Aside from good, but ridiculously expensive sushi at Takao on San Vicente in Brentwood or a last resort clear plastic top snapped onto a black plastic tray from the refrigerated case at the supermarket with cucumber rolls that have been mechanically punch-clocked together by Gertie and Manuel in hair nets and latex gloves, Asakuma is the only other sushi option near my house.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about Asakuma, either positive or negative, which mathemetically, implies that Asakuma=0, but since my Asian exterior belies my mathemetical abilities, zero is actually negative if we’re talking about football, and positive if we’re talking about dress sizes, so let’s just say that Asakuma is…median.
Ha! I bet you thought I was going to say “average!” I’m not as stupid as I blog, and I know that “average’ has nothing to do with sushi.
But let’s just use average anyway.
Based on the weighted average score of all the factors that contribute to The Overall Score, Asakuma always ends up like Louisiana. Quality of food, atmosphere, swimsuit, and private interviews with the five judges are good enough to make the Top 10 Finalists, but a risqué evening gown choice means conservative Texas wins the title and Asakuma is shoved backstage with a tiny tiara made of diamonique zirconium that can only ever be used for a future naughty fairy Halloween costume. 1st Loser-up is a high price to pay for a plunging neckline and cheap plastic sequins.
(Incidentally, I could have punned California (Roll) in there somewhere, but Clever is on vacation this week.)
High price. Though Asakuma is shoved into a lower-rent space on the second floor of a strip mall and is basically average on all other counts including splintery disposable chopsticks, its prices are somewhat unnecessarily high. Granted, the dining atmosphere is nicer than the soiled curb on a rainy day next to a greasy taco truck in the ghetto, but light wood walls, white table cloths, tiny bright halogen bulbs, and colorful abstract accents and artwork are an opening sunk cost that I’m sure the restaurant has recovered by now.
I’ve never sat in Asakuma’s sushi bar, the first space inside the front door, even though my life’s sushi philosophy is to always sit at the bar, within the chef’s field of vision, superficial freshness of the fish gaugable in plain sight through the glass front refrigerated case. Barring the fact that it is full every time I’ve gone so I couldn’t sit there anyway, the bar area gives off a chill, slightly severe, vibe. The chefs look pleasant enough, but I think it’s the awkward presentation of a row of diners’ backsides upon immediate entrance that isn’t openly welcoming. Yes, I am picky and weird and I notice stupid weird small things like that.
The fish in our hamachi sashimi was not bad tasting, and I certainly can't argue the pairing with tiny slices of jalapeno peppers (maybe they were serrano?), but the presentation of the plate was a little too dressy, a little too messy. I am always a girl about brains over beauty and function over fashion (who said 4" stiletto heels aren't functional?!?) but I also am training myself in the appreciation of achieving intended objectives. I am quite sure that one goal of sushi is aesthetic appeal to the eye before the pleasure on the palate. Non-uniform slices of hamachi looked like they had been haphazardly arranged on the plate. There was far too much sauce, and the radish and cilantro had been hastily tossed into a tangle that was in desperate need of a comb and some hairspray. The nigiri sushi was better - slices of ruby red tuna and salmon draped over rice, simply placed in even intervals along a long plate.
If the sashimi was a tiny bit below average in the beauty competition, the hamachi as nigiri sushi was better. The microscopic marbling of fat (i think the creamy marbling is fat, but i can't be sure) wasn't drowned out by too-much too-tart sauce or hidden under gaudy adornments. I kind of wished we had ordered hamachi sashimi, fish only.
Eating unagi as my last piece is a habit I picked up from Mom. The fattiness of the eel's flesh and skin combined with a syrupy sweet sauce always makes it dessert. I didn't like it as much in a roll format as I do when it's strapped onto a ball of rice with a nori belt, but it was certainlt first runner-up quality.
Dinner wasn't bad, but I doubt I will go back to Asakuma any time soon, despite its proximity to my house and my favorite therapist. Don't want to artificially boost Asakuma's chance at being the mathematical mode, you know.
11701 Wilshire Blvd (@ Barrington)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
** a year ago today, bacon-wrapped green beans temporarily cured me of the casserole **