I haven’t really been to LA since my family trip in my high school year. There are a lot of LA restaurants that I’ve been dying to check out, but I haven’t really had the occasion to visit the city (my California connection is more with the Bay Area up north and that’s where several of my friends that I can visit live, but not in LA). Well, at least one acclaimed LA sushi restaurant decided to go east and open an outpost in NY. Since I really can’t comment based on my experience how good the sushi at LA is compared to NY, Sushi Zo’s expansion was the best opportunity to see what it’s like to eat high-end sushi omakase in Southern California. The verdict: Sushi Zo is one of the best sushi restaurants in the city, and maybe the entire country.
The omakase will set you back by quite a lot (I initially thought the price when they opened up was $160 per person, but on my recent visit it was $200), but I wasn’t really complaining because of how good most of the sushi pieces were. The sushi style is more modern than traditional edomae, using a variety of ingredients such as yuzu, ponzu sauce and salt to give seasoning and additional flavor to the fish. After a delicious plate of sashimi (consisting of oyster, octopus, tuna, red snapper and mackerel) came insanely fresh fish that really shows the chefs care deeply about the ingredients.
My bliss came early, with a hot streak of two mackerels (Spanish mackerel with ponzu sauce and horseback mackerel with soy sauce), scallop, chu toro (medium fatty tuna) and blow-torched o toro (fatty tuna) all literally melting in my mouth and making me swoon with awesome sensation. Sea perch with Volcanic salt and yuzu, snow crab, Hokkaido sea urchin and ikura (this one came on a little bowl without any maki) were all also absolute winners, too. The toro hand roll toward the end of the meal (the chef gives you an option to have a hand roll maki with either toro or sea urchin) was an exclamation point to a blissful dinner.
There wasn’t really any bad or unimpressive piece in the omakase menu at Sushi Zo. I was impressed with the variety of fish that the chef was expertly preparing (from halibut to trout to shrimp to belt fish), as well as a range of techniques (the chef showed raw wagyu and then blow torched it right in front of me to make surreally tender beef that would’ve been perfect but for a tad less salt). The rice had right balance of firm and I appreciated that the chef didn’t put too much rice underneath each sushi piece to make the fish shine even more without making me feel full.
Only after aromatic red snapper soup and tender tamago, followed by the elegantly sweet black sesame mochi, did I wake up from the dream. It also helped that the chef who was serving me and my dining companion happened to be a surprisingly young one with nearly fluent English so we were able to chat about various topics such as my experience eating in Tokyo and my best sushi list in the city.
There is one sushi counter and limited number of tables (and obviously, you have to go for the bar!) so get a reservation as early as possible. There are rather pricey sake options and some beer options but if you’re already splurging $200 for omakase, might as well try at least a glass or two or sake right? The counter setting is typical modern Japanese setting, with jazzy music in the background and a nice mix of Asian and non-Asian guests who look like more serious than curious diners. I’m so glad that Sushi Zo has made this move east and would love it to stay in the Big Apple for a long long time. It definitely deserves a place in the pantheon of all the great sushi-yas in the city.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
Address: 88 West 3rd St., New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (646) 405-4826