Sushi Q: Delectable Artistry in the Heart of Los Angeles
by Susan Montgomery
When we were invited to sample Chef Hiroyuki Naruke’s VIP menu at his restaurant, Sushi Q, in the heart of Los Angeles, we were intrigued. Best known as Chef Hiro, this Tokyo native has a well-earned reputation for his sushi artistry. He arrived in Los Angeles from Japan three years ago to offer Omakase menus of Edo-style sushi to this sushi-obsessed city. Omakase means that your meal is selected by the chef. Edo-style refers to the artistic presentation of raw ingredients.
Although sushi lovers have myriad options in LA, there is no doubt that Sushi Q emerges as one of the most exceptional sushi dining experiences you can find. Chef Hiro’s dishes are unique for many reasons. He prepares his own rice with a well-tuned balance of sea salt and red vinegar, which he brews from aged sake cakes. He also applies a variety of techniques to bring out the best possible flavors in the fish, such as aging, curing and adjusting temperatures before serving. He presents his dishes with sauces and garnishes that also enhance the appearance and taste of each presentation. He serves his fish in beautiful pottery dishes that add so much to the aesthetics of the dining experience.
Our entire dining experience was elegant and understated. There is no readily noticeable sign on the front door of this restaurant located on a busy LA street. It was good we had the street number, although we did eventually see a small Q above the door. We felt we were entering a soothing, quiet retreat from the bustling city life outside. The stylish restaurant is small and exudes a refined and relaxing ambiance with its contemporary Japanese decor. All the lunch guests during our visit were seated at a counter, but there are also a few tables available. We enjoyed sitting at the counter since we could watch Chef Hiro prepare each dish in front of us. He would then serve us and describe each dish.
In total we tried about 15 small dishes for our VIP lunch. There is no ordering off the menu at Sushi Q. The chef serves what is fresh and available the day you are there. We also savored some high end sake and beer that paired nicely with the delectable sushi dishes. Each course was a beautifully arranged work of art. Here are some of the exquisite dishes we enjoyed:
Our first course consisted of small wafers made of dried Japanese baby anchovies and seaweed. Chef Hiro explained these wafers were good for digestion. They were tasty with a salty zest and nice crunch. Sips of the chilled sake and beer from Niigata also helped with digestion.
Baby Sea Eel from Kochi, Japan, was served with crunchy Okinawa seaweed and fresh ground ginger. The flavors were mild and delicate, and we appreciated the contrasting textures.
File Fish, so thinly sliced that it was almost translucent, was served in fish liver sauce with freshly grated wasabi. This was one of my favorite dishes because of its subtle flavor combinations.
Silver Shrimp from Japan's Toyaba Bay was slightly sweet with the taste of the sea. The freshly grated wasabi added a tangy accent to the mild fish. Chef HIro had shelled these tiny shrimp himself.
A beautiful dish of Scallop, Fluke and Toro (tuna) with a touch of wasabi, accompanied by a light sauce, was delicious, especially as we tasted the contrasting flavors and textures.
Japanese striped Jackfish, which is similar to Mackeral, was perfectly combined with rice and tasted as good as it looked.
Japanese Tiger Prawn, called Kurumaebi, from Kyushu was tender and delicious.
Two unqiue preparations of eel, one with sea salt and lemon juice and the other with Japanese pepper, were both served with Chef HIro's special rice with red vinegar, and had lovely subtle sea flavors.
We enjoyed this enticing sushi presentation, including Maguro (tuna) and sliced ginger.
Sea Urchin, also known as Uni, was a special treat served with dried seaweed. We loved its briny, sweet taste, but for some this is an acquired taste (a taste worth acquiring).
Our final course was Tamagoyaki, a savory egg cake made with bay shrimp.
Such artistry is not inexpensive, but the price is well worth it for such an exquisite dining experience. Lunches range from $75 per person for 11 pieces to $125 per person for 15 pieces. A dinner of 15 pieces is $125 per person or $165 for 20 pieces. The Botan or premium menu, which is what we were served, is $250 per person.
Sushi Q is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday and for dinner on Saturdays. It is located at 521 West 7th Street. Reservations can be made on the website (http://www.qsushila.com/) through Open Table or by calling 213-225-6285.
Photos with this article taken by Todd Montgomery.