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Oh-My-Kase at Sushi Zo

Oh-My-Kase at Sushi Zo


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Buried in a discussion between former New York Times critic Frank Bruni and the world's most famous chef, Ferran Adrià, at the New York City Wine & Food Festival in September, was a culinary riddle wrapped in nori somewhere in between the 101 and the 10. Ferran contended that the world's best sushi was in L.A., at a place whose name he had forgotten, but that he'd visited with his friend chef José Andrés. Andrés couldn't remember the name, but his assistant suggested it might be Sushi Zo, a small place in a strip mall next to a taco joint.

Sounds like something to be skeptical of. But a visit in October made the case that if strip malls across America are serving that kind of sushi, there's more to Americana than meets the eye. Fine, maybe you shouldn't expect to find high quality sushi next to Red Lobster's along I-40 across the U.S., but when you go to Sushi Zo, expect course after course of fresh, expertly cut, beautifully presented sushi. And for these reasons Sushi Zo made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.

Click for more of the Most Memorable Meals of 2011.


Why the Rice Cooker Is the Unofficial Appliance of the BA Test Kitchen

All products featured on Bon Appétit are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

I swiped right on my Zojirushi rice cooker years ago and have never looked back. The sleek machine has taken up permanent residence on my station in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, a gently burbling constant at the center of a roomful of cooks in motion. Several mornings a week, the first thing I do when I get to work (well maybe the second, after brewing coffee) is make a big batch of rice or mixed whole grains for family meal, the lunch our kitchen team cooks and eats together every day. When everyone is hangry a few hours later, all we have to do is quickly reheat a leftover protein, scramble some eggs, or slice some avocado and break out the chile oil to turn that still-warm, fluffy, perfectly done rice into a meal. Full rice cooker, happy kitchen bellies. Here’s what to buy, and how to get the most out of it.


Jonathan Gold | L.A. restaurant review: Purist <i>omakase</i> sushi at Zo

We have talked before about the gentrification of deep downtown, the colorful area familiar from dystopian novels and Tom Waits lyrics that has become the most reliable destination in town for bespoke cocktails, vintage party dresses and monogrammed dog bowls. And among the incongruous and wonderful things to have opened near the newly scrubbed corner of 4th and Main, that former nexus of flophouses and all-night porn theaters, none may stick out more than Zo, the new downtown sister to the Westside’s Sushi Zo, which serves $145 omakase tasting menus in a neighborhood that has not completely shrugged off its aura of loosies and cheap wine.

That $145 omakase menu, by the way, isn’t an exotic outlier noted for the purpose of a cheap metaphor — it is the only meal Zo serves. The person who picks up the phone when you call to make a reservation makes sure you know what you’re getting into. The person who greets you at the door of the brightly lighted restaurant looks at your shoes. And in the course of an evening at the restaurant, you are unlikely to see anyone just drop by.

The chef, possibly founder Keizo Seki, will ask if you have any seafood allergies when you settle in at the counter, and you will be handed a list of beer and sake, but when you enter the restaurant you have agreed to vote the straight Zo ticket. Los Angeles is famous for its inflexible itamae, but Seki is the first chef to bring the rigorous aesthetic to this side of town.

You may be familiar with the take-no-prisoners omakase menu in L.A. sushi restaurants, starting with the original Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, continuing with Sasabune and perhaps reaching its peak at the notorious (and wonderful) Hiko Sushi in Mar Vista.

Omakase meals have always been part of the good sushi chef’s repertoire — he, after all, knows more about the provenance of the fish than his patrons possibly could — but these places, as well as the original Sushi Zo, served only prescribed sushi in a prescribed order, removed the pitchers of soy sauce from their counters and often publicly shamed customers who dared ask for California rolls or spicy tuna or anything else that may not have been in the classic Edo-era repertoire. Some sushi chefs see education as part of their job, teaching their customers why oily fish are tastier in the winter or why one cut of tuna might be tastier than another, but this new breed of chefs just prepared and served their sushi, often at an incomprehensible pace, seeking to dazzle their patrons rather than enlighten them, winning them over with a cascading procession of freshness and taste.

Perhaps coincidentally, all of these places served sushi prepared in what I have come to think of as the Los Angeles style: longish slices of nursery-soft seafood draped over small lozenges of rice that are warm where you would expect them to be cool washed with ponzu, pure yuzu juice or other sauces instead of just soy and very, very lightly seasoned with freshly grated wasabi, the expensive root that gives sushi its pungency. Sushi Nozawa may have been famous for its specials chalkboard that read “Trust me,” but the Los Angeles style may imply instead: “I don’t trust you.”

Seki is as much of a purist as anyone in town. The seafood on his sushi is always soft, including normally crunchy things like octopus, which has been steamed to a kind of cushiony tenderness, and orange clam, which has been worked over with a knife to the point where you could probably eat it with a spoon. His rice is not just warm but actually hot, seasoned with vinegar to a point where it acts more as a condiment than as a starch, and rolled into tiny, loose-packed marbles that threaten to fall apart when you pick them up with chopsticks but miraculously never do.

He is working within a tradition, but his fans could pick his sushi out of a police lineup seven times out of eight, and even the sushi freaks who would rather spend their bonus money at Shunji or Kiyokawa (I probably count myself among them) admire the integrity of his cuisine.

You start at Zo with a Kumamoto oyster moistened with a sweetish ponzu sauce, then a few slices of butter-soft big-eye tuna sashimi (he intelligently disdains the threatened bluefin), and then an expertly dissected farmed baby abalone in its shell. There will be squid cut into a small heap of tender linguine and tossed with uni and a blast of truffle salt. A quick sunomono course will probably include chilled jellyfish with dabs of miso in a mild vinaigrette.

And then comes the sushi, up to 25 pieces in all, one after the other on attractive pottery, dealt so quickly that it is often hard to tell one from the next: halibut with lemon and a blast of grated sea salt pink Oregon albacore with lime mirugai clam with a splash of soy sauce a meaty sliver of golden-eye snapper a bit of chu-toro, big-eye tuna belly that somehow has the smack of fresh cream. If you have arrived at the counter at the same time a big table is being served, you may be surprised to see the chef preparing 10 orders at once, as casually as a Las Vegas dealer might flip out a hand of blackjack.

Am I going to tell you that your scallop is going to be so fresh that it is still wiggling when it hits your mouth that the ankimo, monkfish liver, is going to be served hot or that the black cod may be seared and dabbed with mayonnaise? Perhaps, perhaps not — the fish do change from day to day. The buri may be garnished with curled shavings of roasted shishito peppers the giant clam may come with minced shiso.

The penultimate course will always hold one piece of sushi made with delicate, washed salmon roe and another with triple-decked San Diego sea urchin, except when Hokkaido uni is in season. There will be a final hand roll of finely chopped tuna, with which you will be allowed your one go at a dish of soy sauce … and then a tiny cordial glass half-filled with sweet, fresh yuzu juice. You are on the street before you know it. It is time to look for your car.


The Best Sushi Of Our Lives at Sushi Zo

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Adam,” you’re saying, shaking your head while sipping a vanilla iced latte (why are you drinking that, anyway?), “you’re losing credibility. You just wrote a post below this about some blood-infused noodles and said that the Thai restaurant where you ate them offered the best Thai meal of your life. And now here you are, one post later, and you’re talking about the best sushi of your life. Don’t you think you’re overselling things a bit? If you keep calling things ‘the best of your life’ no one’s going to take you seriously. You’re like the boy who cried ‘best fill-in-the-blank of your life.'”

That’s a fair point, Starbucks-sipping reader, but hear me out. While I was alone in my conclusion that Pa-Ord was the best Thai food of my life (Zach Brooks didn’t share my pronouncement), when I went to Sushi Zo the next day, I was with New York Times writer/editor Dan Saltzstein (who was visiting L.A. and who suggested Sushi Zo) and with Craig, a sushi-obsessive. And at the end of the meal, all three of us were in agreement. This was the best sushi of our lives.

To innocent passersby, there’s not much to distinguish Sushi Zo as a must-visit sushi destination.

It’s located next to a Starbucks in a strip mall on National Blvd. near Culver City. Here’s the entryway:

The day that we went–a Tuesday (one week ago today)–the place was almost completely empty. There was one tableful of customers and then us at the bar. Once you sit down, there isn’t a menu–it’s all omakase ($125 a pop)–and the only questions that you’re asked are: “Would you like something to drink?” and “Is there any fish that you don’t eat?”

Almost immediately, you’re presented with a plate of pickled ginger and a small cup of miso soup:

And then the food starts coming. Here’s an oyster with some kind of yuzu sauce:

The oyster was as briny and fresh-tasting as they get, and the yuzu sauce was acidic and salty, a lovely contrast. Before we could put down our shells, the next plate was presented:

Tuna as bright and shiny as jewelry, topped with a slick of soy sauce and the tiniest dot of wasabi. Each bite was so buttery, it practically melted in the mouth.

