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Sushi Sasabune

Sushi Sasabune

Butterfish from Sasabune, a melt-in-your-mouth specialty.

Kenji Takahashi of Sasabune is responsible for what I consider to be the best sushi in New York City. Considering my tax bracket, Sasabune is currently only reserved for special occasions (does calming my nerves the night before a visit to the set of Chopped count as special?) but every time I go, it’s staggeringly memorable.

I have a ton of praise for the place, and I could go on and on extolling its virtues, but until I snap some photos I’m not sure that I can properly convey just how impactful an experience it is. Put simply, Takahashi and his crew more or less serve the exact same items from start to finish every. single. time. And yet, each meal is just as mind-blowing as the last. When you’re repeating near-perfection, I guess that’s an easy feat to achieve.

On my last visit, there were two new dishes that floored me. The first was a special request for an order of ankimo (monkfish liver), a steal at $5 additional — though it should be noted that nothing about Sasabune is a “steal”, as the meal runs about $115 after tax and tip without drinks. The ankimo had been cooked just two hours before it was presented to me, and as such it was meltingly-soft with no fish flavor whatsoever; a dead-ringer for foie gras. Most places serve ankimo that has had time to rest before it is served and the result is a texture that’s more like pate, so Kenji’s preparation was that much more remarkable by comparison. He’s also serving pieces of iced toro, which - like the ankimo - is a genius play on the usual texture associated with the dish. The icing not only gives the cut of tuna belly a nice sturdiness, but also a refreshing burst from the chilly temperature. With its relatively mild flavor, Toro takes well to the technique.

Gourmet Pigs

As soon as I sat down at the sushi bar at Sasabune, I saw their sign saying sushi bar patrons must get the omakase, and one of those "Trust Me" signs. What that means to me: 1) it'll most likely be very good food and 2)my wallet will suffer ..

Sasabune used to be located in a small house on Sawtelle, with no sign outside except one neon sign that just said "Sushi". I've always wanted to try it then, and I'm glad I finally get to go to their new location (former Todai).

Five of us took a corner of the sushi bar and left our fates in the sushi chef's hands. They serve fresh wasabi, so I had faith that they know what they're doing. They started us with assorted sashimi dishes including abalone and scallops. The others managed to get to them before I can take a picture, so here's a picture of a half-eaten scallop sashimi.

Next is some blue fin tuna and yummy yummy melt-in-your-mouth toro.
Salmon and hamachi. The sesame seeds on top of the salmon really gives it a nice flavor. The hamachi was good and fatty although it can't beat the hamachi belly Asakuma gives me.

Then they served us delicious mushroom soup, very soothing and nutritious.

At some point I've lost track of what we ate . all I know is we had 15 pieces of sushi, plus the sashimi and soup, and a hand roll.

We had some japanese snapper, and Ono (which was delicious).

Not to forget the ikura and uni :) Although knowing I could have gotten toro instead of uni . tough choice but I think I like toro better.
Then at some point there were some fresh oysters.

And a deliciously fresh scallop sushi.

Towards the end we got these ice toro and anago sushi. A very nice hot and cold plate :) First time having ice toro, it was interesting because of the iciness but I think it was chopped up, making it melt in your mouth even more. Ending with a kani roll. The crab inside was just outstanding!

The damage? $98pp including tax and tips. We were all happy and full and had a just-ate-great-food high, so it didn't matter (that's why you have credit cards . )

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd Ste 150
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (310) 820-3596

Remembering Nobi Kusuhara, chef and founder of Sushi Sasabune

Nobi Kusuhara, an edomae sushi master who founded Sushi Sasabune in West Los Angeles, died Aug. 4 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The chef died of B-cell lymphoma, according to his daughter, Ai Kusuhara. He was 66.

Kusuhara never planned on becoming a sushi chef. After graduating from high school, he left Japan and came to the United States in 1971 hoping to become a successful American businessman.

Instead, he landed a job as a busboy at a restaurant in the Mojave Desert, where he commuted from Los Angeles via bus three hours each day. The money he made barely covered his bus fare, but he believed the work experience to be valuable.

