Urasawa: the most exclusive Japanese restaurant hidden on Rodeo Drive
Hiroyuki Urasawa is often praised as the best japanese chef in America. I have not dined at all of the thousands of Japanese restaurants in the US, but if one has to choose one place to dine before you die in California, Urasawa could win the highly competitive contest. Intimate, exclusive with an attentive service, this can easily be one of the top restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Born and raised in Japan the chef’s food preparation stems from a respect for tradition, striving for the highest quality and meticulous hand-crafting of each dish. The results are mind-blowing.
A curious feature decorating most of his minuscule dishes is a golden leaf signifying the highest quality of ingredients used in their preparation. Urasawa uses the best fish, seafood, vegetables and condiments at his super-exclusive restaurant hidden in an office building in Beverly Hills’ ultra-luxurious Rodeo Drive. When I refused his mackerel sushi (I’m not a fan of raw mackerel), he rebuked saying “this is the best mackerel on the world.” Underscoring that he chooses only the best food stuff he can find. Yet, for someone like me, who does not like raw mackerel, even the best one still remains a challenging food to appreciate.
Aside of the mackerel, I just ate and enjoyed everything and it indeed looked and tasted as anything I have ever had before.
With so many courses and artistic presentation of each dish on a unique plate I must publish more pictures than usually as I cannot choose one or two representing the wide spectrum of dishes prepared by Urasawa. The food is so complex and the textures so unique that the pictures can tell more than words.
All dishes are beautifully presented as if they were permanent artwork and not a plate with food that will be eaten in minutes to follow. In accordance with the Japanese kaiseki meal artistry, the materials used for presentation of the courses were evoking nature and highlighting the dishes presented on them.
This luxurious spoonful bite was perhaps my favorite course (although it is hard to pick one as everything is so perfect at Urasawa!). The caviar with abalone is considered as the highest class treat in Asia. The chef Urasawa is the master of playing with food textures. It was fascinating and adventurous to eat his food as it was something undiscovered for my palate and my taste buds. One has to try it, because words cannot do the sufficient job here as the palate is more sophisticated and complex than any vocabulary.
The chef’s signature dish is the warm dish – his kaiseki steamed meal with intense yellow miso sauce. The ingredients change according to a season, there can be seafood, tofu or vegetables steamed on a large leaf above a pot of hot water. Although it is small, it is satisfying and stomach soothing.
Final part of our X-course dinner were two desserts. The first was more of a palate cleaner with it’s jelly-like texture and refreshing fruity zest. The second was an incredibly delicate and tasty sesame paste with nuts served with a bowl of freshly prepared matcha tea.
Drinks: Green tea is excellent. The wine list is not very extensive yet it features some off-the-piste wines from Japanese producers. We had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Napa made by a Japanese producer Asatsuyu. It was an intensely floral sauvignon perfectly accompanying most of Urasawa’s dishes. The sake list is very good, although we saw some guests bring their own bottle and then sharing it with the chef.
Ambience: Very quiet, there is no music, not many guests as there is only the sushi counter for up to 10 people and a small private table aside. You might be tempted to whisper in this meditative atmosphere. A great spot for a special date or inviting your mum for a unique dinner as one of the fellow diners did and she was Japanese – it’s always a good sign to see Japanase people at a japanese restaurant.
Visit: March 2012 & October 2014
Adress: 218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, US
Price: Ultra-expensive as the restaurant is super-exclusive, a set menu of multiple-courses with an almost private chef experience (the restaurant is tiny) measures up to for most of us once-in-a-life dining experience.
Contact & opening hours: +1 (310) 247-8939; Tue-Sat 6 pm – 9 pm
! Beware of taking pictures. The last time I dined there the staff asked me not to take pictures, so you will have to keep the experience for your pure gustatory pleasure of the moment.