DTLA: Tasting Menu at Shibumi
Is it Japanese food week again on the Minty? Not quite but today I’m going to talk about my recent experience at Shibumi.
There are three tasting menu (omakase) options; $65, $90 and $120+. After two drinks, two mid-range omakase sets, tax and tip, our bill came out to approximately $250.
We started with two cocktails; quince rum martini and cherry bark shochu with cherry blossom. I liked my drink while my fine dining partner was wowed by the flower in the ice.
The texture of the aloe with green grape shots, new ginger and marinated in koji vinegar dashi reminded me of an oyster which is what I assume they wanted you to think since we were instructed to eat it all at once. Yep, we tossed back these “shots.”
Then we were given a little amuse bouche. You were to eat the preserves with a bite of radish and then hold the food while sipping the provided sake.
Many agree the cucumbers stuffed with shiso leaf, seeds, umeboshi and bonito are a must try for Shibumi. It’s even listed as a house favorite. I did indeed like them but actually liked the pickled squash (melon?) thing quite a bit. It would be the first of many pickle-y things to make their way to our table and I loved them all.
The Japanese sea bream sashimi was served with ginger bud and pickled plum irizake, a sauce for the fish. I watched the chef slice this and it was so smooth and easy. Great skill.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the steamed abalone with mochi. It was served with a thick ginger miso sauce. I had been enjoying all the dishware so far but this was stunning. It was a great visual complement to the food.
I’ve had ohitashi before but it’s usually regular spinach, the kind Popeye would eat (well, maybe not cooked in the Japanese style). It was nice to see this chilled greens dish with mustard spinach and walnut dressing. The spinach was frillier and quite pretty.
Next came the savory dishes starting with the miso soup with egg custard. This house made miso was really warm and comforting. I liked the custard as well.
The salmon was smoked in cherry wood. I don’t usually like cooked salmon (or many fish for that matter– give it to me raw!), but I liked this simple preparation and I liked it over the beef dish.
Next came the Holstein beef strip with fresh wasabi and nara-zuke pickle. As mentioned, I liked the fish more but I did enjoy the pickle with the beef. I’m not much of a sauce person and didn’t find the wasabi necessary.
I was really looking forward to the spring rice with fiddlehead ferns. I love fiddlehead ferns but found these a bit odd. Maybe if they were grilled longer? They tasted a bit grassy to me. I did appreciate the rice with the fish and beef, however. The simple dish oddly reminded me of a mashup of what I’d do if I was left in the kitchen (that shredded seaweed!) and also a bit of my grandmother who loved lima beans in her sticky rice (these however are fava beans and peas).
Dessert were an apricot seed ice cream with sliced young almonds. My fine dining partner remarked how similar the ice cream was to almonds. Yes, indeed! It you taste the “almond” liqueur amaretto, it’s generally made with apricot or even peach pits. Of course I have always wondered how many pits do you need to get that flavor.
This was good ice cream.
I also liked the sakura mochi. I am generally not a dessert person but these two are winners. The mochi was rolled flat and shaped into little pockets or envelopes. This was a fun dessert.
A note on service. We were the first table on a Friday night. And we were the only table for the longest time. There were many people who were working and several dropped plates or silently cleared. We were never asked how we liked our food nor asked if we wanted additional drinks after we were done with our cocktails. I would have ordered the mezcal drink! It was nice they were always were refilling our water, however.
But it was odd we weren’t asked if we wanted anything else after the savory courses were done. The progression of the cold dishes were somewhat leisurely compared to the hot plates which landed nearly all at once. My fine dining partner asked if the kitchen could slow down the dishes and the server said it was the last of the savories. Then after the dessert and we paid, we were not even offered a goodbye.
I found the cold and indifferent service very unsettling and although I liked the food and that it’s local to me, I will not be returning. I rather take my money to somewhere friendly.
Shibumi815 S Hill St., Los Angeles, CA 90014 — (323) 484-8915 © 2018 The Minty