Kiriko: Showcasing Sushi via Tokyo on Sawtelle

Sashimi Los Angeles


It started with a list. My five picks for the Top L.A. Japanese restaurants appeared on NBC’s bygone Feast website in March, 2011, and included places like Urasawa, Torihei and Otafuku. Tokyo-born Tomo Kurokawa e-mailed, implying that it was time to dig deeper. And dig we did, along with fellow friend Bill Esparza. Our initial meal was at Kiriko, a sushi-focused restaurant that Tokyo-born chef Ken Namba opened to end the 20th Century. After moving to L.A., Tomo started taking bi-monthly trips to Kiriko, a small establishment on the Sawtelle side of the Olympic Collection.

Tomo said that the name Kiriko refers to the style of decorative etchings on sake glasses. We sat at the pine bar, lit by mismatched lanterns, and enjoyed a good meal (and of course sake).

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Tomo brought back prized ingredients from her travels home, including sea cucumber ovaries, which arrived in a packet, formed into a red triangle. Chef Namba toasted them over an open flame until they became charred, chewy, and jerky like. This could become a bar snack. Well, maybe not.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Mullet roe was Tomo’s other mystery item.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Chef Namba combined the crumbly mullet roe with jicama to form a salad.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Even better was his sliced roe with chunks of firm, earthy taro, showered with grated roe.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Sea snails seasoned with subtly sweet mix of sake, sugar and mirin posed a fun challenge, as we had to use toothpicks to groove long and winding snails from their houses.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Tiny mushrooms appeared with okra and fresh shaved wasabi, which isn’t as spicy as the standard horseradish substitute. Tomo said they like to layer slimy on slimy in Japan, and this was a good example.

Sake Los Angeles
Hakkasan junmai daiginjo, a food friendly sake from northeastern Japan, arrived in a bamboo vessel. Daiginjo means that they polish up to 50% of the contributing rice grains, resulting in a smooth sip.

Japanese Beer Los Angeles
Of course the sipping didn’t stop with sake. We also ordered malty Yebisu beer.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
Creamy slabs of monkfish liver appeared with cool ponzu gelee. Thick savory Smucker’s.

Oysters Los Angeles
We continued with a small Kusshi oyster from British Columbia, served au natural, and Hama Hama from Washington, dressed with gelee-free ponzu, scallions and chile’d mashed daikon.

Japanese Food Los Angeles
They presented fried gobo root ($5.50) like fibrous Lincoln logs, but my logs never sported chile-flecked panko or blistered shishito peppers growing up. This was a serious improvement.

Sushi Los Angeles
Japanese Mackerel Sushi had silver skin, rich natural oils and concentrated ocean flavor.

Sushi Los Angeles
One of my favorite courses featured salmon two ways. Silky, buttery salmon ($6) appeared with a dab of wasabi and received a quick dip in soy. Cherry wood smoked salmon ($7), smoked the day before, had more sweetness, and of course a hint of smoke.

REVIEW CONTINUED ON THE NEXT PAGE

Kiriko: Showcasing Sushi via Tokyo on Sawtelle

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

You might want to revisit this one. I will have a hard time taking your reviews seriously after last nights dinner of very average sushi for $400 for 2.

Greg,

Kiriko would definitely not be a good value at $200 per person, but I’d be interested to hear how you arrived at that figure. We ordered almost every luxury item available, plus alcohol, and spent right about $100 per person.

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