(Play the music to enjoy your Mori Sushi journey while reading!)
LA is no doubt a sushi paradise. There is a wide variety of places ranging from those offering a more “Americanized” menu to those that are more traditional that specialize in sushi as an art form. What I find intriguing is how sushi is viewed in Japan. When thinking about great sushi, my friend Lorin Shamos, a fellow sushi devotee, evoked the image of Mount Fuji – the great mountain that stands as nature’s mascot for Japan. Tall, big and seemingly always snowcapped, it is a reminder of the perfection and attention to detail that hums under Japanese culture and especially their food. In Japan, a sushi chef is considered an artist that designs a culinary experience for his guests that demonstrates his mastery of the art and his skill – the personification of Mount Fuji. Recently, I discovered Mori Sushi. I began my first steps up the great Mount Fuji of Japanese cuisine that certainly took my experience to a new artistic level.
Mori Sushi, awarded a Michelin Star, is a jewel tucked away in an unassuming place in West Los Angeles. Everything about Mori is a delight to the senses – from the Zen vibe as you walk in to the attention to the smallest detail throughout your experience. First of all, the rice is of the highest quality. It is grown in Sacramento by a farmer originally from Japan and then shipped unhulled to Mori’s to ensure its freshness. Finally it is polished daily on site for maximum taste. Secondly, the soy sauce is also handcrafted on site as well, which greatly enhances and complements the sushi and sashimi served during my visits by the excellent sushi chefs, Taketoshi Azumi and Yoshiyuki Inoue . The house prepared soy sauce is delicate and truly enhances your sushi and sashimi experience at Mori.
Lunch is my favorite time to dine out for a couple of reasons. First, it is a little less crazy than dinner. People tend to eat lunch depending on their work schedule and the groups are usually just 2 or 3 people, which makes it less noisy. I also think it is easier for the wait staff to be more attentive than in the evening when there are people standing around waiting for a table. Second, there are “lunch” specials which can help make sushi at Mori’s a little more on the affordable side, but the quality of every ingredient is just as high as if you chose Omakase.
My favorite lunch special at Mori is Chirashi, which is an assortment of sashimi – tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp, albacore, and red snapper on top of a bowl of Mori’s amazing sushi rice. The sushi rice is unique and wonderfully favorful with a surprisingly tasty addition of ginger. The little touches that rounds out the balance of the dish were the small sampling of Kohnomono or japanese pickles, delicately flavored with a great crunch, and the light tamagoyaki. To add to the delightful small touches, the Chirashi as well as all lunch specials begin with a small green salad with a house prepared carrot ginger dressing that is wonderful. Next comes the miso soup that is prepared from scratch and is like no other I have ever tasted.
My sushi partner-in-crime, Lorin and I have dined several times at Mori. Each time we go we venture to try items that you don’t normally find on most sushi menus. Yuko, our server, recommended the Japanese Cherry Blossom Trout sushi. It was a beautiful pale pink and had a mild sweet flavor and a silky texture. On another occasion we tried an appetizer of pieces of baby Japanese eggplant grilled and topped with a miso and sake glaze garnished with grilled Shishito peppers – amazing! However, our favorite cut roll is the tuna with jalapeno slices – Mori’s version of spicy tuna. The roll is perfect. Usually spicy tuna rolls are mushy with hot oil and mayonnaise. This roll is beautiful in its simplicity with just the sliced tuna and the fresh, crunchy jalapeno slices with the right amount of heat.
The service at Mori’s is outstanding and adds an element of serenity to the dining experience. There is no detail overlooked here. Even the ceramic serving pieces and other service items are handcrafted.
Mori Sushi is a unique experience of all of your senses. I think Lorin summed it up very well. “From those first steps up the sushi Mount Fuji, passing memorable sights and tastes along the way, I finally found that place where it all comes together and makes sense, a place where a meal finds Zen carefully constructed by a master who knows his way to the summit. It is a path I will surely take again.”
From the moment you enter to the staff’s welcome of “Irasshaimase” to the end of your sushi culinary journey, my enthusiastic response is “Gochiso-sama” (it was a feast!)