Sunday, April 12, 2009
For a long time, only two items from Asanebo lingered in my mind: the ponzu jelly (which I still have never seen anywhere else) and the California roll (which sounds ordinary but is actually made with not just real crab, but real king crab).
Presently, I am haunted by the halibut sashimi with fresh truffle, a stark color contrast between the black fungi accent and the porcelain platter's aquamarine tint, a ghostly-blue made visible from fish sliced so thin that the pieces are translucent.
I used to hate truffle oil. I thought it had a smell and taste of old shoes. But I believe this dish has changed my mind.
One of my dinner companions had actually ordered the famous halibut sashimi as an afterthought, after a repast rife with Nobu-esque specialties such as the Seafood Stick (I had pictured a skewered-meats sort of appetizer, until the waiter walked over bearing a tray laden with distinct martini glasses, each supporting a spring roll dipped in "homemade sweet onion salsa" and surrounded by garnishes) and the Grilled Black Cod marinated in miso (which was just as good as Nobu's, but not as expensive). I did, however, have to ask for an extra side of the sweet brown miso sauce, which in my opinion should have accompanied the dish. But the hot-pink stick of ginger root did complement the fish nicely.
The waiter had suggested the halibut after being prodded for a recommendation that was good, but not overly filling (we were near-full but eager for just a tad more). After all, the entree was featured on the menu as a House Signature Dish, and only cost a tad more (okay, as in a tad $20 more, but it was well worth it).
And maybe trying new flavors is always an adventure, but a little nostalgia never hurt anyone. I just had to relive the gelatinous ponzu, had to. I asked the waiter about what kind of food he would suggest for that sauce, and I'm reminded of the derisive question, "Would you like some coffee with your sugar?"
Yes. You would definitely remember to order the ponzu jelly first, and then try to figure what would go with it. It's that good.
"That goes well with the albacore," he replied, and so I requested the two-piece sushi with that gooey substance on top--so salty and concentrated, and not sliding right off the fish and onto the plate, as ponzu sauce tends to do.
I didn't care for the bits of ground-up ginger, which I picked right off. But the green onions were a pleasant touch.
An intimate little establishment, Asanebo can be found in a cramped shopping plaza in Studio City, on a street where cutthroat competition for sushi businesses simply means higher quality and better food for patrons: where else but Ventura Boulevard?