Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Last Memory of Orris

Since Orris has recently changed its name and concept to "Spaghetti House by Orris," I decided to honor my old favorite restaurant on Sawtelle with a post. (Note: My last visit to Orris was early last year (2011), so please keep that in mind when reading.)

seafood ceviche

We started off with one of J's favorite dishes, ever: ceviche. Orris's ceviche was acidic and refreshing, just how we like it. It was different in that it had a tomato base, which you wouldn't see in a traditional Mexican ceviche. Still, very good.

smoked salmon with creme fraiche blinis

We also opted for the smoked salmon blinis which was one of the specials that day. It wasn't anything special, salty as expected but with nice texture.

braised short rib

Always a sucker for something braised we ordered another new item on the menu, the braised short rib. The meat was very tender and flavorful. The sauce was sweet but did not overpower the meat. Great dish.

sauteed mushrooms

shrimp mousse ravioli with shitake mushrooms and bread

The sauteed mushrooms and the shrimp mousse ravioli were always my staples when I dined at Orris. I wonder if the new place still has the popular ravioli on the menu (I'll bet money it does). It was one of their best-selling items and when you order it, you'll see why. It's luscious. Yes, I said luscious. And it has full of flavor from the shrimp and mushrooms. Make sure you scoop up the extra sauce with their amazing bread.

Ending this post with my favorite menu item leaves me feeling quite sad. I'll miss you, Orris. I really hope the new you does the old you justice. I'll just have to check it for myself.

Orris - CLOSED
2006 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 268-2212

Monday, January 23, 2012

Early Valentine's Day Dinner (and a VERY late post) @ Sushi Zo

Wow. It's been a very long time since I last blogged. How time flies when you are so busy you can barely breathe. The past six months have brought a lot of change in my life which has kept me busy. Too busy to update my blog. Too busy to even tweet. But as the dust settles, I find myself right back where I started.

I was wondering which post I should unveil my "return" with and while most of you, including myself, expect a grand and momentous post, I simply chose Sushi Zo. Not to say Sushi Zo is simple, but my reasoning was simple in that I am currently craving sushi and therefore, I shall write about it. Simple, right?

If you know me, you'll know that when asked about my favorite sushi place I'll immediately respond with Sushi Zo. Having never tried Urasawa (oh, the travesty!), I can say Sushi Zo is the best I've had... in the states. Even though my meal at Zo was more than several months ago, 10 months ago to be exact, I can still remember each bite like it was yesterday. It also helps that I've been here enough where I practically have the omakase memorized.

miso soup

We were given a bowl of miso soup to warm ourselves up. This is your standard miso soup, nothing to gush over.

kumamoto oyster

At Sushi Zo, the first few dishes in the omakase are always the same. The kumamoto oyster is one of those wonderful staples. Being one of my favorite oysters, I always enjoy combined briny flavor of the oyster with the tang of the sauce.

baby tuna sashimi

Moving on, baby tuna sashimi was next. Delicate in texture and flavor, the tuna sashimi was soft and very enjoyable to eat. Already "sauced" by the chef, the wasabi and soy sauce didn't overpower the tuna, but heightened its natural flavor.


The abalone was quite firm and snappy in texture, a nice contrast to the previous dish. The green chili paste did its job by little bursts of flavor and heat on my tongue.

uni with squid

Always a favorite, the creamy uni with slippery strands of squid was served next. The added soy sauce and wasabi balanced out the sweetness of the uni.

halibut (hirame)

It was time to move onto the sushi and as always, started off with halibut. There was a light dusting of salt and/or some kind of acid. It was subtle, but enough to wake up my palate.


The albacore was dressed in ponzu sauce that most of us are absolutely addicted to. I'm no expection. The ginger and scallions are always lovely with this fish and my personal favorite additions.

horse mackerel (aji)

Mackerel, though oilier and "fishier" than others, is one of my favorite fish to eat. I rather enjoyed the "fishier" taste and found it very flavorful.

scallop (hotate)

Moving on, the scallop was absolutely delicious. Very smooth, but not mushy, the scallop was excellent - in texture and flavor.

yellowtail (hamachi)

The hamachi is always a safe bet at Zo or rather at most sushi places. Sliced thinly on top of perfectly shaped rice, the hamachi sushi is one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

medium fatty tuna (chu-toro)

Everybody's favorite was up next: toro. These two pieces can be summed up in one word: orgasmic. Yep. Think about that one.


Pompano is definitely a fish I've had before, but I wouldn't be able to tell you anything about its taste. I'm sure it was delicious, but probably not delicious enough to have a lasting impression.

amberjack, yuzu kosho (kanpachi)

Kanpachi, usually topped with yuzu green chili paste, was next. Always a delight, the mild flavor of the kanpachi and the slight spicy kick from the green chili gave my taste buds a little wake-up call.

golden eye snapper (kimmedai)

Next up was one of my favorite staples at Zo, the golden eye snapper.  I always look forward to this dish and practically giggle with excitement whenever I catch a glimpse of this beautiful fish. It is more flavorful than your regular snapper, and definitely more beautiful. The slight addition of soy sauce does wonders for your palate.

giant clam (mirugai)

It seemed that all my favorites were lining up for me to taste. Mirugai is another one of those wonderful, delicious staples at Zo. The snappy texture of the clam with the slight oceanic but sweet flavor can turn anyone into a clam lover.

baby sweet shrimp (amaebi)

One of J's favorites of all time has to be the amaebi. Not surprising. I think this may be everyone's all-time favorite. Who can resist the creamy sweetness that embodies the amaebi?


The butterfish was tender and well, buttery in texture. It melted in my mouth. There was just the right amount of that delicious miso-based sauce on top.

yellow-striped jack

Next up was the yellow-striped jack, which was pretty standard. The standard being delicious, of course.

monkfish liver (ankimo)

The ankimo was topped with ginger, scallions and a little bit of ponzu sauce. Creamy with a slight oceanic flavor, the foie gras of the sea is milder and more delicate in flavor than what most imagine.

squid (ika)

The squid was next which was a nice contrast in texture from the previous ankimo. It was smooth, but with a bite to it.

salmon (sake)

The common salmon, dressed up with marinated kelp, was fresh and delicious.

needlefish (sayori)

The needlefish was mild in flavor, but had a firm texture. A definite must-try.

wahoo (ono)

Moving onto the ono, I don't really recall how this tasted but I am leaning towards albacore-like for the texture.

orange clam

Orange clam, another favorite! The sprinkle of salt brought out the sweetness in this snappy piece of sushi. If you're a fan of giant clam, then you'll really enjoy this.

spanish mackerel (sawara)

I have some friends who do not really care for spanish mackerel due to its oily and salty flavor. I, personally, love it more because of it. It's all your personal preference. The oiliness of the fish is complemented by the ginger, scallions and slight brush of soy sauce.

black snapper (kurodai)

I don't remember ever having black snapper at Zo before, but I am glad I did. It was absolutely fantastic. It was so good that I remembered what kind it was out of twenty-something pieces of sushi I ate.

halibut fin (engawa)

Moving on, our next piece of delicious fish was the halibut fin sprinkled with a small amount of sea salt. Clean and fresh. A perfect bite.

sea urchin (uni) & salmon roe (ikura)

Finally, my favorite of all time! Oh, uni, uni, uni... I can never quit you. But, why would I want to? I'm stuffed by this point, but if given the chance, I could probably eat 10 more orders of just uni. Hell, if I could I would have an IV hooked up to an endless supply of uni. But, let's save that for another time... I always eat the ikura first and save my love for last.

saltwater eel (uangi)

The unagi is next - a sure sign that the meal is coming to an end. Usually in your average restaurant the unagi is  completely drenched in the eel sauce. At Zo, the amount of sauce is modest. Thank God. With just a slight brush of the sweet sauce, the tender eel was a delicious bite.

toro handroll

The meal closed with a toro handroll that had the perfect ratio of rice and toro. I was completely stuffed by this point, but I always finish the handroll. Always.

yuzu drink

For dessert, a sweet and refreshing yuzu drink is given. With the right amount of sweetness and acidity, this drink provides a quick escape from the overwhelming sensation of gluttony. But, the escape is brief. I finish the drink and still have to take a few minutes to fully digest and reboot.

