I want to preface this review by saying that I already wrote this article. . . and saved it. . . and it disappeared. That aside. Here is my attempt to recreate the review
I love sushi, I have been eating sushi since I was an early teenager. The first time I was open minded about sushi was when I visited my sister in Los Angeles, I tried a California roll. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, but I knew that I had lost my fear of the taboo of sushi. Slowly I worked my way from california rolls to eel rolls, from eel to spicy tuna, and then in a few years I was eating nigiri sushi, shortly after that I was on to sashimi. Sashimi took a while for me to enjoy because I was a soy sauce-wasabi-ginger-mush-dunker(still am depending on the sushi), and didn’t want to spend the extra money for something I thought would just taste of spicy brown sauce. As I have learned to lighten up on the soy sauce in general I’ve gotten much more interested in the distinctive flavor and textural differences between the kinds of fishes. This led me to the chirashi bowl, which is just sashimi over sushi rice with some garnishes. It is my favorite way to understand a sushi restaurant, the chirashi bowl allows you to test the sushi rice, the freshness of the fish, as well as the knife and presentation skills of the chef. At this point I’m more than willing to eat anything off a sushi menu, and I intend to!
I recently moved to Culver City, and found out there was a sushi restaurant a few blocks away from my apartment. It looked like the normal sushi place, a small sign out front saying sushi, and the signs for sake. I was interested and had been drinking for much of the day with my friend Tom as we watched the Eagles lose horribly to the Patriots. Still trying to ease the pain, we decided to try it out, and with that we went to Hamakaze where the real world seemed to disappear leaving behind only the amazing flavors of sushi. I loved everything I ate there, and you should too if Chef Nick is working! This is currently my #2 sushi spot in all of the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (#1 is MaruMaki in Long Beach).
Lobster Hush Puppies
These hush puppies were phenomenal. I’ve had hush puppies in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and needless to say I’ve had some good ones in the past, but I’ve also had some horribly sub-par ones too. When I think of hush puppies I think of light fluffy balls of a cornmeal batter with a delicious crunchy outside, and I often relate the best with having either caramelized or fresh corn inside. While this idea of the perfect hush puppy is great, most don’t live up to the expectation, and many are hard over fried tightly condensed gritty corn golf balls. I can tell you that the Lobster Hush Puppies at Hamakaze are the exact opposite of the food atrocity I’ve just described. Their lobster hush puppies are airy and light, but loaded with a good ratio of sweet corn and lobster chunks; these hush puppies are also little bigger than their golf ball sized southern brothers. The flavor of lobster itself is more of a subtlety in this Izakaya plate than the main flavor player, but I’m fine with that because a hush puppy is supposed to star corn in its varietal of forms. The texture is what the lobster really adds, a meatiness that I’ve always felt hush puppies to be missing, and the sweetness of the lobster is greatly complimented by the corn kernels. They come with a spicy sesame aioli, which was good, but I only dipped in it twice because the hush puppies could stand on their own without any sauce.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know the difference between a fish carpaccio and sashimi, other than that the fish carpaccios I’ve had all have some form of added marinade, sauce, or topping. With that said, this thin sliced yellowtail is prepared with bias slices of spicy serranno peppers with the seeds in and just a light drizzle of olive oil, finished with a sprinkling of, what I’m assuming was, red pepper sea salt. On the first bite a seed from one of the serranos got stuck in my throat and I coughed fire for the next 5 minutes before I could attempt another bite. . . . . That was entirely my own fault, this carpaccio was amazing! The yellowtail had a silky texture that was paired beautifully with the crunch of the serranno pepper. It had a light oceanic flavor that wasn’t fishy at all and was brightened by the salt garnish. It’s all taken to the next level with the olive oil that helps emulsify the fish and pepper on your tongue to make a yellowtail tartare. That is an impressive feet of a chef to serve you one dish and have it become another with only the introduction of chewing.
Spicy Tuna Roll
Spicy Tuna Rolls are a textbook sushi option at almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to. They are a prime example of the Japanese culinary mindset that simplicity is key. The casing is the usual suspect of sushi rice, and nori; inside the casing is a puree of tuna, sesame oil, and sriracha(sometimes mayo gets in the mix). These are not too far from the beaten path as far as what’s inside, but that is not what examplifies the simplicity I speak of. It’s in the preparation of the roll itself, if you have a spicy tuna roll that’s bad it was either rolled too tight and is lacking filling so the marriage of rice, nori, and tuna is lost, the opposite can happen and it becomes overstuffed, and it can also just be rolled loosely which ends in a mess of rice and tuna puree.
I didn’t actually eat the Philadelphia roll, but my friend Tom did, and he’s a bit of a cook himself so I will convey his assessment with utter assurance that his critique is accurate. For him, a Philadelphia roll is more of a palette cleanser than a filler, especially when eating spicier rolls. The cream cheese is smooth and dairy based, cleansing spice from the palette while the mild salmon adds an extra level of flavor and texture, but in the Philadelphia rolls at Hamakaze they had a tiny portion of green onion in them, which Tom was not a fan of. They added crunch to the roll, as well as a very mild spice that took the roll from being a palette cleanser to its own dish. Tom did admit he would order it again, but not to cleanse his palette.
Anago Nigiri (White Sea Eel)
I love Unagi(Fresh Water Eel) that’s been barbecued and glazed with eel sauce. It was the first thing I ate that wasn’t a california roll, and I generally judge a lot of sushi restaurants on two things; their chirashi bowls and they’re unagi nigiri. I judge based on the unagi nigiri because it’s very easy to over cook, which dries it out quickly, under cook, which makes it fatty and chewy, and easy to let it get too cool, which also makes it tough and chewy. When I saw they had anago I was interested because it’s much leaner than the fresh water variety. The anago at Hamakaze was delicious, definitely the best anago I’ve eaten. I believe it was baked due to its perfect white color that didn’t have a blemish of a grill mark on it. The fish was drizzled with the perfect amount of eel sauce to marry the assumption of unagi nigiri with a completely different eel. It was definitely lighter, with a brighter oceanic flavor and the texture was closer to that of fish than the meaty texture I connect in my head with unagi. It was light, flaky, perfectly cooked eel and the eel sauce took the nigiri from enjoyable to unforgettable.
Bluefin Toro Nigiri
I’m not for the over fishing of bluefin tuna, but I am for delicious tasting food, and that’s why I was willing to shell out the $15 for 2 pieces of nigiri bluefin toro. I have never had a piece of fish that melted like the bluefin toro. Its flavor was extremely subtle, and Hamakaze prevailed in exemplifying the Japanese cultural ideal of simplicity with this nigiri. Three ingredients, fish, rice, and the tiniest piece of wasabi used to bind the fish to the rice. The rice was slightly sweet and acidic; a very good sushi rice (I’ve been making/eating sushi rice for a while and Hamakaze’s has a great combination of sweet and acidic) dictates the grade of your sushi, only second to the quality of the fish. The fish melted, you barely had to chew, it tasted subtly of the ocean and when combined with the rice it took on an almost lemon flavor that cleansed the palette with every bite. I will have to go back and eat it again so I can tell you further of its deliciousness!
We had an incredible time, and next them there will be sake involved! Have you had good sushi somewhere and want to share? Please comment and let me know what you think if you’ve eaten at Hamakaze or just have a good sushi story to share!