Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lunch at Hama Sushi

Hama Sushi
(213) 680-3454
347 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday afternoon D and I needed to meet downtown to do some banking and afterward walked over to Little Tokyo for lunch. Although he loves East, it is not my ultimate favorite so I persuaded him to eat elsewhere.

Hama Sushi is tiny, 18 seats at the sushi bar and two small tables in an adjoining room, if I recall correctly. There is always a wait line in the evening. This afternoon I was excited to walk right in and take a seat at the half full bar.

I started my meal with a wonderful cold sake. In a previous post for Wakasan, I mention a cold sake that tastes of honeydew melon. A commenter asked what sake it was, and I had unfortunately not taken note. I am a bad blogger. Hakutsuru Junmai Ginjo cold sake is similar to the one we drank at Wakasan. It tastes delightfully light, with a trace of melony sweetness. Not sweet in a cloying way, sweet in a fruity back of your mouth kind of way. This could replace Sayuri unfiltered as my favorite cold sake.

To start, I ordered the monkfish liver sushi. The chef suggested I try instead the monkfish liver appetizer.

It was delicious. Topped with green onion, a radish/ginger mixture and swimming in a shallow bath of ponzu, this is a destination appetizer. The liver was perfectly textured and fresh, and the strong flavors (strong compared to the other fish, not compared to beef or calves liver) balanced nicely against the onion and ponzu.

D and I shared the seared albacore sashimi appetizer. The preparation may look different from the monkfish prep, but doesn't taste remarkably different.

It was tasty. However, I think it was a little overcooked. I prefer my albacore truly raw in the middle and some pieces were nearly cooked through.

We also shared two orders of oysters on the half shell. The preparation here may seem to be overly repetitive: ginger, radish, green onion and ponzu. I just don't think you can lose with these flavors on any kind of light protein.

Oysters were heartily sized and fresh tasting, not overly briny.

We gobbled them all down quickly.

D tends to prefer the path most frequently traveled when it comes to sushi. And by frequently traveled, I do not mean California rolls, although a Cal roll does come across the bar at us every now and again. This afternoon he started with the tuna sushi. It was very fresh, soft, cut perfectly so there was no noticeable sinewy bits. More than enough wasabi, he tearfully noted.

He also loves a spicy tuna roll. Several people on Yelp mention Hama's spicy tuna roll. Personally, while I enjoy a spicy tuna roll, I don't find much to comment about one unless there is something wrong with it. They just do not excite me. This one was good. No mayo or miso mixture in the mix that I could detect. (Yes, I have seen and tasted spicy tuna made with mayo and/or miso, and so have you.)

D asked what they had that might be unusual, and I piped in asking on his behalf for crab. They had two kinds of real crab, and D opted for kani (snow crab) sushi. I didn't dare take a bite, it is one of his favorite things. And this was too beautiful not to let him enjoy the whole thing solo.

Still hungry, the bottomless pit ordered a shrimp tempura roll.

I loved the generous crunch of tobiko in this, and the thin way the chef sliced the large roll. I can never eat a piece of sushi or maki in one bite anyway, and unless they are on the small side the maki tends to fall apart in my hands.

Tempted by the chef's friendly and indulgent nature, I asked if there was anything else he thought I should try. He coaxed me in the direction of red snapper. I surely have had snapper sushi before, but it doesn't stand out in my mind. This was amazing. Light flavored and slightly meaty in texture, the flavor did not overwhelm the rice and the chef went lightly on the wasabi. I will be ordering this again.

Overall, I had a great experience at Hama Sushi. I enjoyed having the attention of the sushi chef late during lunch hours, as the bar was nearly empty when we finally left. I really want to visit again for dinner but my dining companion hates to wait for food. This unfortunate conundrum will surely lead me there sooner for lunch again then dinner.


mattatouille said...

I wonder if I could swing a meal here during my lunch hour since I work in Downtown. Thanks for the review, it was very informative!

Nanciful said...

This is my FAVORITE everyday sushi bar right now! Just tried the red snapper last weekend....pieces of melt in your mouth heaven! I also love their soft shell crab.

Food, she thought. said...

Matt: definitely.

Nanci: I wish I worked in the neighborhood. This lunch was on a rare and indulgent weekday off.

H. C. said...

I'll definitely have to give Hama another try -- my first trip there half-year ago was 'meh' -- not bad, but nothing really good either.

My everyday sushi joint in that 'hood is SushiGo55, but I guess everyone's got their own ;)

Food, she thought. said...

H.C.: i love SushiGo 55.

Ravenous Couple said...

what a great review... we love ankimo, monkfish rich and flavorful. Thanks for visiting our new blog!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

Nice review on Hama. Thanks. Good to know that their Oysters were still fresh (compared to the Oysters I had at the Sunday Champagne Brunch also around the same time you went to Hama - there, the Oysters were gummy and overly briny... not a happy scene :).