When people ask me what my favorite sushi restaurant is, I immediately respond with Sushi Zo. This has not changed. Granted I have yet to experience the glorious Urasawa, but until then I will remain true to my Zo. Not to the chef, not to the decor or the location. But, true to the amazing sushi.

I'm back, bitches.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nanbankan: My (Not Anymore) Neighborhood Yakitoriya

This blog post is dedicated to the Westside... (WESTSIDE!) Since I recently moved home to Koreatown, I decided to write about one of my favorite places in my old neighborhood. I literally used to live a couple blocks from Nanbankan and would walk there for dinner time to time when driving seemed so much work. Yes, driving 2 blocks seemed a lot of work at that time... Nanbankan is fairly popular due to its minimalist yet elegant decor and atmosphere. If you want to see the grilling action, I suggest you sit at the yakitori bar but keep in mind you might smell like smoke. I usually opt to sit at a table more out of habit than necessity.  

Every person gets an order of veggies with a miso-based sauce to enjoy while they wait for the food. I like this much better than chips or bread since it's so much healthier. We usually devour this mini appetizer within one minute, but I never feel bad about it - haha!

yellowtail roll

Whenever J and I go to a yakitori spot, we have the usuals that we order. This time, I wanted to go off the grill menu and try a few of their non-grill items. The first to come out was the yellowtail roll filled with sprouts, avocado and even a carrot. I wanted a very simple roll, but this one did the job.  

beef tongue

shitake mushrooms

bacon-wrapped asparagus

chicken liver

chicken wings


chicken cartilage

We ordered our usual stapes; me with my liver and tongue and j with his cartilage and wings. The tongue was actually beautifully cooked and super tender. I also almost always enjoy liver, so that was an easy one for me. J's enjoyed his cartilage but not so much on the wings. I believe he wanted crispier skin, not burnt. We both really enjoyed the beef. Although I can't remember what cut of the meat it was, it was tender and the delicious with the sweet soy-based sauce. The bacon-wrapped asparagus were just okay for me, but J really enjoyed them since it combined two of his favorite things: asparagus and bacon.

stuffed mushrooms

potato, sour cream

We moved onto the non-meat items, working our way through the stuffed mushrooms with radish, scallions and ponzu sauce and the grilled potato with sour cream topped with scallions and chili powder. I expected the mushrooms to come out warm, but it was served cold. The flavors were fine, but nothing extraordinary. However, the grilled potato was quite fantastic in both texture and flavor. The almost-burnt layer from the open flame gave a wonderful smokey flavor and nice textural contrast, especially when eaten with the cool and creamy sour cream. The added hint of spice from the chili powder was subtle and welll-balanced. While I would definitely order the potato again, J thought it was pedestrian and pretty average.

salmon onigri

clams, whitefish, green beans, mushrooms

assorted mushrooms, tomatoes

octopus sunomono

I ordered the salmon onigiri because I wanted something filling, but immediately regretted it once I saw the salmon and rice ratio. I think I'm used to the more generous filling from the homemade onigiris. Nonetheless, the outside of the onigiri was crispy and nicely seasoned. We also got the clams and assorted mushroom dish. Both were passable, the clams being a bit better than the mushrooms. I think I was having a bad mushroom day. We finished our meal with the refreshing octopus sunomono. The octopus had the perfect texture, it was tender but still had a bite to it. The combination of the sweet octopus with the pickled cucumbers and seaweed result in a refreshing and delicious mouthful.

It's a well-known fact that I will miss living on the Westside, being able to walk over to Nanbankan or any of restaurants on Sawtelle Blvd. for lunch or dinner. I still haven't eaten at all the great Westside eateries, but I'm sure I'll eventually get around to it. More than the food, I will miss all the memories I've made living on the breezy side of town. The late nights, the lonely nights in and even my crazy neighbors... But, I must say that being back in Koreatown is pretty damn convenient. I forgot how easy it was to meet people up for a drink and find something to eat at 2 AM on a Wednesday. I also forgot how central Koreatown is to everything else. Besides the insane traffic and congestion, life is pretty good in Ktown, my hometown.

11330 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90189
(310) 478-1591
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