Sunday, June 8, 2008

Daichan Kaiten-Sushi - restaurant review

While driving up Sawtelle Blvd. one day, I happened to just look over at the Olympic Collection plaza, which I used to frequent when Mishima was still located there but haven't visited still Mishima moved to Third Street. I noticed a sign for Daichan which also indicated that it was a kaiten sushi place, so I decided I needed to try that sometime. It turned out that they've been there for three years, so I must really have not been paying attention.

One of the nice things about the Olympic Collection is that they have underground parking, with the businesses providing validation stamps. Daichan's validation is for an hour, which is plenty of time for lunch. The businesses can be a little hard to find because for some reason, the trees have been allowed to grow so that they cover the front of the businesses. Yeah, it looks nice from the street, but it sure hides the businesses too. Daichan is located right next to Sawtelle, which is why I even saw the sign in the first place. There's a really slow elevator that you can take up or you can opt for the stairs or escalator.

It was about 1:15pm when I got there, and it wasn't too crowded. It didn't look like they had anything other than seats at the revolving sushi bar (I didn't look around the restaurant that much), but there were two four-top tables adjacent to the bar. I ended up sitting right in front of where the two sushi chefs were situated, so that was kind of nice. The other revolving sushi places I've been have been set up so that the conveyer belt goes in a circle, but this one was almost like two half-moons, one going one way and the other going the opposite direction behind it. The seating wasn't completely circular, more like the half-moon, so that's probably why they have to have the second belt to double back to the start.

Conveniently enough, someone has posted a short video of the bar from the perspective of the four-top table at the end. I was about 5 or 6 seats away from the end table. I guess *everything* is on YouTube now.

I ordered hot green tea and water from the server and then turned my attention to the belt and menu.

There was a sign posted on the belt that they had some kind of revolutionary technology where they track the plates so that any plate that sits on the belt for past an hour is automatically discarded. That sounds well and good, but I'm not sure I'd want sushi that's been circulating for 45 minutes, so I think I'd expect any kaiten sushi place to be able to somehow keep track of the plates and take them off if they've been on there too long.

The menu had a listing of non-sushi items that were available as well as a listing of the prices and items that came in each plate color.

There weren't too many things on the belt, but given that it wasn't too crowded, that sort of made sense. You wouldn't want to have too many things circling with no one to take them, and since the chefs were readily available to make orders on request, that wasn't a problem.

I had a plate of seaweed salad, which was very tasty, and I tried a couple of different types of fish like salmon, yellowtail and halibut, as well as a spicy tuna roll and a salmon skin roll. The spicy tuna roll was a decent size, cut into five big pieces, but the salmon skin roll was five smallish pieces. However, that wasn't a problem, because the salmon skin roll wasn't too expensive, and normally, a salmon skin roll is so big that I'm not able to eat much else. The fish was generally quite good, but the rice with the sushi was packed harder than I prefer.

They had ankimo listed on the menu, so I ordered that. When I've had it in other places, it's either been kind of smooth, like uni, or shaped into a cylinder and then cut into slices. This version was like it had been shaped in a cylinder and then cut into tiny little cubes and then put into a seaweed and rice cup. Made this way, I didn't think you could really get the flavor of the ankimo, which was also a bit drier than I prefer. I won't be ordering ankimo there again.

I also had an order of uni, which was good but not quite as flavorful as I generally prefer. My last order was ikura, and the chef asked if I wanted it with a quail egg, so I then decided to explain to him the tres huevos, which he did manage to make, and it looked good too, so I give him credit for that. One thing I did notice with the ankimo, uni and tres huevos is that the cups they make to hold them are smaller than I've seen pretty much anywhere else, so it ends up being a smaller portion. It was especially noticeable with the tres huevos since the quail egg took up much more space than normal.

The sushi chefs were very nice, and the older one made it a point of greeting me and another party when we were first seated. The younger one was who ended up making all my cup sushi, and he was nice as well. Otherwise, the wait staff was ok, but I noticed that whereas the people seated next to me were offered refills of their iced green tea, I had to ask for refills of my hot green tea on two separate occasions. Now, that may have been because it was easier to see how much liquid there was in their glass containers rather than my ceramic one, but I would think that making sure tea is refilled would be a standard concern at a sushi bar, especially when there's not as much for the staff to do.

Overall, I was satisfied with the restaurant. The fish was good, but it didn't blow me away. The prices are ok, and I figure I'll visit periodically and just know what to order and what not to order.

Here's a link to a page that has a link to their menu. Not really sure why they have a different name for the restaurant.

Daichan Kaiten-Sushi
Revolving Sushi and Fine Japanese Dining
Olympic Collection, Second Floor
11301 Olympic Blvd, Suite 203
Los Angeles, CA 90064

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