There was this small bowl of calamari cut into noodles and tossed with sea urchin:

Two unrelated tastes from the sea that work like old friends together on the palate.

From there, the more traditional sushi pieces arrived. I’d be a liar if I said I could identify each picture from the bill, I can tell you that we ate fatty tuna, albacore, yellowtail, amberjack, halibut, yellow stripe jack, red snapper, salmon, spanish mackerel, scallop, sweet shrimp, sea urchin and salmon eggs (that’s what you see in the lead photo), sea eel, monkfish liver, butter fish, pompono, halibut-fin, G.E. snapper, toro roll and a blue crab roll. Here are some assorted pictures:

I didn’t take a picture of every piece–that would’ve gotten a little too repetitive–but those pictures should give you a good idea. Each piece was some kind of revelation I’ve never had fish so melt-in-your-mouth creamy.

The sushi masters who made this sushi hovered over us and would instruct us, as they handed us our pieces, whether or not we should apply soy sauce (most often the answer was “no” because there’d already been an application of soy sauce behind-the scenes). Dan, Craig and I discussed the freshness of the fish–“L.A. is five hours closer to Japan than New York,” Dan explained, “so it’s that much fresher” (the fish is almost all imported from Japan, which is why it’s pricey). I had a question about the F.D.A. regulations about freezing fish–does all sushi fish have to be flash frozen first? even at the best places?–that no one really had an answer to.

But mostly, we sat in awed silence imbibing this glorious, lovingly assembled sushi. At the end of the meal, there was a glass of yuzu juice:

And then, in the blink of an eye, we were out the door. Craig said it first–the thing about it being the best sushi of his life–and Dan and I quickly concurred. Honestly, though, those labels aren’t very important. What is important is that here in Los Angeles, in a little strip mall next to a Starbucks, you will find an extraordinarily talented sushi chef preparing extraordinary sushi. It’s not to be missed.


White Rice

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Ingredients:

Measure your rice accurately using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker. Fill the rice above the brim, then level off the cup. Now pour the rice in the empty inner cooking pan.

Rinse rice under water until the water clears. Rub the grains of rice gently between the palms of your hands and drain.

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When cooking completes, allow the cooked rice to &lsquorest&rsquo for 15 minutes. If you have a Micom rice cooker, this is done automatically and you will not have to wait. Open the rice cooker and use the special nonstick rice spatula to fluff and serve your rice.


The 11 New Michelin Star Restaurants In NYC That You Can't Miss

From Japanese cuisine to vegetarian fare, there's an award-winning restaurant for every New Yorker's palate.

New York just added quite a few more stars to its roster of Michelin-approved eats.

Ever had Nordic food? Probably not. If you're itching to give it a try, this Brooklyn Scandinavian restaurant is the place to go. In a restored warehouse near the Williamsburg Bridge, you can dine on a 10 to 19 course meal of tasting dishes, from oysters to venison to pig's blood dishes and more, or opt for the a la carte garden menu with smaller plates and meals to share.

Or, if you're looking to go Northern European, but not willing to trek down to Brooklyn (or Europe, for that matter), there's Agern, a Nordic restaurant with an Icelandic chef at the helm located right at Grand Central Terminal. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert menus. For dinner, choose from a "Land & Sea" menu ($165) with selections like trout with cabbage, smoked butter and horseradish or the "Field & Forest" vegetarian menu ($140), with dishes like Salt and Ash Baked Beet Root. Or if you can't make up your mind, go for the a la carte options.

Contra is all about contemporary New York dishes made with local ingredients. The restaurant, which opened in 2013 on the Lower East Side, offers a set menu for an actually bearable $67. The distinctive and varied menu is packed, and may include dishes like scallops with cabbage and brown butter or pork, husk cherry and fennel.

This American restaurant with Italian influences in Brooklyn is all about seasonal dishes, local flavors and handmade pastas. With gnocchetti and braised quail, bucatini with pastured chicken confit, agnolotti with honey nut squash, and more on the menu, it's not a bad place to carb up.

Günter Seeger opened in the West Village in May, and it's already won itself a Michelin star. Here you can choose from either a four-course prix fixe menu ($98) with dishes like hibachi grilled quail with Japanese Leeks and dates, or a diverse 10-course tasting menu ($148) with plates like venison noisette with Brussels sprouts and chestnut.

If you're looking for French cuisine in an inviting and beautifully decorated restaurant meant to evoke "a chef's living room," head downtown. L'Appart opened in April with an ever-changing menu of classic dishes with a twist, like foie gras with truffle and leek, and duck with baby turnip and kiwi.

