Sunday, June 29, 2014

Get Comfortable at Irori Sushi of Marina Del Rey

Irori Sushi creates that certain magic that occurs when traditional Japanese cuisine blends perfectly with a daring twist of fusion, combining a medley of exotic ingredients along with familiar Americanized flavors.

Situated in a shopping complex in the seaside city of Marina Del Rey, Irori Sushi makes sure you feel right at home with their “no-shoes” policy (you are asked to remove your shoes and place them in a cubbyhole right as you enter). And should you happen to not be wearing any socks as you awkwardly tiptoe in, don’t worrythe hostess will hand you a pair of black nylon ones, which look like the little try-on socks you don at a shoe store…the better to protect their delicate tatami floors, another fine feature of this relaxed and intimate dining experience.

You can choose to sit at the sunken sushi bar—the hostess lifts the legless, light-as-air chair so that you can position yourself on what is essentially an elevated floor in the establishment before she tucks the cushioned faux-chair underneath you—or you may want to sit at one of the many sunken tables, which seat three to eight people, depending on the size of the table or whether the table is designed against a wall.

One of the most popular plates here is the “Salmon Blue Crab,” which is shaped like a sushi roll, but without using rice or seaweed. Quite simply, it’s a special item that features blue crab and avocado wrapped with salmon sashimi and then topped with white truffle oil, ponzu sauce, micro arugula and miniature edible flowers. It’s $24 for this six-piece wonder that will leave you in awe for hours.

For a nontraditional approach to bluefin tuna, you can choose between the Bluefin Burrata Sashimi (with Burrata cheese, Balsamic Reduction, yuzu and kai salt) and the Bluefin Delight Sashimi (with a creamy miso-based Nuta sauce, mirin and brown sugar). Both plates cost $28 and come with six pieces of the coveted bluefin. It may be a matter of personal taste, but the Bluefin Burrata blew me away, particularly the way the rich Italian cheese coalesced with the tart balsamic.

Although the "Kanpachi Caviar" dish was fresh and the citrus flavor resonated with me, I found it to be a bit of a misnomer, for part of the name was actually referring to lime caviar, or the tiny gelatinous balls bursting with lime flavor, rather than fish eggs, as I’d thought. (I’ve only seen something similar one time, and that was the lemon caviar served with king crab at the now-defunct Kumo of Hollywood, although on Kumo's menu, it had specified “lemon caviar” and “orange caviar.”)

Taking my taste buds to a whole new level, I ventured to order the “Filet Mignon Uni,” which came with spinach, red wine sauce, balsamic glaze and grated shiso. The chef briefly seared the entire dish with his torch. The result? A rather curious dish with a woodsy pungence. The spears of asparagus (as well as the sauces) actually added a lot to the flavors, offsetting some of the gamey taste that might occur when you pair raw sea urchin with rare filet mignon.

Drawing upon a photo a fan of Irori Sushi had posted online, I asked the chef to make me an oyster and uni shooter with some good ol’ yamaimo—otherwise known as the white Japanese mountain yam—sticking out of the shot glass. Trust me, it makes a good chaser, and beats most super saccharine post-sushi desserts.

Irori Sushi
4371 Glencoe Ave., Marina Del Rey

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