Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sushi Masu: The Best Thursday Ever

I hit it lucky again this term and managed to get two days off school. Seriously, having school FIVE days a week last term was waaaaay too much and I don't think I could ever handle that again. But that also means I have 7 hours of back-to-back classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday...but we don't like to talk about that.

Anyhow, I've decided to make good use of my two days off a week and dedicate the time to a new "project". That's right...a new project. Right off the top of my head, I'll label this project "Eating Beyond Wilshire". It sounds very all-expansive but really, without a car, all it really entails is eating down Westwood Blvd and extending down Pico. But that alone should take me a good amount of time anyways.

So, as an informal beginning to my project (after all, I have eaten at several restaurants "beyond" Wilshire already), I went to Sushi Masu. I've read such great things about this place and, more importantly, it's really been a long while since I've been to a REAL sushi joint. You know, places that aren't fusion or called "California Roll" and the likes.

Sushi Masu is a small place. Personally, I prefer small sushi joints...they remind me of the restaurants we'd go to in Japan and I like the relaxed atmosphere that comes in the small package. Plus, I don't know what it is, but the best sushi always seems to come from the tiny hole-in-the-wall places, which Sushi Masu was.

(Amberjack and Seared Tuna Sushi...SO FRIGGIN' GOOD!)

I grabbed a seat at the sushi bar and already, Chef Masu smiled at me and asked "first time here?" I told him I came ESPECIALLY to try this place and his smile grew even bigger as he semi-bowed his head. I fell in love with him already in those 2 minutes. I glanced over to the hand-written daily recommendations and the first thing that caught my eye: LIVE sweet shrimp.

"Live? It's still moving?"
"Yes. You like?"
"That sounds really interesting. But I've never tried..."

Shrimp in hand. Flick of knife. Live sweet shrimp sushi on my plate.
SOOOO good. It's been a long while since I had something THIS fresh.

"VERY good."

Well, the shrimp was the perfect introduction to what this place had to offer...within 5 minutes of meeting him, Chef Masu had already won over my complete trust:

"Give me whatever you think is good today"

A piece of amberjack sushi appeared before me. Into mouth. Melt. Literally. I looked up at Chef Masu, eyes glimmering almost and told him how good that was.

"Next piece even better."

The thing I love about Chef Masu is that he doesn't lie. The next piece - the seared tuna - WAS even better. This was followed by 5 other pieces of the "best sushi I've had in LA so far" (including white tuna and abalone, among others) and a perfectly sweet eel and cucumber hand roll. Every piece I plopped into my mouth induced a huge smile on my face.

My favorite was definitely the seared salmon sushi. I could smell it when Chef Masu was searing it behind the counter and was already excited. Then he placed it in front of me...the way he seared it made it look like a mini piece of art! My excitement rose. Now, the actual eating of it. WOW. I'm still thinking about it right now. The outter part of the fish tasted almost like smoked salmon (which I absolutely love) and just when I was thinking that it was the best thing ever, I was introduced to the melt-in-your-mouth texture and taste of fresh raw salmon. Two of the best forms of salmon in one bite - what more can you ask for? Want to know what love is? It's Chef Masu's seared salmon sushi!!

(Fried Shrimp Head)

And remember that live shrimp I had at the very beginning? They took the head back into the kitchen, fried it, took it back out. Better than fried calamari!! At the end of the meal, I told Chef Masu that the seared salmon was my favorite, to which he replied,

"OK, next time I give you thicker piece".
I'm so looking forward to "next time".

(Rounding off a perfect meal. Chef Masu is an artist!!)

Everything together (including a huge tip for Chef Masu and the friendly waitress) came out to about $45. Like Chef Masu said, I had a "big lunch" today...but it was worth every cent. I was a VERY happy camper.

So yes, that was my "first time" at Sushi Masu. And that's the "first time" to a WHOOOOOOOLE load of more times!!!!

And, to make today even better, after the meal, I nipped into Pink Orchid bakery next door and got a mini tub of Mashti Malone's pistachio ice cream. And, unashamedly finished the whole thing by myself. I rock.

