Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Why Stripping Is Good - Shintaro
1900 N. Highland Ave. Ste. E
Los Angeles CA 90028
MC, VISA, AMEX
Google Info (NOTE business hours are incorrect. They close at 11:00 pm)
Years ago, Sa and I apparently had enough money for lots of expensive sushi.
Not true; we were living pretty much on pass-the-hat dollar bills from the Shakespeare show. I guess it was before we had bills for things like houses, insurance, satellite TV, gardeners, pool guys, Netflix, and whatever else we spend our dough on these days.
Back then, we wouldn't think twice about going to Sushi Ike in the strip mall on Gower and Hollywood and staying all night, order after order, letting Ike-san -- who makes the best sushi this side of the hill -- make his magic for us. But then we got more sensible, and starting going to Noshi Sushi in Koreatown for our regular sushi fix. Further away, but good standard sushi at reasonable prices. Occasionally, on Disney's dime or for an ultra-special occasion, I'd go to Katsu-ya or Teru or Sushi Nozawa on Ventura Blvd., where All Sushi Is Good. But as for a good, inexpensive local sushi bar here in Hollywood? Not happening.
Now it is. Behold Shintaro in the strip mall on the northeast corner of Franklin and Highland -- the same mall as Pizza Bella reviewed here. I may never nosh at Noshi again. Here's the dish...
It's in the space formerly occupied by the uneven, slightly scary Yamakasa sushi bar. I know, you don't remember a sushi bar in that mall, but think of the big neon chopsticks you pass on your way up Highland toward the Hollywood Bowl. On the outside it's, well, a strip mall. On the inside, it feels shockingly classy and stylish. I'm going to link there a third time: seriously, check out their website -- it's a beautiful designed site, and gives a hint of what you're in for. Bamboo shades soften the light and noise from Highland. Bamboo-shaded track lights cast a gentle glow on the sushi bar. Spa-like, relaxing, plunky music plays softly. A single large photograph hangs from a rope and bamboo frame on the wall, depicting a famous Japanese samurai who bridged the gap from samurai to modern, wearing both sword and gun.
It's an apt symbol for the cuisine, which is both traditional and modern. Traditional nigiri sushi and sashimi is excellent, but so are the wide array of thoughtfully conceived specialty rolls and small dishes. Imagine a blend of Ita-Cho and Katsu-ya, at Noshi prices.
Sa and I were feeling particularly binge-y that night: as Sa put it, "I wanna eat my weight in sushi." She didn't succeed, but we didn't skimp either. Several nigiri orders each, a couple of handrolls each, a couple of specialty dishes, a cut roll or two. And plenty of beer and sake for both of us, which you know is not an insubstantial amount. Total bill: $60.02. Maybe five bucks more than what I'd expect to pay at Noshi. Part of this is thanks to extremely reasonable and tasty booze choices. Most droolingly, they have Kirin on draft... $3.00 for a pint, $10.00 for a pitcher.
As for the food. In addition to their "regular" menu of appetizers (Dynamite, Baked mussels, deep fried tofu w/shaved bonito, spicy softshell crab w/ponzu), sushi and teriyakis, ribs, udon and soba, you'll be handed a separate sheet of fun Katsu-ya style specialty dishes like seared albacore with crispy fried red onions and scallions, or "HamapeÃ±o Carpaccio," a dish of hamachi yellowtail sashimi with jalapeÃ±os. Then there are the special sushi selections, scrawled on strips of paper towel pinned to a bulletin board at the end of the sushi bar. The "Must Try!" Fried Spanish Mackerel Handroll truly is. Mackerel's one of my favorite fish when you can find it fresh rather than the fishy pickled "saba" that's ubiquitous on $12.99 nigiri combos. The crispy batter here both brings out its delicate flavor and masks some of mackerel's inherent fishiness. The live scallop sushi was simply awesome. Pulled live from a tank and cut into simple sliced nigiri sushi, it arrives still moving -- just barely perceptibly, this isn't a Fear Factor situation -- on your plate. If you like scallop, this is the best you're likely to find.
They also have a nice array of lunch specials for under $10.00, like the sashimi/tempura combo pictured here.
My friend Bob points out that parking in that strip mall can be a pain. Sometimes. But between Pizza Bella and now Shintaro, it makes it worth the effort.
By the way, I've added a link here for those who don't get enough politics on lafoodcrazy. Check out my friend "Bly's" (her name's been changed to protect her from domestic spying) ultracool political blog "Progressive Lyceum." There's actually a little bit from me there today, but it's worth checking out all the time.