Beverly Hills: Italian Meets Japanese at Yojisan Sushi
Giacomino Drago recently opened Yojisan Sushi in Beverly Hills. Named for his business partner and chef, Yoji Tajima, the restaurant serves inventive Japanese with Italian touches. I asked Chef Giacomino about the concept and he said in Italy, you’ll see a lot of Japanese restaurants and sushi is quite popular. The idea really isn’t very unusual when you think about Italian crudo (raw fish).
The restaurant is narrow and dressed in very modern and striking colors of red, black and white. The starkness of it reminded me of the Madame Butterfly production LA Opera did years ago. They had done away with the more flashy traditional set and went with a minimalist one. Despite the solemn look, the service was very warm and helpful. For one of our first courses, it was suggested we try the yellowtail sashimi which was dressed with halved grape tomatoes, olive oil, burrata and fresh black pepper. I would later see tomatoes in other dishes and commented how “Italian” the sushi was.
I love sake as much as anyone but the ultimate plus side of joining Italian to Japanese? The booze. I got to enjoy all my favorite amari while eating fresh fish. I started off with an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, soda) and ended the evening sipping on Zucca with dessert.
The gay boyfriend started off with the Berry La Poire (Grey Goose vodka, lemon, simple syrup) which he liked. I toyed with the idea of this drink with whiskey but opted to try a gin cocktail next.
We shared the hearts of palm salad. I was delighted by how fresh the shaved hearts of palm were. It’s a nicely crunchy salad. The asari clam soup had tender clams that were just the right amount of chew.
I couldn’t say the same of the ceviche though. I wanted more punch from the jalepeno and citrus. The seafood seemed a bit overcooked– as if it had been blanched then tossed in the citrus.
As mentioned, I was debating gin and asked about the Ginger Fix (Beefeater gin, muddled lime, orange juice, ginger puree, simple syrup) and the Cucumber Thyme (Beefeater gin, muddled cucumber and thyme, lime juice, simple syrup). Our server recommended the Cucumber Thyme. It was fine though I probably would get the Ginger Fix next time.
I asked what was the difference between the daily special- the fresh soft shell crab and the soft shell crab on the menu. Apparently it’s soft shell crab season now and the special is only available a certain time of the year. The lightly floured and fried crab was meaty and we liked it very much. All too quickly the crab disappeared.
We also tried another special, the white king salmon with crispy garlic and jalepeno sauce. Green tomatoes made an appearance with this dish. The fish was mild and not at all unctuous like the usual pinkish salmon.
I wanted to try the raw abalone but the gay boyfriend wasn’t having it so we got the steamed baby abalone and sea urchin (uni) instead from the daily specials. Oh, I loved this dish. This was my favorite of the daily specials. The tender abalone was so sweet.
One of the sushi chefs sent out little shots of leche de tigre. Having been to Picca, I knew what to expect but was still surprised by the tart flavor. Also, Yojisan has much more seafood in their leche de tigre.
After having all that sashimi, I thought it would be nice to try regular sushi. We ordered the monkfish liver handroll, sweet shrimp and Spanish mackerel. Yojisan’s sushi comes one per order. The monkfish liver and Spanish mackerel were fantastic as expected. But what was surprising was just how fresh the sweet shrimp was. I watched the eyes of the head swiveling and it wriggled around when I tried to pick it up. Uh, maybe I should have gotten this head fried or tossed in soup? But oh, was this sweet shrimp ever so sweet.
As mentioned, I had Zucca on the rocks as my dessert but also shared the crispy banana soy paper roll with green tea mochi. It was so artfully arranged, it was hard to not eat it all.
For those who want something more than traditional sushi or sashimi, I would recommend Yojisan. It would be a great place for lunch with clients or perhaps a girls’ night out at the sushi bar with girlfriends.
Yojisan Sushi 260 N Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210 — (424) 245-3799
© The Minty 2012