Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's All About the Fusion...

From its name and architecture, you would never have guessed that RuKasu serves sushi. At least not until you catch the words “Japanese Fusion” below the name.

Driving down Ventura Boulevard one evening, I whizzed past this stately palace whose building style was clearly Russian, but whose signage denoted Japanese cuisine. Valet parking attendants who might as well have been tending to horse-drawn troikas waited outside the entrance of this twinkly-lit, fairytale-like fortress; even the palm trees in the background seemed to have more of a sense of belonging.

Perhaps this is another fine example of L.A.’s potential for fusion, I thought; be it food or culture and even architecture, our complex melting pot never ceases to show its capacity for crossovers. I made a mental note: Must come back to eat Japanese at Russian-palace RuKasu.

A few days later, I returned to the vicinity. The thing about outstanding buildings is that they stand out, making them easier to find the second time around. I stepped into an elevator at the left side of the building and was lifted to the next floor, enveloped by predominately red lighting and…Russian music? I soon found myself in the lobby area of what looked to be a restaurant/lounge for raucous Ruskies. A Russian singer entertained a rowdy crowd as everyone clapped and clapped and—

I consulted the pile of business cards on the front desk: This wasn’t RuKasu, but their neighbor Romanov. It seemed to fit the architecture, anyhow. I learned that RuKasu, in the center of this unique building, is actually flanked by Romanov and a business called Valley Eye Professionals.

The name was explained shortly enough. Rob Lucas RuKasu, co-owner and former chef at Koi of West Los Angeles, had decided it was time to fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant. Inside, the cool and tranquil ambience is a great contrast to the riotous atmosphere of the upstairs scene.

Still pretty new to the Valley’s ongoing sushi bar war, RuKasu has hope for it yet. The simplistic yet indulgent menu seems to distill the essence of three major Japanese restaurants: Katsu-Ya, Asanebo and Sushi Roku (perhaps due to the similar dishes it offers, such as the Baked Crab Roll and the Spicy Rock Shrimp Roll).

In my opinion, the Spicy Rock Shrimp Roll should come with avocado, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t ask for it on the side. I ordered the soy paper-wrapped specialty as a hand roll for $6 (it is not available as a cut roll, according to the menu). Moments before that crunchy love-at-first-bite moment, I had a hunch it would put Sushi Roku’s version to shame. Perhaps this is because RuKasu’s brims with masago and spicy mayonnaise, unlike the drier, plainer version at Roku; and perhaps it was a newbie chef at Roku that day, who hadn’t really meant to flood my hand roll with Sri Racha sauce which seeped through the mamenori when I asked for extra spicy sauce, at which moment I vowed never to return….

I grunted my approval and moved onto the Baked Crab hand roll for $5 (it is $8 if you order it as a cut roll). And this is the item that is highly reminiscent of one of Katsu-Ya’s most popular rolls of the same name. There are subtle nuances that hint at a different taste; you can tell it’s not Katsu-Ya’s, perhaps because it’s not as blackened from the bake in the good burnt food way, but it’s definitely a winner. Somehow it’s more buttery and soft, without being overly oily and cloying.

1 comment :

Unknown said...

HI Jackie! Thanks for the review! Looks so YUM. Btw - I thot you did this b4, but now I don't see it. Can you put the name/address/hours of the restaurants? (if it's not too much trouble!)