Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zo not omakase

Sushi Zo, sushi-nazism at its finest.

"Chef Keizo say no soy sauce."

"Chef Keizo say you can put soy sauce now."

"Chef Keizo say no photos. Or you will get kicked out."

And these are the orders that are commanded of us from Keizo's army while each dish is placed in front of us. As I sheepishly stuff my camera back into my bag, I think to myself: Aren't I a patron? Sure as hell doesn't feel like it. But I had it coming. Clearly printed in bold ink, on the menu in font 32, lists Keizo's "10 Commandments" of sushi doctrine. Need I say more?

Even with these strict rules, Sushi Zo has its share of die hard fans. Many go as far as to claim that Zo lies next in line to Urasawa! And truth be told, it is probably one of the finer, if not the finest sushi joints I've experienced. Not only are the morsels of fish fresh, but fresh to a point where I even forget that I'm eating expired fish. This may be an oxymoron, but I didn't note the slightest fishy-ness. Keizo has a dizzying array of sushi; some specials are imported from Japan. So you will be able get your hands on exotic, bite-sized pieces of Baby Tuna - tuna in its adolescent stage, thus "baby", creamier than its older counterparts, and very good -

and maybe some Skipjack Tuna which is also a rare but delicious find.

Even the Spanish Mackerel, which I usually shy away from because of its intimidating glistening skin, is devoid of fishy-ness and lies in harmony with the ponzu sauce and ginger.

Salmon with pickled radish
Normally a mundane sushi on its own, but paired with Keizo's homemade soy sauce and a sliver of pickled radish, seem to perk it up a bit.

The damage? 24 whopping pieces per person! The only gripe I have is the non-appearance of uni and salmon roe. Which makes me wonder, has our hunger for sea urchin finally drove them to the brink of extinction? Twice I've entered Nijiya Supermarket with disapoinment. No uni. Even Kiriko on Sawtelle did not carry uni that night. Once again, we've inadvertently finished off a specie.

 But there's a caveat to all this gushing. Fridays and Saturdays are omakase only. Which is fine by me. I've no qualms with omakase, it's the lazy man's way of enjoying sushi in gastronomic porportions. Although I do believe that omakase should be creative, seasonal, and different from the regular menu. The whole point of omakase meaning "entrust" should be a journey of the unexpected, at least I wholeheartedly believe so. Sushi Zo fails in this aspect. Each small piece of sushi is straight from the sushi checklist without deviation, save a few in the opening act:

What a peculiar presentation! Although the taste is anything but intriguing. Two baby squids with a dallop of miso dressing. Let your imaginations run wild.

The closest thing to uni tonight: ika (squid) noodles infused with uni.

So is this a true omakase? Keizo's creativity is somewhat limited to the first few offerings, then followed with everything off the sushi menu. There is no contest to the quality of the seafood and I have no objection to his traditional-Edo style method. I've even grown to love the warm rice that sometimes falls apart in the soy sauce. But to install the omakase only decree is a bit hard to stomach, even if it is only on weekends. Since the dishes are strictly from the menu, I would prefer the liberty of ordering my favorites and leave off the likes of salmon and such. Grumbling aside, I will be back for the iron-fisted sushi policy, being the masochist that I am. But on weekdays, undoubtedly.

Sushi Zo
9824 National Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90034-2713 -
(310) 842-3977

Sushi Zo in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


  1. I've been thinking about trying this place. Glad to hear the fish is indeed very fresh there. It seems like you still managed to take some photos?

  2. They weren't happy about it at all. You can see the irritation on their faces. And when I tried to catch a shot of Keizo..ALL HELLZ BREAK LOSE

  3. So they've decided to institute a no photos policy now? Guess I won't be returning as soon as I thought.

  4. I'm still a little baffled as to whether or not photos are allowed. They only stopped us, it seemed, after we took too long to finish the dishes. But the annoyance was assured. =/

  5. great pictures before you got shut down! i went to Sushi Zo once for lunch and didn't feel like it lived up to the hype, though admittedly we didn't have the omakase. there are so many great sushi bars in taipei for good prices. and i love uni too!

  6. to be honest, I felt Zo was good but not ALL THAT. It lacked variety in terms of texture. All the fish were creamy. I wanted to get more variety in terms of texture. Maybe more crunch..or...something.

  7. Soo. u actually managed to get all the shots -- it is only after finishing up with the photos that they warned you not to?

  8. Glen: there were about 22 courses and I only got a few shots. I was in fear.. lol

  9. Haha wow 22 courses? That's like a full kaiseiki set! Just wondering - how much did it cost?

  10. I shoudn't say "courses", its more like 22 types sushi. it's about 100 per person without drinks.

  11. moral of this post -- if you break his "rules", you won't get thrown out? There's so much good sushi to be had in the city, at that price level. 1 of the pleasures of sitting at the bar is the interaction (or lack there of) with the itamae. This guy runs his shop like an army boot camp. who needs that?

  12. Surprising that he has changed his policy. I always got the impression he didn't like people taking photos but he never said anything when I went. Perhaps he feels his success gives him greater leeway to dictate terms.