The Best Sushi in Los Angeles? Trust Sasabune!

SUSHI.

delicate snowflakes rest on warm, sweet rice beds flavors intertwined.

Translucent jewel - (sliced) natural perfection - slide into my mouth.

TRUST ME!

A direct quote from the chopstick wrapper at Sasabune. I do not kid. Sasabune moved a while back (from what I do not know, nor do I care) into this rather oddly modernistic and large-ish space on Wilshire near Centinela. Upon entering, one sees what is becoming almost obligatory in better sushi restaurants in LA: A handwritten sign stating “No spicy tuna roll. No tempura. No exceptions.” The sushi-ist emits a mental groan. The sushi-ist is in for a big surprise.

The first time I went to Sasabune, I naively chose the sushi counter and upon sitting down the two of us were presented with a charming plate of albacore with a puddle of ponzu. This is the way to live. Sit down and get albacore before you see the menu. Then I find out there is no menu at the sushi bar. It is only omakase - chef’s choice. No problem. What a grand idea it is though.

On my trip last week, Sasabune was as stellar as usual. Sushi is serious business, even though I usually eschew the rice and head more toward sashimi. I sat down and was presented with familiar plate of inviting albacore with ponzu topped with a ball of thinly sliced, crunchy scallions. Beautifully chosen fish. Delightful house-made ponzu.

It is followed very quickly by a generous plate of baby tuna. The initial thought at seeing this lightly pink fish is that I am eating “Bambi of the Sea.” Yeah well. The baby tuna is lightly seared giving just enough texture to contrast with the succulent flesh.

As each dish is politely served, you are discretely told “soy sauce please” or “no soy sauce please”. These are wisely followed suggestions, but you won’t be thrown out if you don’t follow them. A great thing about Sasabune is that you can mention a dislike or preference and it is kindly accommodated. (Unlike, say, Hiro sushi on National, who informed us in no uncertain terms that the chef only did two types of sashimi.)

Onward. A 9-inch long shell is presented with neatly layered slices of what look like scallop. They are not. It is ‘pen fish’. I’ve had this before at Sasabune and it is phenomenal. A bit of texture like a proper mollusk, but not as firm or assertive as mirugai (giant clam). It is cleverly paired with pink Hawaiian salt and mashed jalapeño pepper. You eat it by sprinkling a pinch of salt on the pen fish, topping that with a small dab of jalapeño then eat. What sensational panorama of flavors and textures.

Next I receive tuna. I’m big on rice, but the Sasabune rice is truly amazing. Perfectly cooked. The right balance of acidity. Small pearls of pleasure on the tongue. Crap. Now I sound like bad porno. Or their chopstick wrapper. Same thing. The tuna. A beautiful slice of maguro and a beautiful slice of buttery soft toro rest on perfectly proportioned rice. Soy sauce, please. Hell, by this point I would have stood on the counter in a thong and lucite stripper heels if so instructed. The tuna was followed by an eminently fresh snapper and halibut sushi, one with a ponzu drizzle.

I was so amazed at the next course of sashimi (by my request as I wasn’t in the mood for their delicious cooked course) that I forgot to photograph it. As I recall it had a very sweet amaebi, big eye snapper from new zealand, the best uni I’ve had which was from Catalina Island (yes, better than Hokkaido), and one other item.

The oyster done ‘sushi style’ was next and wonderfully creamy and crunchy, my favorite combo. The blue crab stuffed calamari wound it up.

The total cost this meal for two (the baby tuna, pen fish, and albacore were shared; everything else was doubled) including a bottle of Roederer Estate sparkling wine ($36) was $180, including tax but not gratuity. One of the best sushi bargains ever. The service is prompt and subtle: Plates are silently and graciously whisked away. The rhythm of the omakase is perfect. Like any true sushi restaurant in Japan, they are only open Monday to Friday. Reservations are a great idea every night.

The first bite one ever has at Sasabune leads to closed eyes and worries from the dining partners of a possible Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal scene. It has led me to say when I eat sushi....”This is very good, but it is not Sasabune.”

Post by John Oliver