Kiriko Sushi – You Owe Me Something Urasawa, But Raphael Will Do

Kiriko Sushi - nigiri sushi plate

After eight and half months of sugar and spice and everything nice, and an entire week of tofu for tangerine, they owed me. Even in the 11th hour, the day before the last day before the Big Day, I went there with my sleeves rolled up and ready. By a Delicious miracle of Microsoft, placecards printed on pre-cut persimmon cardstock without a hitch. They owed me big. Like Urasawa big. Instead, we went to Kiriko. It was our ancient Japanese secret, but Jimmy is going to be part of the family now. Time to let him in on it.

We parked around the corner, walked up, but the doors weren’t open yet. Kiriko opens at 6 pm on the weekdays, so we waited for fifteen minutes, amused by a gang of high school Dragonball Zs sipping boba next door. By the time the young lady inside came to turn the sign in the window around to “Open,” three more women had joined us, waiting. There was a weird feeling of quiet anxiety, sort of like waiting in front of Macy’s Friday early morning after Thanksgiving. *whisper chanting* Let us in… Let us in…

Kiriko Sushi, chospticks
in the quiet, a little origami
kiriko sushi, west los angeles - shishito and portobello in garlic soy and white truffle oil
holy shishito, there’s truffle oil

We sat down at a table in the window, the only spot lit by the almost-twilight streaming in from outside. The rest of the tiny dining room is dark, with only subtle accent lighting here. Even the sushi bar, with muted yellow overhead lighting, is darker than other restaurants that scream fluorescent blue and white. Kiriko feels quiet. It is quiet.

The non-sushi menu shows off the culinary creativity of the chef. Ume shiso shirasu pasta is angel hair with arugula, sour plums, daikon, and baby sardines. There is a Japanese mushroom risotto with marinated then seared tairagi scallops with mushroom risotto. Ceviche of shrimp, scallops, and whitefish is Ecuadorean style, and served with Japanese sweet potato chips. Even the more traditional items, in the hands of this chef, are more elegant and refined. We ordered the shishito peppers and portobello mushrooms. Peppers and mushroom slices gracefully aligned and stacked are stylishly accessorized with a pouf of shaved bonito. Served in a salty, fragrant sauce of garlic, soy and white truffle oil, the little dish was uniquely sophisticated. Tiny tender Japanese eggplant stuffed with shrimp and served with grated daikon was different from my usual order of nasu miso. Delicious.
kiriko sushi, west los angeles - spicy tuna maki sushi
even spicy tuna feels refined

These menu items are all very interesting and delicious, but we have come to Kiriko for sushi.

We don’t stray at all from familiar nigiri sushi of maguro, albacore, and hamachi. They are all seemingly ordinary, but the picture-perfect presentation of color and contrast against ocean blue, the precise balance of textures, and the freshness of flavor is extraordinary. Scarlet maguro has an almost imperceptible look of frost – fat that confirms, yes, fish can melt in your mouth. The sear on albacore is exact on all sides, barely there, but enough to frame a miniature fleshy canvas dotted with red and green, and striations that have been accentuated by settling ponzu sauce. Hamachi is pink, but masculine, muscular, smooth and supple. Even spicy tuna roll, as common as the supermarket, was a wonderful finishing kick.

Somewhere in time between handing the menus back to the server and launching into a symphony of *mm* and *yum*s at the table, I had a *chefstruck!* moment. My back was to the front door, but when it hissed open, for some reason, I felt the need to turn around and see who had just walked in. I whipped my head back around to the table. Ohmigod. Breathless, I tried to get Jess and Jimmy’s attention with raised eyebrows and widened-eyes, and as inconspicuously as I could, tilted my head in the couple’s direction, trying to telepathically communicate “Look!” They looked, perhaps thinking that Paris Hilton had just sashayed into Kiriko. They gave me quizzical stares. It wasn’t Paris Hilton. In fact, it wasn’t a singer, an actor, or other infamously famous celebutante. It was *dramatic pause* Raphael Lunetta.

