Monday, February 9, 2009

Wakasan: $35 Omakase and Worth Every Penny

1929 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 446-5241

Sunday we were in the mood for an excursion. We planned to pack up the hounds and head out, bound west, for a constitution and a new dining experience. We continue to tighten our belts, and the westside places I know of are all pretty high profile. So, I enlisted the help of a blogger acquaintance of mine, Tangbro, who writes the delicious Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul. This guy has great taste in food, and he really gets around. He steered me in the direction of Wakasan. Thanks, Tangbro. It was delicious.

Wakasan is a busy little Japanese restaurant. Tiny, and by the time we left, crowded.

It is rather beautiful, in a Japanese minimalist way. I mentioned somewhere else recently that it is the one restaurant I have been to in the states that really reminds me of Tokyo. Not the Tokyo of Lost in Translation. But the Tokyo I know from strapping on walking shoes and walking from neighborhood to neighborhood from dawn til dusk several days in a row. The little streets in between the high streets, that twist and turn through residential areas with strolling schoolgirls, postmen, and mothers with carriages or groceries. In these streets are tiny unpretentious restaurants that remind me very much of Wakasan.

At Wakasan, you sit on a tatami mat. Ramrod straight.

They offer you only one menu. The drinks menu. The omakase is $35, and they didn't offer me any other options. There is a sign in the ladies' room that seems to suggest three levels of omakase, $35, $55, and $75. But I am not sure because I don't read Japanese. I needed my brother Ryan with me to solve the mystery because I didn't feel like asking.

They started us out with these three beautiful dishes. Even before the sake arrived.

One was sardine with sesame seeds over a daikon salad. Lovely and light flavored.

A second was spinach and bonito flakes. Apparently, these fish flakes move hypnotically in a slight breeze. I think they taste delicious. They add a definite fishiness to the dish, but are so light they aren't overpowering. The third dish was my favorite but I could not get a good picture of it. It was 2 seaweeds mixed together with lots of tiny mushrooms. One of the seaweeds seemed to be darker, dried and slightly chewy, while the other was fresh and juicy.

This was actually our second sake of the night. We started with a hot sake that tasted like honeydew melon. It was amazing. This one was lighter and a little more dry, and very cold. My mouth is watering.

The next dish was a trio of sashimi. It's a testament to how far the D's food tastes have come that he ate every bite set in front of him with relish. Not only was there no squawking, but he ate every morsel.

Yellowtail, my favorite.

Tuna, D's favorite.

I have no idea what this was. I ate it and didn't ask. Bad blogger, bad! The sashimi was definitely Japanese style, small bite-sized pieces.

Out walked the crab. This was a beautiful portion. Simplistic perfection.

This was delicious but not my favorite dish. Fried oysters with BBQ sauce.

The oysters were delicious, but the breading was really very heavy. I ate the oyster from inside its fried shell.

This dish was deliciousness personified. Or foodified? Iono. A beef soup dish. Beef with green onions and a huge chunk of what I thought was ginger in a miso broth. Hot and lovely.

The small amount of noodles was tied in this little knot. How cute is that?

Next came miso broiled salmon.

The flavor was nice but I thought the salmon was overcooked. It was overcooked for my preference, anyway.

Underneath the bed of greens was a surprise. Lots of mushrooms in a gelatinous sauce. It reminded me of Chinese food. I love the mushrooms, hated the sauce. I don't like Chinese food as a rule. Just so you understand my perspective. You might find this delicious. D delighted in it.

I adore a Japanese egg custard. So light, so hot, with surprises at the bottom. A treat!

At the bottom of this one was shrimp, mushroom and one lotus seed. So good. It feels like you are eating something good for you.

I found the order of food to be curious. After the egg custard came and egg drop soup. I don't care for egg drop soup. Why? Guess.

This was hands-down my favorite food of the evening. I wish it had come at the beginning when I was still starving. I understand that its strong flavors were meant to be the piece de resistance of the meal...but I was almost too full to finish it.

Uni and salmon roe with seaweed over rice. OMG. Umami.

And fresh fruit to end the meal and cleanse our palate. What a wonderful meal. Thank you, Wakasan. And thank you, Tangbro! I ate what feeds my soul.


Eileen said...

I LOVE Wakasan. I've been there twice (and hoping to be there many many more times). Both times we had exceptional meal. $35 is really a great bargain.

On our second visit, we saw a table having completely different (and more expensive looking) dishes. We wondered how do you become "VIP" to get those items. Now I know they simply has different omakase $$$ levels. Maybe next time we'll upgrade and try the $55 omakase.

kevinEats said...

Glad to see it's still $35. I'd be curious about trying the higher level omakases next time I'm there.

Also, were you supposed to come to Giang Nan on Wednesday? We missed you.

Food, she thought. said...


Next time I will definitely be asking for the upgrade. However, this was a bargain for $35. I walked away feeling so full but ultimately of very healthy ingredients! That uni with salmon roe was amazing!

I ended up having a client meeting at 7am the next morning, meaning I had to leave my home before 6am. Fail. Work getting in the way of my recreational eating? I quit.

connie said...

hi, i'm really interested in your first sake -- the one that tastes like honeydew? do you by chance remember the name? i've love to try it!

Food, she thought. said...

I am so sorry. We asked for a recommendation from our server and went with whatever she suggested. It was a warm sake...around $15-$18 a carafe I believe. It was incredible.

Tangbro1 said...

I am very happy to see you enjoyed your experience at Wakasan. The photos look great, makes me want to go there ASAP.

burumun said...

Glad to see you enjoyed Wakasan also! I went there myself a few months ago and thought it was quite a deal!
I didn't know about the higher level omakases tho (didn't go to the restroom :P ). Need to try that next time ..

kevinEats said...

I just had the $55, and I'm not so sure it was worth it over the $35. The courses were on average more luxurious, but there were only seven of them.