Friday, October 26, 2012

Featuring Two of West Hollywood's Best Sushi Bars

In the heart of West Hollywood, two particularly fabulous sushi bars known as Ari-Ya and UMAI practically host their own Halloween parties every year. And each year, as all the fun-loving freaks and colorful characters come out of the woodwork in droves for the spooky season’s festivities, these two establishments—located on Santa Monica Boulevard, which gets shut down for the annual Halloween street party—overflow with such convivial carousing and creative costumes, you feel for a second as though it’s almost too crazy…even by West Hollywood standards.

Although their menus may be altered on this specific holiday night for the sake of efficiency, on regular days, the sashimi plate known as the “Albacore Jungle”—piled high with sautéed onion, jalapeno and garlic—can be requested at Ari-Ya for $16. A chef tells me another popular dish is their $16 Baby Lobster Special, which is a spicy tuna roll covered with langostino and then drizzled with sweet eel sauce and laden with green onions on top.

Ari-Ya offers a baked crab hand roll for $7 that’s simply to die for: one bite and you are suddenly able to come to terms with all that’s wrong with L.A.—the traffic, the congestion, the cost of living—because at this very moment, as the spicy creamy mayonnaise, avocado and fresh real crab melt in your mouth, the perfectly seasoned sushi rice harmoniously coalescing with the soy paper, it dawns on you that this is one of the things that is just right about living in the Southland: being close to food like this.

Just for fun (and when is it not for fun in WeHo?), you have a choice between the Superman Burrito and the Tempura Burrito, both wrapped with soy paper and containing a base of sushi rice and avocado. (I am informed by the chef that the Superman version is more popular, as it contains spicy tuna and baby lobster, whereas the Tempura Burrito has shrimp tempura, asparagus and imitation crab).

If you happen to stop by during lunch, the “kitchen special” menu may catch your eye—appetite-satiating portions are served at reasonable prices starting at $9.99, and the choices range from black cod misoyaki to grilled albacore steak, all served with miso soup and salad. For $4 more, you even have the option to add mixed tempura or a sushi roll (the standard spicy tuna, California, or Shrimp Tempura roll; or perhaps the mysterious-sounding one called the Crunch Ari-Ya).

For those curious to try an unusual appetizer at Ari-Ya (and don’t mind a hot dish and an inundation of spicy mayo—which I don’t), I recommend the Rock Shrimp and Eggplant special, which is as tasty as it is unprecedented (at least I’ve never stumbled upon such an unusual marrying of ingredients thus far in my Japanese restaurant journeys).

8730 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

Note: As of 2014, Ari-Ya has been replaced by a sushi restaurant called NORI

No comments :