Kiwami

11920 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604(818) 763-3910 • katsu-yagroup.com

Chefs-Bento

I definitely enjoyed Kiwami, after all, we are talking about a Katsu-Ya restaurant here people, one of the godfathers of modern sushi, but at the same time 4 and 5 stars seemed a tad steep when the only thing I had worthy of that much hype was the seared yellowtail with black truffles. Very expensive, but very generous on the truffles. Making it very worth taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Unfortunately nothing else reached the same bar though, falling somewhere between solid good and been there, done that. Not even the hanabe (spicy tuna on crispy rice) which he invented! It was a big snooze by comparison to the copy cats at Sushi Roku or Koi, which may not have been the originators of the dish, but have since created the Mercedes of hanabe to Kiwami’s Ford.

And speaking of Roku and Koi, both of them crush it on decor, service and saki selection. Whereas Kiwami seems like it is still stuck in the past, coasting on a glory far past it’s expiration date. But, to be fair, for Studio City sushi, it’s still a solid bet, no bones about it.

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The Ultimate Beer

McSorleys-light-and-dark

Staropramen

While Pilsner Urquell is the more well known Czech beer in the U.S., and rightly so, it’s pretty special, its Czech brother Staropramen might just be even better. Not just because one is a pilsner and the other lager. And not just because it’s harder to come by, and therefore more elusive and special- because it stands as well on its own as it does with food. Urquell, while terrific in both respects as well, falls a hair short by itself, because it’s so much lighter, which makes for an ideal meal companion, and drinkability, but on its own the flavor is not so impressionable that it would ever have you savoring the aftertaste. Whereas Staropramen is all of that and a bag of yum. Crisp. With a longer, more complex taste. And a much stronger finish that could put most Olympic gymnasts to shame.

 

McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured)

For my micro brew bestie I have to give it up to McSorley’s in New York City. It’s the oldest bar in Manhattan offering up only two beers since 1854, McSorley’s Ale and McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured). Served in biblical proportions. No seriously. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a Noah’s ark business model. They only serve their beers in twos. And while both are great, I’m a bit partial to the dark. It has a Negro Modelo vibe about it, but with a little more ester to it. If you’re in NYC for a visit or live there, this place is a must for a glass of beer. Well, technically two glasses. Or four… Or six… They go pretty quickly.

 

Sapporo

If you’re getting sushi you have two options as far as I’m concerned. Sake or Sapporo. Screw Asahi and save the green tea for dessert. Sapporo is the perfect companion. Made remarkably smooth with the use of rice, which is perhaps part of why it grooves so well with Japanese cuisine. In fact, it goes so well, it’s almost as if it were purposefully engineered to go specifically with sushi. Well, be it the case or not, suffice it to say that Sapporo is the Sonny Bono to raw fish’s Cher.

 

Guinness

I’m not exactly sure why any other stout beer exists, because they’re all trying to be like Mike. And they all fall miserably short. Tasting like the hops took a shit in your glass. But not Guiness. Oh no. This stout manages to caress your buds in a lather as smooth as milk. But the craziest thing is that while most stouts are very heavy and highly caloric, Guinness is neither. The only nit is that she’s a temperamental brew. She doesn’t like to sit around, so make sure you’re getting your pint from a place that pours a lot of it, otherwise don’t even bother. And while the bottle and can versions are much improved over the years, they still don’t compare to the likes of a well-poured pint from the keg.

 

Blue Moon

This newest comer to the list exploded onto the scene about ten years ago and shook up the beer category so much that it needed Dramamine to recover. In fact, this Belgian Wheat is so damn good it’s the only one that I keep stocked in my house. Goes great with seafood, burgers, dogs and pizza. And while it’s often served with a slice of orange, don’t discount it as a fruity, fru fru brew. It’s just as great sans slice, and better than every other Belgian beer I’ve had.

 

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

As the only non-mass beer on the list, I feel the need to go above and beyond to say just how special this beer is. If you should be so lucky as to happen upon a tap, be sure to order it. Spare no expense, because it will pay for itself on the first sip. You have never tasted anything this special in beerhood. Forget the opulence of Chimay, although I must admit it sort of reminded of the creamy Belgian, but instead of deriving its cool from brewing it in a monastery, Kentucky pulls a trump card and brews it in actual bourbon barrels, as the name suggests. The result layers the beer with incredibly complex notes that subtly spring to life in your mouth. Balanced by a hint of sweetness, the takeaway becomes smooth and creamy. And while the alcohol content is a bit higher than the others, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

Momofuku Ko

163 1st Ave. New York, NY 10003 (212) 500-0831momofuku.com

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If I could give it 6 knives I would (which I suppose I can, it’s my blog after all, but that would require I go back into photoshop, add more categories- it’s a process). And I would give it this rating mostly because the level of difficulty was so high, having to live up to such massive hype and ballooned expectations. So, for it to not disappoint is a feat in itself.

This is not to say that Ko is flawless by any stretch, but it’s faults are simply overshadowed by its screaming successes. For example one nit would be the décor, or the lack thereof. It is as basic as basic gets. A lot like Pearl Oyster bar back in the day, before they expanded. Primarily a wood bar with twelve uncomfortable stools. But to be fair, it’s also part of its theme, and charm. It’s the lack of expensive real estate and lavish decor that allows them to offer a world-class meal at $100 per person.

The other nit, was the service. While they are extremely friendly and helpful, the first time I went they were a touch too aggressive with plate removal and a bit overwhelming at times with the delivery of courses. Sometimes placing  4 and 5 at a time in front of you. Which, if you become aware of it, and I was, detracts from the experience. Fortunately upon my second visit they must’ve gotten the message from my Yelp review (kidding!) and were significantly better about it.

But with nits aside, it is definitely an experience worth every last penny. And one I will HAPPILY return for (and did), regardless of their minor transgressions.

Now for the things that rocked my world. Of the dozen or so courses between both outings, these are the ones that reached god-like status (many of which are Ultimates):

  1. The Cajun inspired crawfish soup with orange and brioche
  2. The soft boiled egg with caviar served along side fresh baked sourdough and radish butter (also Ultimate bread & butter)
  3. The agnolotti with tofu and sweet corn (Ultimate tofu dish)
  4. The honeydew melon cold soup with avocado and macadamia nuts (Ultimate cold soup)
  5. The shitake mushroom soup amuse bouche
  6. The Halibut with ??? – sorry, I was tad inebriated on sparkling Saki by this point

So, that’s it. Stop reading and start clicking away online to get a reservation. It’s a pain in the ass trying, but your mouth will kiss you for it.

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