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Kusuhara later worked at Yamato Japanese Restaurant in Century City, climbing the rungs from busboy to waiter to manager. After that, he worked at a fish company, where he learned about the different types of fish sold to sushi chefs in the U.S.

He opened his first restaurant, Edo Sushi, in Tarzana in 1980 the chef left a week after the restaurant opened, which put Kusuhara behind the counter making sushi himself.

“He made sushi palatable first by experimenting with a variety [of] sauces made with mayonnaise, ponzu, ginger and soy,” Ai said. “My mom came up with Dynamite but at the time, it was called Edo Special #1.”

In 1993, after he’d closed Edo Sushi, Kusuhara opened Sasabune on Sawtelle Boulevard with his wife, Ryoko, managing the front of house.

“When he closed Edo Sushi and started Sasabune, his style completely changed,” Ai said. Instead of making spider rolls, he focused on sourcing the highest-quality fish and serving it simply.

As a sushi chef, Kusuhara was known for perfectly seasoned rice, served warm but not hot, and fish sliced not too big nor too small, ensuring a well-balanced experience where texture, temperature, flavor and bite were in harmony. Soy sauce and wasabi were seldom offered, only when he felt they were needed.

Over the years, Kusuhara opened more branches of Sasabune in Los Angeles as well as in Honolulu and New York City. He received many offers to sell the business, according to his daughter, but he rejected each one of them.

He had planned to retire this month, and decided to transfer each restaurant to a chef who had studied and worked under him.

“I want to pass down to my chefs, so the customers can keep eating the same sushi I made,” Ai said her father told her shortly before his death. “I do not want to inconvenience my loyal customers.”

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(Junmai Ginjo Shu & Ginjo Shu, Junmai Daiginjo-Shu & Daiginjo Shu)

Ok, we talked about sake classifications determined by the amount of rice polishing, also known as seimaibuai, Junmai means &ldquoPure Rice&rdquo and any category with that word signifies that the sake is made with only rice, water, yeast and Koji, and Koji is a natural fungus that helps the yeast dissolve the rice to kickstart fermentation.

We also covered the first two levels of the sake category pyramid: Futsu, &ldquoNormal Sake,&rdquo and Junmai, and the more the rice has been milled, the cleaner, lighter and more delicate the flavor, as opposed to a full body, earthy and drier experience resulting from a sake with a high seimaibuai. Seimaibuai is a percentage representing the amount of the original rice grain that remains after polishing.


A refined, clean-cut, eloquent heir to their meaty, rugged ancestors, sake today continues to push the meaning of premium to new heights. I have come across sake with yeast that had been cultivated in space, sake with rice milled down to, or a seimaibuai, of 38% and sparkling sake made in le méthode champenoise, known as the traditional method of champagne making. The ingenuity goes on. If we were to go back in time and presented such sake, would the reaction be of disgust followed by a swift beheading or celebrated as sake god? Marty McFly would be the only one to answer that, so until then, let&rsquos look into the remaining categories of sake: Junmai Ginjo Shu and Ginjo Shu, Junmai Daiginjo-Shu and Daiginjo Shu

Junmai Ginjo Shu and Ginjo Shu

Junmai Ginjo is the next level up from Junmai, where the seimaibuai is a minimum 60%. It can be as high as 51% Anything more would make the sake a Daiginjo, which we&rsquoll discuss later. As any category with the word &ldquoJunmai&rdquo means that it is made with only four ingredients, whenever &ldquoGinjo&rdquo is found within the classification, it refers to a premium level of production, with a higher polishing ratio and, in some cases, better ingredients.

So what&rsquos Ginjo? Since the word Junmai is not found, similar to Futsu, distilled alcohol is added to enhance the fragrance and flavor. The difference between Futsu and Ginjo is, Futsu has copious amounts of pure alcohol distilled from rice added to low cost sake as opposed to the little that Ginjo requires, adding a little more color to the canvas.