Located in the lower level of the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea is La Sirena, a massive space with loud decor and Italian fare. It's the twelfth New York City restaurant owned and operated by celebrity chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich. The restaurant offers extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, plus 34 distinctive cocktails with names like "Spice Me Baby One More Time" and "Big Kahuna" at its 38-foot marble bar.

This one's for all you herbivores out there, because Nix is totally vegetarian. That doesn't mean you won't be satisfied if you're a meat eater though, because at Nix vegetables become showstoppers. With items like butternut potato fry bread with trumpet mushrooms, or cauliflower tempura, it means not getting stuck between the only two dishes on the menu that you can actually eat, or worse, nothing at all.

Getting your hands on truly authentic sushi 6,000 miles away from Japan might seem unlikely, but the Manhattan branch of Tokyo-based chain Sushi Ginza Onodera delivers just that. In fact, most of the fish comes directly from Japan. Here, you'll also have a front row seat to the show as guests dine at counters and watch the chefs prepare sushi on the spot. Quality doesn't come cheap though&mdashthe dinner menu features a $300 "Omakase Course" or a $400 "Kiwami" course.

For another equally satisfying, yet slightly more affordable, Japanese dining experience where attention to detail reigns and California rolls definitely aren't on the menu, you'll have to head uptown to Harlem for a visit to Sushi Inoue. Here, you can either order sushi and sashimi a la carte or choose the "Omsake" style, which means chef's choice.

Sushi Zo became famed in Los Angeles for having the best sushi around, and opened up its first east coast location in Greenwich Village last year. Here, there's one guiding philosophy &mdash that good sushi is all about creating the perfect harmony between seafood and sushi rice. The restaurant offers a chef's choice multi-course tasting menu only.


Chefs on the Move

DAVID LARIS, a global chef if ever there was one (Greek heritage, born in Australia, worked in London, with restaurants in Hong Kong and Shanghai), is coming to New York in the fall. He will open Eden restaurant in the Cachet Boutique NYC hotel on West 42nd Street, where the menu will be pulled from his eclectic background.

CHRISTINA LECKI, who was at the Ace Hotel and its restaurant Breslin, is the new executive chef at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


Zojirushi Rice Cooker and Warmer

The Spruce Eats / Caroline Goldstein

We purchased the Zojirushi Rice Cooker and Warmer so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.

The Zojirushi Rice Cooker and Warmer comes at a steep, steep price—but let’s unpack that a bit. Unlike your average rice cooker which has just two functions (warm and cook), this high-end appliance has settings for a slew of specific rice varieties, from white and brown to jasmine and sushi. An easy-to-read LCD screen and timer allow you to set your cook time (or delayed start time), and the Zojirushi will alert you when your dish is done with a customizable tone (melody, beep, or just silent). A quick Google search will reveal that the Japanese-made rice cooker receives universally glittering reviews, but we wanted to test it out for ourselves. Read on for all our thoughts on the gadget’s performance, design, features, and competition.


Omakase-only sushi bar Zo opens in downtown L.A.

A favorite of raw-fish aficionados, Zo has opened its second location -- at the corner of 4th and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s the follow-up to sushi chef Keizo Seki’s original Westside strip-mall location, Sushi Zo. Downtown Zo (just Zo, not Sushi Zo) opened on Thursday, serving traditional omakase-only tasting menu of nigiri.

Seki’s known for his pristine bite-size cuts of fish and body-temperature rice (the better to emphasize the flavor of the cool fish). No cut rolls here, though he’ll serve an occasional hand roll, such as toro (fatty tuna) swathed in rice and a sheet of extra-crisp seaweed.

The sushi bar seats about 10, and tables can accommodate another 20 people in the brightly lit dining room. Seki is currently manning the downtown restaurant, and his omakase (“chef’s choice) menu starts at $100, not including sake or beer.

Regulars will recognize Seki’s Kumamoto oysters with ponzu and momiji oroshi (grated radish with chiles), maguro (tuna) sashimi dabbed with wasabi, squid “noodles” with creamy sea urchin, hagatsuo (skipjack) nigiri, warm ankimo (monkfish liver) nigiri, pompano with pickled shishito , and more.

Sushi Zo joins Dr. J’s Vibrant Cafe in the Medallion multi-use development that also is slated to house Bigmista’s Barbecue and a full-time farmers market.

Open for lunch Monday to Friday and dinner Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays.


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