Note: My meal at Urasawa included about 20 pieces of nigiri, but only a few were photographed.
- Cost: $350, before drinks, tax, and tip
- Size: 10 seats at counter
- Style: Kaiseki + sushi
- Reserved: 4 weeks in advance
In terms of atmosphere, Urasawa is closer to a Tokyo sushiya than pretty much any other place I've been to in the US. The restaurant consists exclusively of one counter, and the entrance is hidden on the second floor of an alley off Rodeo Drive.
Urasawa is probably best known for being the second-most-expensive restaurant in the United States, second only to Masa. It's not a coincidence that Hiroyuki Urasawa was Masayoshi Takayama's itamae, back when Urasawa was known as Ginza Sushiko and before the latter moved to New York to seek new heights in menu prices. Unlike Masa, however, Urasawa offers a much more personalized experience, with very few seats, and Urasawa-san serving all guests with the help of some itamae (at Masa, it's unlikely that the head chef is even in the restaurant on many nights).
The meal starts with a kaiseki-like procession of small dishes that are pretty unimpeachable in terms of preparation and quality of ingredients. Despite a number of "luxury" gimmicks (a shabu-shabu with foie gras, for example), the flavor profile remains quite traditional. Certain items stick in my memory years later, such as a chunk of kamatoro-zuke cooked on a hot stone, or a piece of anago rolled with kanpyo in a thin slice of cucumber.
The nigiri themselves are balanced well, and the shari is moderately seasoned and has its own presence. The variety of neta was nothing out of the ordinary, but the quality of the fish and technique was at the highest level - for example, slices of chutoro were painstakingly cut from between the sinews from a much larger "quarter" of Bluefin.
At prices like this, the idea of value is purely conceptual. Is Urasawa nearly three times as good as, say, 15 East? Is it on par with Sawada, which actually costs less when tax and tip are considered? The answer is no. But it does offer a singular experience at a extremely high level of technique and quality, and it certainly is one of the best sushiya in America.
218 N. Rodeo Dr., Los Angeles