FOOD: 4/5

Sushi Masu ($$$)
1911 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

(310) 466-4368

Monday, April 7, 2008

Good Friends, Good Food

I'm still lamenting my return to LA after having spent a (beautiful) week in New York. But there's one thing that consoles me: being back in LA means being back in the kitchen. I was reading Julia Child's My Life in France during my stay in Manhattan and not only was it an absolutely delightful read, I could feel myself itching to get back and make something. Yes, I might as well confess it out loud - when I was in NY, part of me missed Los Angeles...but ONLY for the kitchen!!

Truth is, not a lot makes me happier than cooking for people I like. It's really not JUST the food (although, of course, that makes up a huge chunk of it) but the idea as a whole. Argh, it's hard to put into words...the point is, I already had my heart set on cooking for the girls the first weekend we all got back. Saturday.

I decided to go with a Salmone in Cartoccio dish with herb and cheese puffs on the side. I'd never made this before but I think I now LOVE this cooking method (baking the fish in individual parchment "steam packets")! When reading My Life in France, one thing that really caught my attention was Julia Child's description of the beurre blanc sauce (Butter, white wine vinegar, flavored with shallots). There was a copy of the recipe in the book and I knew I HAD to try in a way, I guess going with the fish was just an excuse to try out the beurre blanc. Julia Child called it a "wonder sauce" and she was soooooo right!!!! At first, I was scared that it would be overkill if I added the sauce to the Salmon...but thank God I DID add it. It's now officially my new favorite sauce. Thank you Julia.

And what's food without wine? Of course, I'm still only a poor college kid so I had to make do with whatever we could afford. At least most cheap wine doesn't taste like absolute shit anymore - especially whites...which was good since that was what we went with. Quickly whipped up a couple of bellinis which, in my mind, are perfect when paired with salmon...and CATCHING UP!!

Foodwise, the real highlight of the night, though, was the pomegranate gin cocktail. Sososososososo good! I bought the world's cutest cocktail glasses as well so you can only imagine how stoked I was (great drink in a great cup...yes, I'm a huge serveware nerd).

And to round off the night, I made a coffee mousse cake. Yes, this was the labor of love (it took 2 days to prepare). A sponge cake base (which was dipped in vanilla syrup), topped with caramel latte biscotti and a coffee mousse. This dessert was actually an adaptation of a recipe from Claire Clark's Indulge (I bought the book a week ago and it's GREAT! I can't wait to try more things from it). The original asks for an almond sponge flavored with marzipan but: a) I was too lazy to do that and b) having blown enough money on serveware and cooking supplies already in the past few weeks, my wallet wasn't in the mood to ""splurge"" on marzipan. It also uses amaretti but neither Ralph's or Whole Foods carried it (I'm surprised they didn't at least have it at Whole Foods!) - I would NEVER have had this problem if I was back on the Upper West Side...I could just pop into Zabar's! Oh well, I used biscotti instead and it still worked fine. This dessert also gave me an excuse to try out the chocolate transfer sheets I got in New York (YES - I FINALLY have transfer sheets!!)

This was my second attempt at the whole individual mousse delices thing and, though far from perfect, I'm slowly getting the hang of it (my first go was a white chocolate and hazelnut delice...but I hated it and didn't bother taking photos at all. We shall not mention it again). I'm having a mousse cake phase right now so if you happen to live near me...I'm VERY sorry - you're going to have to put up with a lot of those in the next few weeks.

And again, with transfer sheet chocolate discs

All in all, I loved Saturday. I'm hoping I'll have more time to cook this term (after all, I do have 2 days off school). In all honesty, this is all you need: Good Friends, Good Food, (Good) Wine

...oh, and Love!!

Pomegranate Gin Cocktail

2 parts gin
1 part Simple syrup
1 part lime juice
1/2 part pomegranate molasses

Shake in a cockatil shaker with ice. Strain into tall glass and top with slub soda.