Olympic Collection brings back many memories - that complex on the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle with its boutique shops, restaurants and bakeries anchored around an event space - was the answer, back in college, whenever anyone asked where we wanted to eat. There was the college kid wallet friendly udon place, Mishima - that wasn't too rough on the palate either (back then). Same goes for Hong Kong Cafe (decent offering of authentic Chinese without long drive to SGV). And a laid back bar on the first floor, if we wanted to drink and hang out a bit afterwards.
Now, 'all grown up' - even if just on a cellular level, not so much mental/ emotional - I still love to visit the area to indulge cravings for quirky/tasty snacks like chocolate filled koala shaped cookies, and chips so spicy the bag features an image of a grandma breathing unseen fire into the air, at Nijiya Market across the street. Recently the much buzzed about Tsujita, with its Tsukemen (cooled noodles you dip into fish/pork broth slow cooked for hours!) just opened a lil ways down as well - and I cant wait to try it. But on a rather hot day, I decided to go with Kiriko Sushi, on the 1st floor of Olympic Collection.
But I had heard great things about Kiriko's specialty sushi / sashimi and decided that should be my first experience of the place...
First up: Miso soup and salad - these were classics, well executed. Both tasted incredibly fresh and a nice way to kick off the meal.
I LOVED that they don't play it safe with standard slices of fish first, but dive straight into service of more exciting sea creatures / sea creature parts.
'foie gras of the sea' on the platter! Apparently this comes from one of the ugliest fish in the sea, but its liver at least is beautiful and full of vitamins and minerals that are good for you. This was the freshest monkfish liver I've ever had (ok, so from a big sample size of two) - texture that's silky smooth, lush and somewhere between butter and firm tofu, rich but subtle flavor that is to me like a nutty and less bold version of lobster tomalley.
The topping of fermented soybean sauce makes it more like a Japanese tapas item and gives it extra flavor without overwhelming the natural richness of what I'm just gonna call 'monkfish foie'. Loved this.
Clam can be tough if not cooked right, but Kiriko's preparation was perfect, soft yet slightly chewy, juicy and tasting of fresh ocean water.
In the middle atop a shiso leaf are Albacore Tuna slices with fried shallots and tobiko- this would probably tie for my favorite of the plate - albacore tuna doesn't have much star power on its own, and in contrast to other fish that I would want to taste in a clean, pure way - when put in unusual combination with fried shallots (for crunchy explosions of pungent flavor) and tobiko (lovely bursts of subtle salinity), and unique taste of the shiso leaf, was elevated to bites of beauty.
Lastly, to the far right, my other tie for favorite item on the plate: Tako Sakurani (tender Japanese octopus slices) with a thin line of ponzu sauce. Loved the unusual cut of octopus, which almost took on a squid like appearance and textural quality. The ponzu sauce also cut through nicely with bit of tartness.
Then came a series of sushi rolls, starting with Toro sushi - a nice, fatty and perfectly sized piece of tuna over a well-formed and just barely perceptibly warm rice roll.
The color, texture (lightly pan-fried so that the skin has an exquisite, slight, salty smokiness, and the outside is just barely cooked while the inside is still tender and raw), taste are all beautiful. Top it off with a dab of yuzu kosho ( A fermented paste made of yuzu rind, chili peppers, and salt) for tart/bitter/heat and it's perfection in a roll.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed the unusual offerings more, but also preferred the ones that let the clean flavors of the sea creatures shine.
Though $46 is much more than I would normally spend on lunch, I found the omakase at Kiriko worth the splurge - if nothing else, as a defiant reaffirmation of this phase of my life (yes, I've long graduated from the Mishimas of the world - I make my own money and this is how I choose to enjoy it...cue Destiny's Child song?).
On the flip side, when I do get back to the realities of my regular budget, I will have their $15 lunch deal to look forward to checking out as well.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
11301 Olympic Blvd #102, West Los Angeles, CA 90064