Opened in 1987, Nobu-San has credited Matsuhisa for introducing Japanese-Peruvian cuisine (aka fusion) to American diners. Not only do i agree, I’d also credit it for saving the 80’s, objectively the worst decade since the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s. So we’ve got a Fancy neighborhood. Los Angeles. 35 year old restaurant.
You’d expect the prices to be through the roof. But the reality is that they’re somehow not. I visited in February 2022, and Matsuhisa’s Sushi only Omakase was a tidy $110 for 14 courses, including a miso soup and 13 sushi plates, all at the very same counter where every dude in Southern California that’s name dropped a celebrity to impress a first date has sat.
What to order
Now there’s a bit of a trick to the $110 Omakase. It’s not actually called that on the menu. It’s called a Sushi Plate. There is an “Omakase” listed on the menu, but it’s $125, $180 and up. The catch? It’s not just sushi – all the other classic fusion dishes show up as well.
The Sushi Plate, smartly featuring seasonal seafood and prepared by the experienced hands of a few Matsuhisa vets behind the counter, is served course-by-course for those at the counter. In other words, it functions just like any Omakase you’ve had recently. You’re welcome for the tip. But is it worth your time if you’re living 10 minutes away (75 with traffic)? Let’s find out…
The nigiri are….heavy
One thing become apparent on first course. The nigiri at Matsuhisa are not light on rice. Tai with shiso was an intelligent addition of a strong taste to a white-fleshed fish that can sometimes use it.
And if it was stopped there, great. But the added salt was extensive. Same levels as Warriors fans after the 2019 NBA finals.
I also didn’t love the accompaniments added to the other Neta.
Shima Aji had peppers on top, the Uni had truffle oil and the O Toro had jalapeños. All fit with the fusion theme, so you may enjoy the additions. I’ll always prefer simplicity.
The good news is that the fusion style doesn’t mean that the Neta isn’t traditional. It is. Botan Ebi (served with the heads on), Sayori, Akamatsu, Aji (introduced as Sawara) all are on the menu.
And despite the inconsistent shari volume, the flavor of the rice is anything but. Like many of you, I prefer my rice on the stronger side. Matsuhisa’s fits my sensibilities, the direct result of 35 years of refinement and learned knowledge.
Nowhere is that more evident than with the Ikura mini don, a sweet concoction sprinkled with nori and a little minced ginger and served in a small cup, is a true highlight.
These offerings don’t come cheap. And neither does the city. So to get it at $110 – when a drink at the club next door costs about that – is a win for me and all the little LA legends out there.
And that’s despite the clientele.
True story: the guy next to us insisted on ordering directly from the Itamae. Even cooked dishes. Well, at Matsuhisa, there are waiters serving tables and counter who’s job is to bring the orders to the kitchen.
So a bizarre dance soon emerged. Customer orders from itamae. Itamae summons waiter to the customer. Relays the order. Off goes the waiter.
If you can stomach the guy next to you, Matsuhisa is Recommended.