One truly extraordinary perk of living in our epicurean empire is that when we’re emboldened enough to break free from our self-created culinary bubble, we can explore other palates prepared with nothing shy of a Michelin pedigree. In this, we may be incomparably spoiled. But fools we’d be not to ride that foodie train as far and often as possible.
And in this case, to Japan. Washoku is traditional Japanese cuisine; small plates, often shared, harmonizing season and fare. Imari, the much-anticipated restaurant concept generated by Restauranteur Philip Camino (Fellow, The Hudson, Earthbar) and Chefs David Schlosser (Shibumi) and Derek Wilcox (formerly Shoji), has spawned an art of cuisine, presentation, and tradition that is a masterclass in all three.
Authenticity, in this case, is an objective absolute: no grey in adherence to tradition. The seafood is either locally sourced or flown in daily from Japan. Japan, to LAX, to Imari. The sought-after beatific bounty that blesses Southern California, infused generously. Example. In each Bento Box, the pickles are made in house, in small batches. Japanese salt combines with a special filtration system that recreated the pH and salinity found in Japan’s water. Legit.
The inspiration to go full service followed an extraordinarily successful launch of Imari’s Bento Boxes, which will continue to be available for take-out or delivery. August 25th initiated the dine-in experience destined to become a Brentwood boon.
And so it has. We visited on day four. The place was electrified.
The dinner menu is broken down into starters (zensai), sides (fukusai), entrees (shusai), hand rolls (temaki), rice and soup (gohan and shiru), and dessert (mizumono).
Striped jack sashimi with ponzu and shaved red onion. Japanese Wagyu Steak with fresh wasabi and sea salt. Free-range Chicken Gyoza with chives, miso, and sansho oil.
We started with the tomato with fresh yuba and sea salt. What arrived was a rainbow of luscious, with the slightest accentuation of what was naturally, organically, a delicacy, picked and presented to perfection. This is the rigour here. Even the simple is exquisite.
The sashimi of the moment, sliced so thin you could read an eye chart through it, is a bit of a revelation. There is sushi. But then there is this.
The grilled striped bass with lotus root is buttery, melt in your mouth. And both the Hirame and Marinated Tuna handrolls are truly next level. No soy sauce needed.
Desserts are a Sweet Rose collaboration, and in staying true to their local sourcing, is sourced just a few steps out the door. I recommend the milk ice cream with fresh mochi and sweet green pea.
And the service. The colorful conduits of clarification for those of us who need a lot of it. If Polo is working, he’s worth waiting for. Fun and wonderful.
What appears modern and minimalist is an intentional platform designed to showcase Japanese cuisine at its most authentic, most divine. Indoor and expansive under the star seating is available, the Sake program is exemplary, and Sommelier Scott Lester, he takes us on an exploratory journey one thoughtful sip at a time (Gentilini, Wild Paths… yes). It may be a bit before we can jaunt to Japan. But Brentwood, until then, can grant us one seriously glorious taste.
Imari, 13050 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States.
Tel: +1(310) 451-7733
Located on the Westside in Brentwood, Los Angeles. If driving, take San Vicente to 26th Street. You will find street parking available. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Washoku Style Japanese Restaurant
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: Make reservations as far ahead as you can. It’s a small place, and the buzz is justified. Imari shares space with the Brentwood Country Mart. High end hipster shopping haven. Factor into your plans if this speaks to you.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs courtesy of Imari