Located in an area replete with worthy competitors (Mozza Osteria, Petit Trois/Trois Mec, just to mention a few), Umeda represents the latest local venture for (now) global restauranteur Nobu Matsuhisa.
The kitchen is under the guidance of Matsuhisa alum Chef Takuya Umeda, and the current menu draws heavily from those Peruvian-inflected Japanese dishes which first earned Nobu Matsuhisa his fame and fortune. During my first visit here, it quickly became clear to me that the dishes served here are pretty much exactly what you’d find at the Matsuhisa mothership on La Cienega.
RESERVATIONS: Currently Umeda does not take reservations. Upon further reflection, perhaps this is intentional, as Umeda provides a Matsuhisa-level experience for those who could not procure (or may not have wanted to get) last-second reservations at the mothership. In any case, there were a few empty tables as we arrived in the later portion of the service hours on a weekend evening, and we were enthusiastically seated promptly.
PARKING: There is a valet stand in front of the restaurant (which is on the Melrose Avenue side, and not on Citrus Avenue). Additionally, there is local metered street parking.
DECOR: Lots of wood, clean lines, with 2-tops and circular 4-tops interspersed throughout the small but elegant dining room. Like Crustacean, there is a mini-stream under the glass floor at the entryway. There is also a row of 7 seats at the bar facing the open kitchen (though no omakase option was apparent on the menu). No ambient music on my visit (though I have a feeling this might change soon). The quietude makes it easy to converse - Perhaps a bit too quiet, as we picked up on a millennial couple in the throes of imminent breakup on one side, and a visibly disgruntled Russian arguing with her agent on the other. (Luckily, neither parties lingered, and both quickly egressed.)
SERVICE: Strong here. The FOH and servers were all cordial and professional. The only sign of a crack developing was that our server wasn’t completely familiar with the new menu yet, and had to ask others in order to answer some of my questions regarding the meal - Not a major issue, in my book.
DRINKS: The usual sake choices you’d find at Matsuhisa (with the notable absence of those luscious housemade fruit-infused sakes we loved at Matsuhisa). The cocktails were well-poured and tasty - I’d recommend the Umeda Signature cocktail. Beer-wise, there are Sapporo and Asahi on tap, as well as bottled O’Douls. A small wine selection is available too.
… and now, ONTO THE FOOD!
Appetizer: Shishito Peppers… Well-prepared, nicely salted. Only one pepper in our bowl was truly spicy (which was a pleasant surprise to me).
Toro Caviar… A classic Matsuhisa favorite. This was spot-on in term of presentation and taste. Super!
Matsuhisa Slider… Believe it or not, the “bun” here were actually two pieces of slightly pan-fried tofu! The meat was Japanese Kobe beef (per the manager, but I was dubious). Whatever the provenance of the beef, the overall effect was quite delicious!
New-Style Sashimi (with hot oil, sea bream, chive, sesame & tomato)… Beautiful presentation, and faithful to the original version served at Matsuhisa.
“Shojin” Tempura (“temple-style” vegetable tempura of eggplant, asparagus, kabocha pumpkin, squash & onion)… Lightly battered and delicately fried, this was quite good.
Tiradito Matsuhisa Style (with halibut, cilantro, chili powder, yuzu juice, Rocoto chili paste & cherry tomato)… The usu-zukuri (“thin-cut”) knifework on this dish was terrific.
Ikura (salmon roe, served on a mini-bed of nori and rice), along with O-toro (high fatty tuna) nigiri…
Fresh and bursting with flavor, the ikura was of superb quality!
The o-toro is amongst the finest we’ve enjoyed in quite some time! Each piece was achingly melt-in-your-mouth gorgeous…
Soft-Shell Crab Cut Roll… So satisfying.
Yellowfin tuna & okura (okra) Cut Roll… It is somewhat unusual to find okra as an ingredient for a cut roll here in Southern California, so when we saw it on the menu, we just had to order it! Result: Wonderful! We are so very glad we tried it!
Black Cod Miso… Another Nobu Matsuhisa signature dish. Often imitated, this particular version remains true to Nobu’s original ground-breaking taste and texture combination! One of the rare times I will ascribe the term “umami” to a dish - This black miso cod definitely has umami!!!
Matcha (green tea)…
Dessert Platter: Red Plum Ice Cream, Papaya, Assorted Seasonal Berries & Grapes, Navel Orange, Cape Gooseberry and Dragonfruit… WOW!
Green tea syrup poured over shaved ice…
Green Tea Shaved Ice with Mochi, Vanilla Custard and Azuki (sweet red bean paste)… A more casual, unorthdox dessert item which happened to work well here…
For all you restaurant bathroom otaku out there, here is a shot of the top-of-the-line Toto washlet in the restroom, complete with occupancy sensor and fully-arrayed control panel along the wall. The entry to the bathroom is a Japanese sliding door - well-designed!
PRICE: This place is expensive. We ordered the above food, and a total of 2 cocktails. The bill (before tip) came out to $322. (Hey, it’s Nobu.) I will say that the execution of the food at Umeda is very good, as is the friendly service in an elegant setting. For those reasons, Umeda is:
6623 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038