Junmai Daiginjo-Shu and Daiginjo Shu

The top of the pyramid belongs to Daiginjo. The same concept is applied to the Daiginjo&rsquos where the required polishing has to be at least 50%. Junmai Daiginjo is a sake with a seimaibuai of at least half of the grain&rsquos original size, and it is made with only the four ingredients. Daiginjo is made with rice with the same polishing ratio, but has a little distillate added for extra finesse.

In conclusion, the top four levels, including Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo, of sake are collectively known as Ginjo sake.

Recalling a note I made in the previous newsletter, there is a big misconception that &ldquoquality&rdquo is determined by the polishing ratio. Although an efficient road map, at the end of the day, it is all about personal preference. This is certainly true when it comes to food pairing where Junmai will be more appropriate for particular dishes and sauces. Yes, Ginjo sake are more expensive, but that is due to simply the cost of making such sake. When the product is the result of discarding at least 40% of the raw material, cost is affected. All in all, whether Junmai or Daiginjo, it&rsquos all UMAI! DELICIOUS!

Next up, and finally, everything else in between and beyond!

Kerry Tamura is a Chicago native, now LA resident, who so dearly misses 4am liquor licensed bars. 5am on Saturday&rsquos. Reflecting and questioning his direction in life, which would quickly be distracted the moment alcohol was placed in his hands, destiny would have it where he was summoned by his mother to dig the family business out from the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the Great Recession, &hellip and being the only bar in Chicago with no ESPN. From a "home away from home&rdquo karaoke bar catering to Japanese expatriates and business travelers, came the emergence of Murasaki, the city&rsquos only Japanese Sake Lounge. Thus started Kerry&rsquos travels with sake. A ring a ding ding.

5. Sushi Sasabune: Honolulu, HI

There&rsquos sushi everywhere you look in Honolulu, but Sushi Sasabune is in a league of its own. Chef Seiji Kumagawa&rsquos eatery is a shrine to the art of sushi making. Sit at the bar and order the Japanese-style, 13-course omakase, featuring exotic fish served over slightly warm rice.

1417 S. King St., Honolulu 808-947-3800 or yelp

Hawaii Travels, Part I: Sushi Sasabune in Oahu

If you want to get fat on vacation, Hawaii is the perfect place to do it. Spam and rice musubi snacks, gravy drenched loco moco, hearty meat and rice plates–these are regional staples that are part of everyday life. Don’t bother trying to bring your dainty vegetarian/low carb ways on this island. Surrender to the ways of the locals and dig into that plate of Portuguese sausage and corned beef hash.

During my 10 glorious days in Hawaii, I certainly enjoyed my fair share of these local specialties, but my favorite meal was actually the omakase dinner that I had at Sushi Sasabune. This unassuming and rather unglamorous restaurant unexpectedly prepared some of the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life.

Their approach is a bit unconventional, in that you must eat the sushi exactly in the manner they prescribe. Any other way will be met with a stern verbal reprimand, or even a request to leave the restaurant. I’m not exaggerating here, one time we went with a friend of ours who asked if her omakase could be tailored to her preference for raw tuna and cooked meats, which was not received very well, to say the least. An offering of Yamazaki was required to smooth things over so that they wouldn’t kick us out.

While this fascist way of eating sushi might be a bit offputting, these strict sushi chefs really know what they’re doing. Literally every fish tasted like it swam straight from the pristine ocean water and right onto your plate, melting irresistibly in your mouth as only insanely fresh raw fish is able to do. For fish this good, you can yell at me for all I care, I’m willing to suck it up and play by Sasabune’s rules for just a few hours.

The omakase is not for the faint of heart. 13 courses of small plates of sushi and cooked seafood certainly add up, and you may not even get to the last course, as was the case with our group. But if you can somehow manage to keep going for the whole stretch, I highly recommend that you do. There is no weak dish or redundancies here–there is amazing variety in terms of the types of seafood offered and the ways in which they are prepared. Click through the slideshow for a visual consumption of the amazing multi-course meal.

