Japanese kappo cuisine is on the menu at Shibumi Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Choose from an a la carte menu or do the omakase experience for one of a kind dishes.
I've been spending a decent amount of time lately dining in downtown Los Angeles. With the metro now connecting Santa Monica to the city center, it's easier than ever to make a trip. My last downtown dining adventure was at 71 Above, coupled with some culture at the Broad Museum. It was going to be hard to top that evening, but on this evening's line up was a Leslie Odom show at Disney Hall, preceded by dinner at Shibumi.
Shibumi has received glowing reviews from the local critics (LA Weekly gave it a rare 4 stars), so I've been anxious to check it out. David Schlosser is the chef. He's a Santa Monica native who has spent time at some high-end restaurants in Los Angeles like L'Orangerie (may it rest in peace) and L'Arpege in Paris (may it continue to thrive and survive). But it was his time in Japan that was the most impactful and eventually led him to open Shibumi in downtown LA.
Shibumi is a kappo-style restaurant where seasonal ingredients take center stage, along with the chef, who prepares the food in front of his guests. Schlosser stands at a long counter, carved from a 400-year-old cypress tree. You can grab a front row seat at the cypress bar to watch the chef in action. Or you can sit at one of the few tables to take it all in. Shibumi only seats 40 people so reserve early.
The menu changes often, but you can expect to start with an interesting cocktail like a savory shibumi negroni or for something more refreshing, try the blanco tequila, bitter almond, and lime. The two drinks make the perfect sweet and savory yin and yang. There's also a collection of sake, shochu, beer, wine, and cider.
There's an option to purchase the $90 omakase where Schlosser takes care of you and gives you a best of menu experience, but with concert tickets, we didn't have time to indulge. We chose from the short, but unique a la carte menu.
We were steered towards starting with the seaweed shots, which I assumed was going to be like a shooter of green juice, but I was oh so wrong. Chunks of fresh and salty seaweed were marinated in a light vinegar sauce with grapes. That woke my taste buds up and got them ready for the rest of the meal.
Next, we got what looked like a mayo filled potato salad. It was actually persimmon with whipped tofu and ginko nuts. The nuts had a chewiness to them but added different texture to the dish. Was it my favorite? No, but it was way better than potato salad!
We continued to explore Schlosser's unique creations by trying his homemade caviar. He cured fish eggs for 30 days in-house to create the dish. It was super salty, which I liked, but a little tricky to eat given it was presented in flakes that weren't wholly firm, so picking it up was a bit challenging. Interesting again, but not my favorite dish.
The Japanese sea bream was beautifully presented in a spiral on one of the many gorgeous plates used at Shibumi. The flavors were very subtle and delicate. It was simply adorned with a light touch of ginger and pickled plum rice wine.
Our favorite dish was the grilled California Holstein beef. It was presented two ways with two different toppings. The first had strong fresh wasabi that offered a kick while the second had sweeter pickled Japanese cucumbers. The meat was tender and flavorful.
Schlosser is doing some really unique things at Shibumi. He's creating different dishes that highlight well-sourced ingredients. Do I respect the work he's doing? That I do. Will I be dreaming of any of the plates I ate, anxious for more? I will not. Maybe it was too subtle for me. I tried to grab the nuance but always found myself searching for something more. I'd be curious to try Shibumi again on another night with a different menu, but for now, I'd rather return to 71 Above for a fabulous meal, though of course there are many more places to explore!
815 S. Hill, Downtown Los Angeles