The other day I did a short write-up about many people’s favorite sushi spot in Little Tokyo called Oomasa. I don’t think my one paragraph really did it justice so I am going to expand upon it. I also took some drool inducing photos during my most recent foray between the noren curtains.
Oomasa is a very traditional sushi restaurant. Unlike many of the sushi bars you find in LA and Southern California, Oomasa is Japanese owned and all the chefs are not Korean. I personally don’t have any problem with Korean sushi chefs, one of my favorite sushi bars near a client of mine in OC is Korean owned and staffed. In Little Tokyo most, if not all sushi bars are Japanese owned so I suppose that point isn’t that strange, anyway back to the review.
Oomasa is open to 12:30am 6 ways from Sunday, when they close an hour earlier and when the fiance and I strolled in out of the cold late Friday night we were happy to see the open sign on the Oomasa door. After being greeted and taking our seat at the bar we were handed oshibori (hot towels) to clean our hands by the venerable sushi chef-san. All of the chefs I have seen there are at least in their 50’s if not older and although the taller one we had was stoic at first he lightened up as the meal progressed.
I started off by ordering Kohada (Gizzard Shad [I love that name]), making sure to specify that I wanted the clear kelp on top as is the traditional way the fish is served and the way it came the first time I ordered it there, but not the last time. I then asked for Spanish Mackerel, which they were out of so I opted for regular mackerel. I also ordered 6 pieces of toro (fatty tuna) and a large Kirin. Penelope wasn’t particularly hungry due to having eaten at her place of employment earlier so I ordered her a tempura roll.
The Kohada came first and was delicious. It is slightly less fishy than mackerel and the kelp adds a sweet flavor to the meat. I have been making an effort to eat sushi the “right way” by putting the wasabi directly on the fish and then dipping the fish not the rice in the soy sauce. If I really wanted to do it the right way I would pick up the sushi with my hands, but I’m not that cool yet. Both the normally fishy mackerel and gizzard shad were actually quite subtle lacking the strong fish oil punch they normally pack.
The toro was beautifully marbled with a wonderful fatty richness that you only find in this wonderful delicacy. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for fatty tuna even though it is a bit harsh on the pocket book. Someday I’ll have a whole farm of big fat tuna fish to slice chunks of meat off of at a whim, but for now I will continue to pay $8 for two pieces of it or $40 for 3 pieces at Thousand Cranes.
The next items I ordered were the dynamite, sweet shrimp, masago sushi, monk fish liver, spicy scallops and unagi hand roll. In writing that I just realized that I go entirely overboard when I order sushi, but luckily Oomasa’s prices are very reasonable. The dynamite is the largest dynamite I have ever seen, in this case it was a combination of giant clam, mushrooms, mayonnaise, mayonnaise and mayonnaise. Although it came out a bit burnt it was still quite good.
I just recently had monk fish liver for the first time at Thousand Cranes where I really enjoyed it, so I have been ordering it whenever I can. It has a very subtle organ meat flavor, but is mostly just creamy and rich. The liver was the best I had eaten since the first time at Thousand Cranes.
The sweet shrimp was sweet gooey goodness and I opted for the traditional soup made from the heads which I enjoy more than the deep fried tempura fish heads that are more common here in LA. The hand rolls were on point as was the masago sushi. In the end I realized the I love Oomasa and it is now my favorite sushi bar. [The full photo gallery can be found here.]