LA has incredible sushi places.  We had read about Yamakase and the key was figuring out how to get in.  You can only go if the owner knows you.  I was lucky enough to get an intro and an in turn and invitation to go.  Fred and I went the other night to a four hour epic meal.  The place only has 10 seats.  It is as much about watching the chef, Yama San, prepare the food as it is about tasting it.  He is a master with a knife.  The whole experience was incredible.  I asked the chef if I could take pics and he said I could so here you go.

yamakaseOnce we had watch the chef prep the courses we began to get the dishes.  One was more brilliant than the next.  We began with a dish of soy bean cake, abalone that had been roasted for two days, caviar, black truffle shavings and a light soy sauce.  Each dish has a sauce that makes the dish.

yamakase1Baby eel sashimi.  Thinly sliced iced eel mixed with a rich sesame paste and a dollop of caviar.  The warmth and the cold including the flavors was fantastic.

yama2Baby squid on top of another sesame paste.

yama3The layering begins.  A soup spoon filled with an oyster, quail egg, shiso, uni, caviar and a spot of lemon juice.  An explosion of flavors and textures in your mouth all in one bite.

yama4Steamed ice fish wrapped in shiso and then topped with sea urchin from Santa Diego.

yama5This was interesting.  Cod fish eggs sitting in a light soy sauce and topped with chopped scallions.  It melted in your mouth like a warm pasta.  This dish is only available in the winter.

yama6Simply sliced red snapper topped with thinly sliced shiso.

yamaa7Seaweed sat at the bottom of this bowl and then topped with shrimp, monkfish and scallop.  The small green piece is a baby peach from Japan.  Never had that before.  Insanely sweet and good.

yama8Slices of scallop with caper shoots that come from Greece.

Spanish blue fin tuna with uni and chopped scallions.

yama10He took slices of yellowtail and blanched it in boiling water and then quickly submerged it in ice cubes.  Then served it with soy sauce and an intense sesame paste with scallions.

yama11Clams sashimi with a different sesame paste.

yama12This was one of the top dishes.  A small block of foie gras topped with a quail egg, crab fish salad and toro.  Then he took a hunk of Italian truffle cheese and shaved it over the top.  OMG.

yama13Earlier in the evening he had sliced a huge hunk of kobe beef.  He had taken small thin slices and balled them up, put them on a tray and sat it in the fridge.  He then took it out of the fridge and with a blow torch charred the beef.   This was served with a spicy sour sauce over the top.

yama14It was more fun to watch the chef cut these claws up.  Roasted crab.

yama15The chef took huge pieces of foie gras and put them into a steaming pot on the stove.  He was making foie gras soup.  The soup was then poured into bowls that had oysters, crab and quail eggs in it.  Then he topped it with shaved black truffles and scallions.  Over the top rich.  At this point a few sips and an oyster is all I could take.  Fred inhaled this.

yama16The chef toasted some thick white bread that could have been challah under the broiler.  Then he cut it up and slathered crab salad over the top, a dollop of two kinds of uni and then a piece of lightly frozen toro.  The warm of the bread with the combination of fish and the frozen toro was one of the best open faced sandwiches ever.

yama17Kobi beef topped with a spicy boiled down pepper sauce and thinly sliced black truffles on top.

yama19Now we go into the sushi or sashimi course of the meal.  We are asked which one we want.  We both opted for sashimi although the rice might have been a bit calming on the stomach.  The chef even said to me that I did not have to finish everything.  Here is one piece of the fish that came out.  We cried uncle and out came out dessert.

yama20A small cup of peach ice made from the same peaches that were in the earlier dish.

yama21Just one you think you hit the wall you can fit in one more morsel.  The chef began preparing the last item for others who were there.  A hand roll.  This one was a bit different than the classic hand roll that many restaurants here serve as the grand finale. This was stuffed with the blue crab salad, chopped shiso, chopped toro and then topped with a huge scoop of uni.  My eyes lit up.  The chef turned me to me and asked if I wanted one.  Fred couldn’t believe that I could eat that too.  I hesitated and then the chef said how about half?  Oh yes please!

The meal was one of the best Japanese experiences we have ever had.  We will return.  We could have easily been in Tokyo.  Truly just epic.




Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Scarcity as a model aka Invitation Only dining.Damn–looks amazing.Where in LA is this?

    1. Gotham Gal


      1. Peppy

        Nice dishes and thank you for taking us there via photos. Can you please give me a hint on the price tag so I can start saving. My husband will appreciate this place.

    2. LE

      I think you have to run with a scarcity model with lulitonix. Offer a much higher end product on a limited basis. Would get lots of PR play. (In addition to what you do now, not instead of it..) Or maybe a special product only good at a certain time of the year. (Some cookie company does that can’t remember. Creates plenty of buzz..)Separately, here is a restaurant in Atlantic City (of all places) with a shtik:http://www.philly.com/phill…For decades, Chef Vola’s was not easy to get into. The unlisted phone number and the general air of secrecy worked to create a quiet buzz that drew eager high-rollers who gave up their comp meals at the casinos just to try to getin.http://www.chefvolas.com/

  2. Steve Hallock

    Epic is the right word. I told you it was a lot of food!!

  3. LE

    Fred and I went the other night to a four hour epic meal.How do you pass 4 hours in a 10 seat place? (My point being it’s not even as if you can pass time by people watching or if you are with a 10 seat table with friends in a Buddakan sized restaurant (the one in Philly I mean..)

    1. fredwilson

      Watching the chef make the food. He’s incredible

      1. LE

        That’s interesting. The closest I can think of is when you go to Hibachi and they do the “cooking” and a “show” in front of you and 10 strangers. [1]I’m thinking then that there is an opportunity to have similar things for non Japanese cooking where people sit around a table and watch someone cook, say, Italian or Greek food.Which from a search I just did doesn’t seem like a concept that really exists.And since restaurants are all about entertainment, atmosphere (and food) this seems like something that Mario Batalli and Joe Bastianich should be doing…I know that there are places that you can see the kitchen but not places where the kitchen is central to the experience and the entertainment.It can be called “Cooking in the Round”.[1] Kids always want to do that when they get a good report card.

  4. JAJones

    Any Japanese restaurants in NY that are as good or better?