Sushi Sasabune
1417 S. King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 947-3800
$120+/pp for omakase plus a bottle of sake and beer

6 Sushi Bowl Recipes You Can Make At Home

You have to be super brave (and super careful) to attempt making sushi at home. Even then, a lot of the sushi recipes online are modified for your health and safety, making them pretty different from the stuff you find at your favorite sushi restaurant. But have you ever tried a sushi bowl recipe before?

Luckily, deconstructed food is super on trend right now. People are taking inspiration from everything from spring rolls to falafel and using the traditional ingredients to make something just as delicious but a lot more simple. These sushi bowl recipes may not be wrapped in seaweed or prepared by a world-renowned chef but they are super easy for you to create, always safe to eat, and crazy delicious!

1. California Sushi Roll Bowl

The classic California Roll is given a deconstructed makeover in this awesome recipe. The entire recipe is super simple, using rice, imitation crab meat, and some other great goodies, this bowl is spicy, colorful, and absolutely delicious.

Head over to Cooking Classy to find more super creative recipes.

2. Teriyaki Shrimp Sushi Bowl

This teriyaki shrimp sushi bowl recipe is perfect for anyone who isn’t too keen on eating anything raw or undercooked. The shrimp in this recipe is coated in a store bought teriyaki sauce, combined with avocados, cucumbers, and served on a bed of tender brown rice.

Get more fun, healthy recipes at The Almond Eater.

3. Salmon Sushi Bowl

From the foil-wrapped salmon to the spicy sriracha mayo, these sushi bowls are full of fun and flavor. Green onions, cucumbers, avocados, are even seaweed snacks combine beautifully with salmon in this easy recipe.

Head over to Fox and Briar to find plenty of beautiful food photography and delicious recipes.

4. Vegetarian Sushi Bowl

These sushi bowls may be the direct opposite of what constitutes as traditional sushi, but it is absolutely amazing either way. A number of delicious, fresh veggies combine over a bed of rice and in these bowls. Full of Japanese-inspired flavors, these sushi bowls may differ from tradition but they definitely pay plenty of homage. This is a great sushi bowl recipe for those who don’t eat meat!

Naturally Ella is full of delicious, colorful vegetarian recipes.

Interested in exploring some more vegetarian recipes? Check out our article 8 Family-Friendly Vegetarian Dinner Recipes.

5. Spicy Tuna Sushi Bowl

If you love heat and super quick recipes, you will adore these sushi bowls. Canned tuna has never tasted so good when blended with a few other ingredients in this super quick and super delicious recipe.

Find sweet desserts and family-friendly dinners at NeighborFood.

6. Shrimp Dynamite Sushi Bowl

Dynamite sushi rolls are a definite favorite of people that love sushi. These sushi bowls have plenty of tender shrimp, scallions, avocados and more that easily come together in just about 30 minutes.

Do you have a sushi bowl recipe you’d like to share with your fellow mamas? Let us know in the comments below!


No nonsense UES sushi joint
OCCASION: Serious sushi endeavors
DON’T MISS DISH: Albacore sashimi, amberjack with ponzu sauce, crab hand roll – basically, the entire omakase menu.
DRINK SPECIALTY: Sake & Japanese beer
PRICE: $60 & up
HOURS: Dinner, Mon – Sat, 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM Lunch, Mon – Fri, 12 PM – 2 PM.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations accepted, recommended for the sushi bar.
: The best sushi this side of Tokyo, Sasabune is a sushi trek definitely worth taking.

At the risk of waging a culinary cook-off between Los Angeles & New York, I contend that LA’s only got one thing on NYC as far as food goes – sushi. But that’s all changed now that Sasabune has graced Manhattan with its sacred, signature omakase. After spending years as the protégé to Nobi, the sushi master behind Sushi
Sasabune, a top-rated LA sushi spot, Kenji has made good on his
promise, quietly opening a sushi sanctuary of his own on the Upper East Side. While Sushi of Gari paved the way for destination dining in the name of avant-garde sushi, Sasabune will undoubtedly prove fierce competition for Gari, who’s busy opening up spinoffs around the city. While both chefs seem equally as vigilant about perfectly-cooked sushi rice as they are about their “top-secret” homemade sauces, Sasabune goes to greater and perhaps, more traditional measures, to top off warm nibbles of rice with extraordinarily fresh fish. A one-man show, sushi chef Kenji starts his day at 4:30 AM, scouring the fish market for the highest grade fish money can buy.

