12 Dec Sushi|Bar Encino – A Sushi Experience
The last time I had dinner in Encino was in 2016 at Chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s Scratch|Bar, a restaurant on the second floor of a strip mall that offers nightly tasting menus featuring seasonal ingredients. Two years ago, hidden behind Scratch|Bar, he opened up Sushi|Bar, an Omakase Speakeasy that serves a 17 course sushi meal for $125 per person. I love sushi and am always game to try a new place and added this to my list. And finally I made it for dinner.
Sushi|Bar is not your typical sushi bar and much more like a speakeasy. We made our reservation for 6pm and were told to arrive 30 minutes early for a welcome cocktail. We arrived at the mall, took the escalator to the second floor and found an unmarked door with a doorbell. We rang the bell, gave our names, and were invited in to a small room with a bar and some tables. We had arrived promptly at 5:30pm and we were the first people there.
We were welcomed with a drink of sake, lemon juice and ginger. And, as we enjoyed our drink, a few more guests arrived took seats and had their drinks.
Promptly at 6pm, we were invited to follow the hostess into Sushi|Bar. There were a total of six of us. Sushi|Bar can accommodate a total of eight people at a time. There are actually two sushi bars, one with reservations at 6pm and 8pm and one with reservations at 5pm, 7pm and 9pm.
We were guided past Scratch|Bar through the dish-washing room and to an outdoor area that seemed like the back of the building. We arrived at a wooden door and the hostess knocked. The door opened and we were welcomed into the sushi bar. Three men, chef Lennon Lee, his sous-chef and a barman were standing behind a large wooden bar wearing white shirts with the sleeves rolled up, ties and aprons. The two chefs had wooden boards and knives in front of them. Chef Lennon Lee, the brother of Chef Phillip Frankland Lee, oversees Sushi|Bar in Santa Barbara but had come down to Los Angeles for the nigh, which was lucky for us.
We were told to take a seat. Each seat was marked by a small chalkboard with our names on it. Music played in the background and we were welcomed.
The day’s offerings were written on the back wall, over the ice bin containing fresh fish.
In front of each setting was a flat slate square for each piece of sushi, a wooden coaster for drinks, a glass of water, a small bowl filled with cucumber, ginger, and vinegar (a palate cleanser) and a small bamboo holder with a wet towel for wiping your fingers. There was no silverware, no napkins and no chopsticks. We were informed that we should eat with our hands.
We were also asked if we wanted anything to drink with our pending meal. The barman explained the offerings: a sake pairing, a cocktail and sake pairing and the “I am driving” pairing (he joked) which was two cocktails. My friend and I opted for this last option, and shared one pairing.
And then our meal began. We watched the chefs meticulously prepare each dish. Each fish was prepared individually, using freshly grated wasabi and house-made sauces and seasonings.
Uni, avocado, mussel, sake
Spanish Bluefin tuna tartare with nori, salmon roe, avocado mousse, scallion
Hamachi with sweet corn and toasted sourdough and freshly grated wasabi
Our first cocktail, called White Silk, was made with gin, lime, fresh cucumber juice and St. Germain liqueur
Spanish Bluefin tuna toro, house soy sauce and freshly grated wasabi
Purple Peruvian scallop with leche de tigre
Black snapper, house soy sauce, Balinese salt, and house yuzukoshō with Fresno chile
Tai with chili ponzu and lemon
Shima Aji with Anaheim chile yuzukoshō, lemon, Balinese salt, house soy sauce
Seared albacore that has been wrapped in nori soaked sake and seared, then topped with garlic puree and crispy onion
Our second cocktail was a Japanese old fashioned