Morinoya Izakaya | Santa Monica, CA

The Olympic Collection is a very misleading building on the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle.  It looks like some kind of fancy Beverly Hills hotel when you’re walking by, but if you look close enough, somewhere above the Pinkberry, there’s food there.  In fact there’s some incredible Japanese food there, Morinoya was the first of these to be experienced and I can’t wait to go back.

Tamago Nigiri (Egg sushi)
Tamago Nigiri (Egg sushi)

Tamago Nigiri

Done in the traditional Japanese style with the protein hanging over the rice, the flavor was very well balanced between a semisweet custardy texture, and a very enjoyable vinegared sushi rice.  The flavor was slightly sweet, but it retained enough of a meaty texture to keep it in the savory realm.  It was one of the better and more interesting tamago nigiri I’ve had.

thigh, wing, meatball, gizzard, and skin
thigh, wing, meatball, gizzard, and skin

Yakitori

We got 1 skewer of each of the different types of yakitori, the meatball was outstanding, a good sear on the outside but still moist and juicy inside. The skin was my second favorite, it had a great moderation between salty, saucy, crunchy, tender, and sweet. The gizzards were 3rd best with a delicious flavor and a texture that requires a bit more chewing, and that I really enjoyed. The wings and thighs were both really good, my buddy Adam said he would have preferred the wing meat to be deboned, I thought it gave it a bit more flavor, and don’t get me wrong, these two weren’t bad, they’re just normal pieces of meat, and we like the weird bits.

Soba Bukkake
Soba Bukkake

Soba with Grated Mountain Yam and Salmon Roe

I’m trying to make a dish that replicates these flavors at work using a few different ingredients so when I saw it on the menu I had to try it. The noodles themselves were great with an excellent preservation of the buckwheat flavor that is subtle but always present. The broth was nice and light, but when you stir in the grated yam and salmon roe it pops with flavor, it becomes briney and creamy with a light bitterness from the yam.

Grilled day aged Squid Steak
Grilled day aged Squid Steak

Grilled Squid Steak

This is tied for the second best squid I’ve eaten in my life, it’s cured overnight then it’s grilled and served with a lemon. The overnight curing really brings out a depth of oceanic flavor that’s hidden in the squid and you wouldn’t find in a normal piece of squid.  It’s like getting a dry aged steak.  The meat was tender and grilled beautifully, just one second longer and it would have started getting chewy, and the lemon juice made everything pop into perfection town.

Perfect duck perfection
Perfect duck perfection

Kamo Steak (Duck!)

The first thing that happened when this duck hit my mouth was ecstasy. It’s the best duck I’ve had in 2 years since eating at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Vegas. The skin was rendered beautifully while maintaining a perfect rare/medium rare through the breast. The center bites melted like butter and the sauce it was in didn’t over power that gamey flavor I prize above all other birds!  The skin had just enough fat to allow for a little chewing to take place, but since the outside had such a great sear it had a cohesive crunchiness that brought the two together, and the meat itself just melted like butter.  Really a brilliantly done duck breast.

 

Well, there you have it.  Another exceptional Japanese restaurant hiding in the depths of obscure buildings in Los Angeles.  It’s really my favorite part about this city, is the wide cultural diversity that lends itself to the architecture of buildings, placement of restaurants, and all kinds of other facets that make Los Angeles an interesting city!  Overall Morinoya was one of the better food experiences I’ve had, and I can’t wait to go back as there is much more I need to try!

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