Ended up eating at Nakazawa, Yasuda and Gari. All three were delicious and worthy of a return visit.
Few thoughts on each:
Yasuda - The brightest restaurant I’ve ever been into. The floor to ceiling blonde wood reflected and amplified the already bright lights. I felt like I was tied to a chair in an interrogation room with a bulb pressed against my sweating face. The food however was faultless. We started with a few small plates (assorted sauteed fish livers, tempura monkfish, and something else I forgot) and then did omakase. Excellent variety of fish, mostly sourced from Japan, well proportioned nigiri and solid rice. Definitely lived up to the hype.
Gari - Fun and different. I appreciated the inventiveness and flamboyance of the preparations. I also appreciated that they maintain a strong grasp of the fundamentals while forging boldly into the new. A lot of fusiony places seem to be under the impression that if you glop a bunch of stuff on top of the neta then you don’t have to think as much about the rice and fish. Not the case here. I think they are going to kill it in their Hollywood ocation.
Nakazawa - Having been to Sukiyabashi Jiro, I really enjoyed how different Nakazawa has made his own restaurant. It would be all to easy for him to attempt to reproduce his master’s restaurant given that it’s the most well-known sushi restaurant in the world. Instead, he sources most of his fish from American waters, plays around with garnishes and toppings, and maintains a decidedly fun and lighthearted atmosphere. Not to mention the sushi was absolutely delicious. Also lived up to the extreme hype.
Short note on other places I ate:
Bar Sardine - Outstanding burger and masterful cocktails. Some of the friendliest and most professional bar staff I’ve ever interacted with. Wish I had a neighborhood joint like this in Los Angeles.
Mary’s Fish Camp - Had the scallop tagine. Was good but I thought the strong spices of the tagine overpowered the delicateness of the scallop.
Quality Eats - Tasty but not worth the 1.5 hour wait.
Casa Enrique - New York’s answer to the claim that it doesn’t have good Mexican food. The lamb shank was divine, mezcal cocktail well balanced, and table salsas all really good. Beautiful outdoor area too.
Red Farm - Good but nothing wow’ed. Also seemed overpriced. Not sure I understand its enduring popularity.