After all that comfort food at Tracht's, we thought some lighter fare might be the way to go for our next dinner in LA. Returning from a long day of work, I fired up the laptop and tried to figure out where to get some damn good sushi. Like most major cities in the US, LA has a LOT of sushi places! How was I ever going to pick one? I was surfing through Chowhound posts, Zagat ratings, etc, all while cross-referencing against a map of LA (remember, we've got the whole traffic-factor to consider). In the midst of all this, a distant memory swam to mind...
I have been here before.
I ate great sushi.
It came to me as if by magic.
All of a sudden I remembered my last visit to Los Angeles, almost four years ago. I remembered eating at a tiny sushi joint in the Japanese section of town... and I wanted to go back. I remembered having a great meal there, and enjoying one special dish in particular. But the name was long forgotten; how would I find it again? Well, this sushi place had a very distinct feature, sometimes known as "Robot Sushi." Not sushi made my robots (although that sounds kindof awesome), robot sushi is prepared by human chefs, then placed on a conveyor belt which runs in front of customers seated at the bar, who then choose whatever they like as it moves along (final bill is tallied by adding up the number of plates one has collected over the course of the meal, different color plates have different prices). So cool! The only thing cooler is this place I once went to in San Francisco, where the sushi bar was surrounded by a little moat, and the sushi floated by on tiny boats! But I digress... I was now on a mission to find this robot sushi joint. I began Googling various nonsensical search strings such as "robot sushi LA japantown" and "conveyor sushi los angeles little japan." Finally I managed to track down the place, whose (potentially offensive?) name was immediately familiar to me.
Ah, Frying Fish Japanese Seafood and Sushi Bar-- how could I forget! Frying Fish is located in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. We had another relatively traffic-free cruise up to LA, and after a couple of quick detours (read: we were lost for an hour) we arrived and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. Here's a little video of the sushi going by (the first BCD video!)
We were pretty hungry after our little detour which brings up another great thing about robot sushi (besides general awesome-ness)-- immediate food. Just seconds after sitting down we were digging into a couple of starters, some very decent wakame (seaweed) salad and some excellent octopus salad, before we got down to the real business...
In addition to the sushi shuttling by in front of us, the friendly and skilled sushi chefs were there to whip up anything that didn't happen to be on the conveyor belt (this happened to be a lot of things-- it was near closing and the belt was pretty empty, but the chefs were happy to prepare fresh and delicious dishes off their menu.) One dish, as I mentioned, I was excited to have again. I had remembered it fondly from my last visit, and I was nervous they wouldn't have it this time. But then, there it was, right on the menu: Honeymoon oyster.
This, Dear Reader, is pure heaven to me. I mean, any dish that I remember from four years ago has got to be something special! It has so many of my favorite things: raw oyster, uni (sea urchin roe, my favorite sushi ingredient), masago (smelt roe-- the little orange eggs you are probably used to seeing on the outside of your California Roll), and uzura, or raw quail egg, on top. OK, raw quail egg is not necessarily one of my favorites, but it totally works on this dish. I nibbled a little of the uni and masago with my chopsticks, then picked up the whole oyster shell and slurped it down. Amazing-- it perfectly balanced the richness from the egg, briny-ness from the oyster, salty crunch from the masago, and the indescribable flavor and texture of uni; one absolutely perfect bite. I told co-worker Mike, who bravely ordered a Honeymoon oyster of his own (and enjoyed it!), that if I am going to pay $5 for one bite of food, I want it to taste as good as that bite, every time. Delicious.
Next a couple of tasty rolls: one whose name I can't remember, but it was spicy tuna on top of a California roll-- we'll just call it the Frying Fish Roll because honestly they just make those names up anyway, right? and the Rainbow Roll. Both were excellent. The spicy tuna had quite a bit of heat but not so much that it completely overwhelmed the tuna flavor. Rainbow roll was gorgeous and featured shrimp (cooked, unfortunately), tuna, salmon, himachi, and at least one "mystery fish." Didn't scare us though-- we ate mystery fish and lived to tell the tale!
Finally the belt stopped spinning, the music went off, and we had had our fill of sushi, anyway. The waitress came by to count our plates, the bill ended up being extremely reasonable (even including the enormous bottle of Asahi beer I drank!), AND they validated our parking. We headed back to our hotel (without getting lost) and even managed to find a ColdStone Creamery to get a little after-sushi dessert (my new favorite flavor combo: sweet cream w/coconut). So far, we're two for two for LA eats!
P.S. I was able to dig up the video I took last year in San Francisco of the sushi on boats. For your viewing enjoyment:
Second BCD video!