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Monday, October 18, 2010

Yabu in WeHo: Nab a Spot at the Sushi Bar

Just as I am very loyal to my fave burger joints, Hiko has been my go-to sushi place since I first stumbled on it almost six to seven years ago. But I'm also always looking for the next find, the neighborhood gem that has yet to be discovered. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the sushi at Yabu in West Hollywood. Sure, it wasn't a revelation like it was with Hiko, but some of the pieces were definitely worth returning for.

The most memorable was probably the scallop, which was contoured perfectly around the rice bed thanks to the precise knife-work of the chef who put incisions the size of tiny squares for easier consumption. I'm usually not a shelfish sushi person, but the scallop was so fresh and flavorful.

Another shellfish surprise: shrimp. It was so tender and packed with flavor that I vowed not to dismiss shellfish sushi again. It was also contoured to the shape of the rice block. I'm partial to warm rice, which Yabu didn't offer, but at least it wasn't super cold and too sticky.

My favorite kinds, such as toro (fatty tuna) and uni (sea urchin), were ok but not as good as at Hiko. The toro didn't melt in your mouth as much and the uni, while good, wasn't as rich, silky and fresh-tasting.

The giant clam was a disappointment. It smelled too much like the sea for my taste, and not in a good way. The squid, which came with a sheet of shiso leaf, which I don't usually like, was just so so. I don't understand the inserting of shiso leaf at every turn in sushi. I think it ruins the harmony of the flavors but that's just me.

We did omakase (chef's choice) and the chef made us a nifty little uni roll that had been deep fried and came with a side of fancy salt. I liked the interesting mix of textures of crunchy with the soft uni but there's nothing that compares to the great experience of having a fresh uni wrapped in the most delicate and crispy sheet of seaweed, like it's overflowing out of the seaweed (see first picture above). Plain and simple. Why deep-fry something that is perfectly good raw? It was good to see innovation in action but I'll go back to my no-frills uni dish any day. There's a reason I went for sushi. If I'd wanted cooked food, I'd have gone somewhere else. I don't like it when they mix and match raw and cooked food too much.

They made soup out of the shrimp heads left over from the shrimp sushi, which was ok.

I would advise to stay away from the fried calamari, which was so overcooked it tasted like rubber. So bad.

I didn't expect the sushi to be much good here because its west side location is known for its soba (buckwheat) noodles. I'm not a soba fanatic, so only went a few times even when I lived nearby. But the West Hollywood location is convenient, the service is good (we had to take back the sake more than once because it tasted off -- and they obliged and apologized profusely for the inconvenience) and sushi is definitely above average. Not the cheapest but reasonable if you don't go crazy with the expensive sushi.

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