High Fashion Dining
by Alain Gayot
master at work
gems gain value not from their elaborate settings but from the cut,
color and clarity of the stones themselves. So it is at Urasawa,
a jewel of a restaurant stripped down to its bare elements of ingredients,
flavors and preparation.
The setting on the surface seems basic: an unfinished maple counter,
Spartan stools, bare walls. Then chef-owner Hiroyuki Urasawa and
his staff color in the picture in glorious detail with their unique
and personalized cuisine.
Urasawa inherited its format and address from Ginza Sushi-ko, the ultra
expensive sushi bar owned by Masa Takayama that gained fame for
its high-priced meals of exquisite seafood served nightly to a mere
handful of clients. When Takayama moved on to New York to open Masa and Bar
Masa in the Time Warner Center, his sous chef, Hiroyuki "Hiro"
Urasawa, stepped in, changing the concept to a broader kaiseki menu
that defies description.
exquisite chunks of toro, the prized tuna belly meat, marinated
in sweet sake and soy and seared individually for you, creating
a succession of scents, flavors, textures and temperature; to a
chilled treasure chest of uni (sea urchin), egg custard, Japanese
chive gelée and caviar, dusted with gold flakes, each course
is meticulously crafted but divinely uncluttered. Urasawa lets the
flavors of his organic ingredients — many of which have arrived
that day or the day before from Japan — speak for themselves.
The Rodeo Drive address has been Urasawa's sole professional
address in the States, but his training reaches back to childhood,
where he grew up in the kitchens of his father's restaurants
He then honed his skills under master chefs in Kyoto before emigrating to join Takayama at Ginza Sushi-ko.
Tofu — sesame-seed tofu
as Western chefs repeat the basic mirepoix of carrots, celery, onions
and herbs to flavor their stocks, Urasawa repeats his core materials
of soy — made in-house for a milder flavor — sweet sake
and bonito to add punch to his sauces. At times this mixture brings
too much to the table, as with the uni sushi that arrives near the
end of the meal. Is Urasawa bowing to customer pressure that forces
him to mask his pristine ingredients? Or is he testing the boundaries
of flavor? Only up to ten guests at a time can answer those questions
and the performance at Urasawa changes nightly for a select crowd
of Japanese food lovers with deep pockets.
on 300-year-old tableware with a meal prepared by a private chef
and served according to your preferences does not come cheap, but
nothing as unique and hand-crafted as Urasawa does. Most of the
ingredients are actually flown in from Japan for your custom meal,
which chef has been preparing since someone — quite possibly himself — took
your reservation. Every item down to the salt is prepared on the
premises. The chef will observe you as much as you observe him, noting
each of your idiosyncrasies for future use — during the meal
or for a repeat visit. There is definitely an interactive game going
A very short, exclusively French wine list with the exception of
a Kistler Chardonnay is there to accompany your four hour journey — although
we'd recommend one of the regional sakes, such
as the Kubota Manju from Niigata, which pair perfectly with the
of toro, Spanish mackerel and wild Japanese red snapper
ultra-creative chefs that push the edge of the envelope, Urasawa-san
respects the primary ingredient and combines them with ultimate
perfection. Yes, he is a true artist and a controlled one who creates
a balance of image [visual], freshness, textures, flavors and temperatures
like you have never had before. His commitment to your satisfaction
is so strong that he closes the restaurant on the few days of the
year when he travels back to Japan for seventy-two-hour sojourn to study the latest culinary techniques, bring back antique
dishware and pick up a new, custom-made knife.
"How much is it?" have you been thinking? Well, if you have to ask .... Taking all factors into consideration, the $250 per person tariff
for the basic twenty-nine-course
meal we enjoyed was truly a bargain for an experience of a lifetime
that will change each time you dine here. (The price has subsequently been raised to $395). Thankfully, all these
theatrics lead to our highest
rating for a restaurant
in Los Angeles, proving that chef Hiro's concentration, talent and efforts
have paid off. Itadakimasu!