Thursday, July 15, 2010

Signature Dishes at Sushi Yuzu of Toluca Lake

Sushi Yuzu of Toluca Lake

Arranging the white, almost petal-thin pieces of octopus on a plate as though it were a floral arrangement, chef Gen Kimura wears an expression of intense concentration as he applies the next garnishes: shredded daikon radish, a twisted wedge of lemon, a mound of slick black seaweed salad, a medallion of beet. Finally, a single green mint leaf is tucked to one side, and the work of art is almost complete. You can tell Kimura loves working with his hands and perfecting every detail: using his fingers, he smears on the green citrus ingredient after which he named his restaurant, followed by a dusting of freshly grated pink rock salt from Japan and few dabs of plum sauce. And there you have it: the Nama Tako-Ashior, just call it an octopus sashimi with the works.

This is Sushi Yuzu...located in Toluca Lake, a comely little neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley between Burbank and North Hollywood. The menu changes daily, but the favorites are always on the listsuch as the wildly popular Spicy Chilean Sea Bass Hand Roll, and the much-praised Lemon Roll, which combines spicy tuna with lemon slices (rind inclusive, for added flavor) and pine nuts (hint: Kimura brought this one over from Kushiyu of Tarzana, where he worked as a chef for many years. Kimura says he and a partner invented this brilliant concoction).

Originally from Japan, Kimura opened Sushi Yuzu a little over two years ago, naming the restaurant after one of his favorite ingredients. It is certainly used liberally in many dishes, along with the purplish plum sauce, pink salt, and the magical brownish-red sweet paste (containing a mixture of Japanese chili, oyster sauce, sesame oil and Korean miso) which is used in the Sea Bass hand roll.

Kusshi Oyster on the Half Shell may seem steep at $9 for three small bites, but it is some of the freshest shellfish you will ever experience. This is one of the specials that may do a disappearing act from the menu, as it is not always available.

Another elusive dish that's not to be missed: Aji-Tataki, which is served nigiri-style, except the fish isn't just sliced fish, but a colorful mosaic of chopped Spanish mackerel, diced shibazuke, green onions, shiso, and sweet kelp. Plum sauce, miso sauce and sesame seeds finish it off just right. It's Heavenand you need not be a fan of mackerel to enjoy it.

Although the L-shaped sushi bar seats as many as 11, the restaurant is tiny overall, with parking that is painfully scarce and cramped. Only four parking spaces are reserved for Sushi Yuzu, and there is a sign above the other spaces that literally reads "Don't Even Think of Parking Here." You balk, but then you realize that if you've arrived after the business hours during which these spaces are reserved for the neighbors of the complex, you're safe.

If you're ingratiating enough, Kimura may just decide to sweeten your feast with a dessert ofwhat else?yuzu sorbet. With a mint leaf on top, of course.

Sushi Yuzu
10118 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake