart). There may be other similar clips.

Total badass looking guy in the vid. Sounds like a super fun place to eat.


#6

Dang, looks very nice! What was the tab?

Btw, had Kue @ mori a couple of months ago.


#7

He can also be seen here, eating Trader Joe’s sushi:


#8

Yoya-san is getting some press! (Although these clips look like they were all filmed/released before my recent visit :stuck_out_tongue: )


#9

the order of the courses doesn’t make sense to me. I’m sure it all worked and tasted good but conceptually, i don’t get it.


#10

It’s definitely not traditional in that sense. Curveballs left and right…


#11

Price? And is their standard omakase? Possible to do sashimi/nigiri-only?


#12

Hi JL,

Awesome review. :slight_smile: Thanks for the heads up. Some of the dishes sound great.

I remember seeing Yoya-san from the above quoted press. I always thought, “it’d be fun to dine at his sushi bar” LOL. :smile:

I agree with @tailbacku though. The order of dishes and especially the large format stuff sounds and feels off. Like he’s trying to please you / show off crazy menu items, but my stomach turned a little reading about them and imagining that procession (especially the braised short rib large plate in the middle of your sushi procession) LOL.

I’ll have to give it a try, but maybe nigiri only.


#13

I didn’t mind the progression of the meal so much as the large portions on some of the mid-meal larger format dishes.

Price-wise, I think their standard omakase is $85. Fair disclosure: At time of reservation, I asked for their (not on the menu) premium omakase, which turned out to be $160 before drinks.

Yoya-san is a hoot. For that alone I’d go back.


#14

What’s a hoot ???

I’ve never really heard of that word before.