Iroha Sushi of Tokyo
12953 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
If there is any place I hate more than a place that requires a plane ride, it’s The Valley – the San Fernando Valley, also colloquially known as SFV to those who TLA-ize, and also hatefully known as the Stupid Fuckin’ Valley to me. I hate it. If hate is too strong of a word, how about I say that I really, really, really don’t like the detestable Valley to the point that I abhor it and will use the thesaurus like a weapon to defend my poor vocabulation. I’m sorry. If you live in the Valley, please don’t be offended. I don’t hate you. I just hate the sweltering, smog-smothered place that you have ignorantly taken up residence in order to save a few dollars on rent that you end up spending in deficit on astronomically priced gasoline to get “over the hill” because you only live there, you would never actually hang out there.
Hey, it’s just your home; it’s not like I’m making fun of your mother.
Despite how much I aych-ay-tee-ee The Valley, I find myself there every once in a while. Sometimes it has to do with food.
(Just waiting for you to finish laughing).
Yes, let’s be real here. Food in The Valley? I can hardly walk myself to the Cheesecake Factory in my own backyard, let alone drive all the way to what feels like central California for the same sort of oversized chain restaurants in different makeup all lined up along Ventura Boulevard. Right. However, I was quite surprised by dinner at Iroha Sushi of Tokyo.
(Incidentally, the other reason why I may find myself in The Valley has something to do with being blinded by lust, but I will just keep that part to myself.)
Iroha’s façade looks something like a samurai fortress. Granted, I have never seen a real samurai fortress, but I have seen Shogun! Iroha has the same look with dark, rustic wood and the sign that looks like a strange cross between animé and calligraphy. Though samurai fortresses have a strong silence about them, there is nothing quiet about the din created by a dining clientele made up primarily of young non-Asian people in trendy clothes and wearing sunglasses. At night. That's not judgment, just an observation. When making our way through the open-air courtyard in the front of the restaurant, we had to negotiate several precarious situations that involved first dates, second dates, tables that were too close together, and our asses.
We squeezed into a spot at the sushi bar, which is up againt the back wall of the inner dining area. Iroha has a regular sushi menu, but it seems that most of what the customers order are scrawled on boards on the walls behind the sushi chefs. As you know, I am not fond of “creativity” when it comes to sushi, and in my wide and deep and varied experience, I have more often found that dishes that are scrawled on boards on walls behind sushi bars are something to the effect of “Super Crunchy Vegas Rainbow of Fruity Godzilla Pebbles Mixed with Sriracha Swirl and Cherry on Top” rolls. However, I will on occasion scan the boards for special seasonal fish.
Nothing on the board grabbed my attention. Hell, nothing even whispered at my attention. I silently surrendered, then relinquished all ordering to him, with the understanding that we could very well end up with an entire platter full of Cowboys and Oversized Lizards.
Normally, I don't order anything with unagi until the end of the meal because the accompanying sauce is always too thick and sweet to start. Our first roll, naturally, then, was uangi and cucumber topped with thick slices of avocado! There were no surprises, good nor bad. In fact, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how tight the roll was.
Mackerel nigiri sushi, my one and only request, was a test, both for Iroha as well as for him. The sushi was well done with tightly shaped rice, clean, uniform slices of fish, and a simple garnish of some sort of seaweed that gave it a polished presentation. It tasted as beautifully fishy as mackerel should, though I was the tiniest bit aware of how large the slice of fish was as compared to the rice. Nonethless, Iroha passed. He, on the other hand, said he liked it, but looked like he didn't. That's a passing grade, though it's still a B-.
I didn't find the traces of spice on the cut edges of the spicy tuna roll too offensive. A spicy tuna roll is a spicy tuna roll. If the fish isn't rotting, I'll eat it. Then again, even if the fish isn't fresh, if there's enough spice, no one can really tell, can they?
The last roll was something of a problem. With a smattering of tiny scallops (which once caused an allergic reaction so severe that I hallucinated) and a corpulent mass of broiled mayonnaise that appeared to have collapsed onto the roll after some gruesome battle with a bottle of unagi sauce, it represented almost everything I hate about these types of rolls short of it being dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. I honestly cannot remember the name of the roll, but if someone said "BAM FS Roll, i.e. Big Ass Mother Fucking Scary Roll," I wouldn't be surprised. It was so wrong in so many ways as sushi that I could do nothing but surrender completely, as if in some childish ignorance, and consume the monstrosity as simply "food." I didn't touch a scallop, and scraped off as much of the offending mayonnaise as I could before tasting.
It wasn't horrible.
I mean, I've had much worse. In The Valley.
** a year ago today, i went to vip harbor seafood for dim sum because sesame balls are cheaper than gas **
** two years ago today: we ate at chosun galbee, captain's orders and i wrapped salmon around asparagus from westchester**