Imari – Los Angeles

Imari Tofu
Imari Tofu

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.

Imari Interior
Imari Interior

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.

Imari Tomato Yuba
Tomato with fresh Japanese yuba

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.

Hand Roll
Hand Rolls

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.

Fresh Salad
Fresh Salad

The Details

Imari, 13050 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States.

Tel: +1(310) 451-7733

Website: www.imari-la.com

Email: info@imari-la.com

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

Author Bio:

Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.

Photographs courtesy of Imari

32 Comments

  1. That tomato picture though!! Yumm!! Kind of hilarious that they make their own pickles with salt flown in from Japan. In an awesome way.

  2. Sushi is one of the few things I can’t bring myself to go cheap on. This place sounds like the real deal. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Sounds amazing. Although strange there aren’t any Japanese names at the helm of the project? But great descriptions. It’s on my radar. Thanks.

  4. I made a reservation. This is exactly what my husband and I need in a restaurant. Thanks you, Jolie, for another amazing insight!

  5. There is no question in the quality of this experience, is there? You know how some pictures and menus have you wondering if it’s REALLY as good as it claims? This just FEELS like there are no holes. How would you compare this experience to Nobu?

    • Great question. I’ve never Nobu’d, but I’m wondering if anyone else can weigh in. Please don’t stop reading my reviews.

  6. Yum, we love Japanese food. Thanks for the wonderful write up, it made me hungry! We will definitely have to give this one a try.

  7. Sounds absolutely delicious. I love your vivid descriptions, Jolie. They do bring me there. Thank you for the recommendation!

  8. Imari was spectacular — both very special and accessible. We love Japanese food and everything we ate was incredibly precise — thoughtfully presented with exacting and deep flavor. The fresh tomato and yuba — so simple, but with texture and understated, but deep flavor. The handrolls — we ordered two. And then we ordered two more. I mean . . .

    The grilled striped bass was outstanding and then we finally got to dessert. The milk ice cream was unexpected but a perfect ending to the meal.

    Don’t skip the sake selection. I tried the Koshi no Kanbai and the Masumi. Both were outstanding complements to the meal, but the Koshi no Kanbai is definitely special.

    The service was outstanding and gave us an education as we were eating. This is not a standard “neighborhood” joint, but those who live in Brentwood or east Santa Monica will appreciate this type of restaurant being so close.

    This is a must try.

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