Saturday, July 09, 2011

Hama Sushi (Los Angeles, CA)

Hama Sushi
347 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
213.680.3454 (Yelp, restaurant has no web site)
Sat 07/09/2011, 06:15p-07:30p

Hama Sushi Exterior

When talking about the top sushi places in Little Tokyo, names such as Sushi Gen, Komasa, Go 55, and Hama invariably come up. Amazingly, I'd largely ignored these restaurants on the blog, so when I found myself in Downtown one afternoon, I made it a point to stop by one of them. Hama Sushi, conveniently located in the historic Japanese Village Plaza, was up today, hopefully the first in a series of DTLA sushi visits.

Hama Sushi Interior
Inside, things are cramped, and rather whimsically old-school (it sort of had an 80's vibe to me). The restaurant consists of a roughly 20-seater sushi bar, augmented by a small room in the front with space for about eight diners. Three itamae hold court at the bar, and opinions differ on which is superior. We were tended to by Kayama-san, the eldest of the trio, and we had no complaints. Note, however, that all three tend to keep their heads down preparing sushi, rather than chatting up guests, so keep that in mind if you prefer chefs of the more garrulous variety.

Hama Sushi Menu
The menu here at Hama Sushi is fairly standard--just your typical varieties of fish, nothing too out of the ordinary, and you can even get California rolls (usually not a good sign). Also keep in mind that no omakase option is offered (also usually not a good sign). Click for a larger version.

Pickled Cucumber
To kick things off: some pickled cucumber tsukemono, garnished with sesame seeds and seaweed. The kyuri's crisp, tart flavor actually worked nicely as a palate cleanser between sushi courses.

Sho Chiku Bai Premium Ginjo Sake
We ordered up a small chilled bottle of Sho Chiku Bai Premium junmai ginjo sake [$10] to start, from producer Takara up in Berkeley. It was an easy drinking sake, smooth and viscous, with a juicy, fruity palate--great for sake newbies.

Halibut Sashimi
Halibut Sashimi
Following the lead of Barrett Prendergast (of the defunct blog Farm Fresh Foodies), who was sitting next to us, we requested a plate of halibut sashimi as our first course. It was exactly as I expected: lean, supple, and mild. The included ponzu dipping sauce, thus, was key in adding a piquant counterpoint to the dish.

Red Snapper / Tai
Red Snapper / Tai [$4.50]
Also recommended by Barrett was the tai, which was wonderfully textured, showing off a great interplay between contrasting notes of wasabi and sea salt. One of my favorite bites of the evening.

Monkfish Liver / Ankimo
Monkfish Liver / Ankimo
Disks of monkfish liver were mild and delicate, with a creeping bit of liver-y essence that paired well with the tempering tang of scallion and momiji oroshi (spicy grated daikon).

Sea Urchin / Uni
Sea Urchin / Uni [$9.00]
We had to try the uni, of course. The urchin conveyed a very clean flavor, yet one still imbued with an ocean-y, saline taste that deftly played against the nori. My only concern here was that the roe was a bit too cold, muting some of its flavor.

Yellow Tail / Hamachi
Yellow Tail / Hamachi [$5.00]
Hamachi was a prototypical example of the fish, with an oily, fatty character that was duly accented by the application of a dab of murasaki (soy sauce).

Amberjack / Kanpachi
Amberjack / Kanpachi [$6.00]
Kanpachi, meanwhile, was firm yet creamy, with a good amount of fat as well, along with an almost mouth-coating texture.

Sweet Shrimp / Amaebi Deep Fried Shrimp Heads
Sweet Shrimp / Amaebi [$6.00]
Amaebi is almost always a highlight of my sushi meals, and tonight was no exception. The shrimp showed off their usual sweetness, brightened by a hint of wasabi spice, and I also greatly enjoyed their luscious yet snappy consistency. And the deep fried heads? Delicious as expected.

Oysters on Half Shell
Oysters on Half Shell
These were quite possibly the largest oysters that I'd ever had, with one piece requiring multiple bites. Using a smaller variety, such as Kumamoto or Kusshi, would've been more appropriate here, but the flavor was correct: a growing bit of salinity balanced by the application of ponzu, scallion, and grated daikon.

Large Sapporo
A large bottle of Sapporo [$7] to end the meal on.

Sea Eel / Anago
Sea Eel / Anago [$5.00]
Our first cooked sushi of the night brought us anago, which was quite lean, with a mild fishiness deftly paired with the sweetness of the included eel sauce.