Tucked into a non-descript storefront on 73rd Street, it’s clear from the moment you walk in the door that Sasabune isn’t about the atmosphere or the social scene. The modest, minimally accented space – white-washed walls, a wood sushi bar, and a few orchids – has seating for 12 in the front room, 6 seats at the sushi bar, and 15 more in an adjoining back room. The only notable furbishings are two signs that read: “Today’s Special – Trust Me” and “No Spicy Tuna & No California Roll”. Trust me refers to Sasabune’s omakase, which translates to chef’s choice. Thus, as far as special requests or non-sushi offerings, don’t bother to request any miso soup, salad, edamame, or any Americanized fusion roll of sorts isn’t available on the menu. I still remember the first time I reluctantly ate “Trust Me” style in LA as
my friend urgently whispered, ”Just eat what they put in front of you and don’t
say anything.” Sure, you’ll feel like Elaine in the infamous Soup Nazi
episode, but just keep your head down and you’ll quickly get the hang
of it.

After you take your first glorious bite of albacore sashimi, divinely washed in a sweet puddle of homemade sauce – a secret concoction of ponzu, soy, wasabi and sake – you’ll never see sushi the same again. A heavenly procession of well-choreographed plates, Sasabune’s omakase, is diligantly repeated every evening in LA, Honololu and happily now, on NYC’s UES. Settle in for the next plate, a piece of supremely fresh piece of naked tuna sushi, toro when it’s up to Kenji’s standards, and another dressed in the same ponzu sauce that blessed the albacore sashimi. The rest of the meal becomes a blur of exquisitely prepared pieces of kampachi, snapper, butterfish, and fluke, all served atop warm sushi rice. Your server will indicate which pieces are meant to dunked in soy sauce and slathered with wasabi, and which ones aren’t – these serve more as gentle rules than suggestions. But truth be told, this delicate sushi needs no soy sauce at all, seeing as the fish itself, and even the rice itself are so bright and flavorful, they need no help at all.

Then there are those that come dressed already: a buttery salmon with pickled kelp and toasted sesame seeds a snapper brightened up with a touch of lemon, lime pepper and salt a silky amberjack with ponzu sauce and scallions.

There’s no dessert, but the baked crab hand roll gives new meaning to a happy ending. Besides, you’ll probably be too full to even consider sweets, that is, if you’re lucky enough to make it to the end of this symphony. Put yourself in Kenji’s hands for sushi so fantastical, words can’t possibly do it justice. Just trust me.

Nov 30 My Top 3 Favorite Food Finds in Honolulu

For Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of visiting Honolulu with my husband, as part of his family still resides there. I was there for 4 days with the full intention of eating as much as I could possibly eat. After all, it is the holidays and indulging is totally allowed if not encouraged. That's not to say I'm not suffering the consequences now. Detox diet is in full effect and it's not fun:(

Soooo. why don't we just re-live some of my favorite food moments. If you ever are visiting Honolulu, you gotta visit these spots. Trust me:)

1. Sushi Sasabune $$

Melt in your mouth Salmon with Ikura and Sweet Scallops with a sweet onion chili relish

This spot is absolutely going to make your wallet a lot less full afterwards BUT, it's totally worth the splurge. The Sushi Chef who started this spot was an alum from the ever so famous Sushi Sasabune in Los Angeles. The spot where you would rub shoulders with the likes of Bruce Willis, to Gwen Stefani, to other hungry Los Angelenos craving for some serious no frills omakase. The spot in Honolulu however is a tad bit more fancy than the sterile "strip mall" like feel of the Los Angeles restaurant. It's a lot more intimate and the chefs here are more interactive and friendly. But this isn't why it's worth the splurge. When I deem a meal worthy of a high price tag, I think about how I feel after the meal. Would I do this again and with the utmost excitement and eagerness? How memorable was the meal? And how many Oohs and Aaahs did the meal muster from my well versed palate? And finally do I feel cheated by the high price tag or do I feel like it was worth every penny.