They were confused. Who’s Raphael Lunetta? I had to *shush* them, as he and a gorgeous woman sidled up to the sushi bar not three feet away from us. Raphael Lunetta? Were they really asking me who Raphael Lunetta is?! I told them. They seemed mildly disappointed. Are you sure, Sarah? They were asking now just to humor me, because I don’t think they quite understood. Yes, yes, I am sure, as I *shush*ed them again. I was eavesdropping. Ken had just welcomed Raphael, who introduced his wife. I was absolutely chefstruck. *sigh* I’m such a dorky 12-year-old at a Timberlake concert. LOL!

Eight and half months. All worth it for Raphael Lunetta at Kiriko.

Oh alright, I might still try to cash in Urasawa.

Kiriko Sushi Restaurant

11301 Olympic Boulevard, #102
(storefront on Sawtelle)
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.478.7769
www.kirikosushi.com

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  • Anonymous

    “Oishi so desu ne.” Japanese for “that looks delicious.” I left a comment earlier via the “Sushi 101” post and my wife and I loved Mori Sushi when we were living in West LA. We’ve moved to Japan over a year ago. You asked, if we have been to any of the places you liked and with the exception of Sasabune we have dined at the others on your list. We’ve tried a lot of the popular places like Ginza Sushiko, R-23, the Hump, etc. along with the local places. Most were good and some were down right weird … “Can you say Sushi House?” If you want an experience I strongly suggest Sushi House. Personally, we like Mori just because if we’re in the mood for the regular fare (maguro, ebi, uni, etc) then no problem – it’s fresh and tasty. If we’re in the mood for something different via Mori creation – then no problem it’s delicious. Personally, this might sound silly but the freaking ‘popcorn shrimp’ are delicious. The combination of fresh, consistency and creativity are the merits of Mori. Some complain about the cost but “you get what you pay for and for my money Mori always delivered.” Omakase was devine. Everybody has their own tastes and Mori was it for us. “Oishi so desu ne.” Japanese for “that looks delicious.” In reference to the picture. I left a comment earlier via the “Sushi 101” post and my wife and I loved Mori Sushi when we were living in West LA. We’ve moved to Japan over a year ago. You asked, if we have been to any of the places you liked and with the exception of Sasabune we have dined at the others on your list. We’ve tried a lot of the popular places like Ginza Sushiko, R-23, the Hump, etc. along with the local places. Most were good and some were down right weird … “Can you say Sushi House?” If you want an experience I strongly suggest Sushi House. Personally, we like Mori just because if we’re in the mood for the regular fare (maguro, ebi, uni, etc) then no problem – it’s fresh and tasty. If we’re in the mood for something different via Mori creation – then no problem it’s delicious. Personally, this might sound silly but the freaking ‘popcorn shrimp’ are delicious. The combination of fresh, consistency and creativity are the merits of Mori. Some complain about the cost but “you get what you pay for and for my money Mori always delivered.” Omakase was devine. My feeble attempt at writing something interesting despite being a ‘UCLA South Campus’ nerd. Everybody has their own tastes and Mori was it for us. Being in Japan of course I’ve had some amazing sushi but the creativity aspect is lacking here. Mori would ask me “what kind of fish do you like?” “What sounds good, salty, sour, sweet, spicy?” And boo-yah, he would deliver time and time again. That’s the beauty of Mori. The non-sushi things are worth checking out as well. I don’t know if you’ve been but check out the brunch at the Thousand Crane restaurant at the New Otani in Little Tokyo. It’s really good.

    By the way, I also think Nanbankan is great. I’ve had yakitori here but Nanbankan is still the best. Simply because of their diverse menu along the lines of Mori. I guess I like variety. However, there’s a local butcher shop that sells yakitori after 4pm and is sheer genius. They have the meat so “why not grill it and sell it.” 60 Yen (about 70 cents USD) per stick and it’s delicious. It makes a pretty cheap meal here in Japan.

  • Anonymous

    Hilariously cute that you get that way over chefs!

  • djjewelz

    I’m going to have to walk over after work and try Kiriko this week.

  • mjt

    i remember kiriko. i introduced it to eric, joe, ian, and alain.

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