Spicy Tuna Hand Roll
Spicy Tuna Hand Roll [$3.50]
One of the items that's oft recommended here at Hama is the Spicy Tuna Handroll, so we had to give it a try. I don't usually order temaki, but this was surprisingly good, with a lovely hint of heat to go along with the luxuriousness of the tuna, while the nori and rice served to ground the course.

Omelet Stuffed / Tamago
Omelet Stuffed / Tamago [$3.00]
We ended with the usual closer of tamago. Hama's was slightly saccharine, with a nice countervailing savoriness provided by the bands of nori.

Sliced Oranges
For dessert: some of the juiciest, sweetest slices of orange that I'd had in a while. I appreciated how the segments came pre-separated from the rind (hence nothing stuck in your teeth).

Coming into Hama, I'd heard some mixed reviews concerning the quality of the food and the harsh demeanor of the chefs, but fortunately, neither was an issue. Rather, we found our itamae cordial, and the sushi quite tasty, with no major faults. And at $35pp for food, Hama wasn't a bad value either. One of my dining companions even commented that the sushi here was superior to that of Restaurant Komasa two doors over--I look forward to finding out myself if that's the case!

Mitsuru Cafe Making Imagawayaki
Mitsuru Cafe's Imagawayaki Imagawayaki
After our meal, we headed over to the nearby Mitsuru Cafe for dessert. The place is known for its imagawayaki [$1.25], a type of sweet comprised of azuki red bean paste enveloped in a light, fluffy, yet chewy baked batter. Yum.

Wakasaya Bikkuri Don Christine Choi
Continuing our trek through Japanese Village Plaza, we passed by Wakasaya, home of the Bikkuri Don challenge: finish a ginormous $49.99 donburi bowl and miso soup in under 15 minutes, and the meal is free. Looking closer, we noted a picture of none other than notoriously angry Korean Christine "olivejina" Fang (née Choi), forever immortalized as the first female contender to complete the challenge.


Blogger sygyzy said...

Please don't judge but quick etiquette question - when they give you a fried shrimp's head, are you supposed to eat the whole thing or just suck out the brains? I normally do the latter but I am not sure if they get mad at me when it returns to the kitchen "intact"

Thursday, July 14, 2011 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Are you feeling ok? Why did you pass up the Bikkuri Don challenge after your lunch? I know you can do it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

check out the bakery right across from Shabu Shabu House. Ridiculous Green tea donuts.

Thursday, July 14, 2011 4:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very impressive. you made hama sushi look delicious.

Thursday, July 14, 2011 4:45:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

sygyzy: The thought never occured to me to only suck on the head. I've always taken the whole thing in one mouthful, so I'll go with the former option.

Evan: This was actually dinner, but I've seen "Korean Fury" eat, and I'm no match for her gustatory prowess.

Charlie: Do you mean Yamazaki Bakery?

Anon: And the implication is that it normally isn't? ;)

Thursday, July 14, 2011 5:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try Mako Sushi. I want to know what you think.

Friday, July 15, 2011 2:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Komal Mehta said...

Hama is one of my favorite sushi places in LA. It's nice to see you finally make it there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011 9:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Marian the Foodie said...

is this where you guys ate after the meeting? Nice!

I eat the whole fried shrimp head too

Sunday, July 17, 2011 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger suzn924 said...

Hama sushi is also on my list as well. We've tried Sushi Gen, Oomasa (very good scallop sashimi, bento), Komasa. Our Fav in terms of freshness and pricing Komasa..very good. The shabu place very good as well as the little bakery in the same plaza, but Takoyaki is no comparison to the one in Osaka. "I bid you good eating!! Thank you for jogging my memory for Birthday idea. Hama is also more affordable than Sushi Zo and Sasabune.

Sunday, July 17, 2011 9:04:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Anon: Believe me, Mako's on my list.

Komal: Which other ones do you like?

Marian: Yeah, Ann and Caty ended up going too.

Susan: Hama's a hell of a lot more affordable than Zo! Gen, Oomasa, and Komasa are also on my to-try list.

Monday, July 18, 2011 1:15:00 AM  
Blogger suzn924 said...

Ill start with Hama sushi then eventually move up to Zo, Sasabune, and hopefully Urusawa one day. But when thinking about Urasawa Im just always tempted to buy a plane ticket to Japan. But definitely on my list. I'll check out your other LA places as well.

Monday, July 18, 2011 7:55:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Don't forget Mori or Go's Mart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 4:25:00 PM  
Blogger Right Way to Eat said...

Dude, I would go here over Mori. Seriously.

Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:40:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

For the price, sure, but Mori is definitely superior on an absolute level.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:47:00 AM  

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