And my predicament is: I want to visit Sasabune EVERY time I'm back in Honolulu and can't wait till I can sink my teeth into their expertly crafted nigiris again. The meal was so memorable that I can still remember the taste and texture of some of the most outstanding pieces, as if I had it last night. And finally, I oohed, aahed, cooed, and even raised my hand up in the air in praise, after certain bites. This makes every penny spent worth it to me. So please, listen to me and go visit this amazing gem. A blog post to come with food images of my 23 course meal at Sasabune.

Sushi Sasabune

1417 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814

2. Island Vintage Coffee: $

Enjoying my Acai Bowl at Island Vintage Coffee

There's no shortage of local Hawaiian Coffee Shops in Honolulu. In fact it's kind of hard to choose ones to try. Most of them boast their premium Kona Coffee Bean, 100% which is supposedly some of the best in the world. What's ironic here is that, I didn't initially come here for the coffee. I came here for the Acai Bowls. My friend told me it was the best Acai Bowl she's ever had and that I couldn't miss it. So I listened and found one, right smack in the middle of the busy Waikiki Strip during an afternoon stroll. My first trip here, I got side tracked by the coffee and ended up getting their Island Latte, made with soy milk. It had hints of caramel and coconut in the bean and the coffee itself had a very rich nutty dark roasted flavor that mellowed out beautifully with the soy milk. It was creamy, velvety and almost slightly sweet. It was fantastic! Unfortunately, it left no room for the Acai Bowl for me so I decided to come back the next day for breakfast. And let me tell you, breakfast is the way to go here. Come hungry and ready for the delicious Acai Bowls, Coffees, and Savory Breakfast items. They have healthy items like poke bowls with multigrain rice, egg whites with fresh vegetables, sandwiches loaded with fresh veggies..I had their BEAUTIFUL Salmon and Lox Sandwich made w/ Taro Bagel. This deep purple bagel was divine, I could eat it just alone with nothing if I wanted to. I could go on and on about their magnificent options here. If only they had a location in San Fran, I would be their Number 1 customer:)

The Stunning Taro Bagel full of fresh goodies: This is breakfast heaven :)

Yogurt Parfait served in inside a local Hawaiian Papaya. House made granola with local honey and also a side of sliced bananas and strawberries to pair with it hidden behind the papaya

And finally, the reason why we came to this spot in the first place: THE ACAI BOWL!

2301 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

3. The Lady and The Pig $

Can I just say the name of this restaurant already has won me over. I mean, how can you not try this spot out upon hearing it's name? In all honesty though, I came because over 5 separate non-related friends from different cities and states told me to come here. When you've got that many people vouching for it, you know this spot has got to be good. And so we made it in time for lunch there after a meeting. I rapidly ordered 3 dishes and 2 of them blew my mind. It's rare to even have a single dish blow my mind these days let alone 2! Their Beef Pho is hands down the best I've ever had in the United States of America. It is comparable to the best Beef Pho I had in Vietnam. The noodles were freshly made, thinly cut, smooth, and almost translucent. The broth was sooo on point, there's no room for improvement. The beef was tender and the extra loads of fresh herbs just made it the perfect bowl of Pho. The second dish that blew my mind was their Beef Pho French Dip. GENIUS is all I can say. Every bite is as good as the first, making you crave for more. NO joke, can I have another like right now? Do yourself a favor make it a point to visit this spot. If you can't make it to all three, make time for just this one. You can thank me later by sending me one a Beef Pho French Dip in the mail.

A little afternoon cocktail pick me up before I indulge. This right here is their Gin Cocktail made with lime and sugar snap pea.

Started with the papaya salad with mung bean fritter. Was pretty tasty. but was nothing compared to what's to come next.

Yaaasss. this is what dreams are made of. Their incredible Beef Pho French Dip.

Watch the video: How Master Sushi Chef Seiji Kumagawa Uses Modern Technology to Upgrade his Hawaii Omakase Omakase (November 2021).