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  • Writer's picturethe_maestro

The Brothers Sushi – Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles is probably the best sushi city in the United States. New Yorkers may @ me, but much of the better sushi in NYC, while world class, is geared toward the expense account crowd. My favorite Eater critic, Ryan Sutton, wrote brilliantly about the cadre of “Sushi Bros” that have invaded NYC sushi dens looking to flash their young money. This, too, has been my experience with sushi in New York City, though I must admit I haven’t done much exploring of their second-tier sushi scene, and also that my meal at Sushi Noz is still pretty easily the greatest sushi meal I’ve ever had, and competes for my best meal ever. Los Angeles, meanwhile, seems much more diverse in its more-crowded sushi offerings, and you can find “best of the best” type fish at literally dozens of locations at every tier.

After taking a mental break from travel, which involved canceling trips to Alaska and Greece at the last minute, I decided to take a little jaunt out west as a “last hurrah” the weekend before classes started. Mostly this was because I’d abruptly bailed on my buddy Kayleigh, who lives in Alaska and had planned to join me there, when I canceled that trip, and since she was going to Vegas for her first time by herself, I figured she could use a (rather) experienced Vegas sherpa as compensation for bailing on her before. When evaluating flights on my new airline, American, the cheapest option to get west was to LA first, and on an internationally-configured 777-300 no less, where I could book their rather plush Flagship First for the price of a domestic first ticket. SO nice. The flight was too short…

The tricky thing about sushi in LA is a) choosing where to go and b) getting a reservation. The Brothers Sushi, deep on the west side of the San Fernando Valley (the epicenter of sushi in America) in Woodland Hills, is a mid-range spot that’s been around for years. Since it was on multiple “best of” lists and had plenty of spots available for lunch, a small miracle given that most sushi dens in the city are still closed because of COVID or only offering dinner (I had dinner plans––stay tuned for those).

The building exudes southern California grungy white stucco, with the name of the restaurant in cursive neon lights on the outside, and the dining room is bright and welcoming. The staff confirmed with me that I wanted their “Modern Omakase” menu, poured me a glass of sake, and it was off to the races, with me having absolutely no idea what was on the docket (the way to go)!

Chawanmushi is a type of Japanese custard and was the first course of the day, made with sweet corn from the farmer’s market, which is in season in California, served with sea succulents, and topped with two beautiful lobes of Santa Barbara uni. Gloriously sweet and pillowy, and the perfect vehicle for the sweet-saline glory of the urchin.

A cloche filled with smoke enclosed the next dish––two beautiful slices of “dry aged” amberjack in a sort of shiso broth with a dollop of sweet miso at the bottom and topped with beautiful microgreens and petals. Though the smoke didn’t add much to the dish, the fish was perfect––snappy and fresh, with a lovely complexity from the aging, and the fresh vegetal zip of shiso. I was already in heaven.

The next dish I had seen profiled in various reviews on Yelp––the serving dish itself was a Japanese wafer, and inside was a bed of coral, mango, atop which was perched a glistening piece of seared foie gras. I was instructed to eat it like a sandwich, and was thrilled with the first bite, in which I managed to get the fatty umami of foie and sweetness of ripe mango in one perfectly proportioned bite.

Essentially immediately after the foie was consumed, another glass of sake was poured and a piece of cooked king salmon graced my table, complete with crispy skin, fried shiso leaf, and a koji and miso sauce beneath. This was almost perfect, but was just a shade overcooked for my liking, which made the salmon not dry, but a shade chewy, and the skin a bit hard to break apart. Still, very tasty course, and just another reinforcement of how much I love salmon.

Again immediately after the salmon was cleared, the next dish arrived, this time from the sushi bar, and look at this presentation! Beluga caviar topped some pristine slices of bluefin tuna, which was in turn graced with a condiment of what I believe was red miso and wasabi stems. But the whimsical element, a salt-and-pepper fried river crab, was what gave me life, and it was edible! Not much flavor there, but a cool element, indeed. Meanwhile, the bluefin was perfectly toothsome, with the caviar granting a nice salinity to contrast with the sweeter miso condiment.

I was a little flabbergasted that I was getting so much food at this price, and with a lot of pretty impressive luxury ingredients to boot. Caviar and foie for lunch? Wow. I could not have guessed that more luxury was to come, first in the form of a halved and baked king crab leg with a creamy, slightly peppery sauce perfectly proportioned atop. The crab was succulent and in no way overcooked, and generously portioned as well! While it was a bit tricky getting every last morsel from the shell, I didn’t want to waste a molecule. What a contrast to certain recent king crab dishes I’ve had!

More luxury ingredients? Why not, it seems––on a spattering and hot little iron table, two cubes of Miyazaki A5 wagyu were searing alongside sweet onions, oyster mushrooms, and a shishito pepper. Holy shit. I had to put my napkin in the collar of my shirt like a fat WASP at a country club to dodge the spatter, but let me tell y’all, it was worth it. Each ingredient on the dish with the beef was marinating and cooking in wagyu fat, and a “special” ponzu was served alongside for dipping. How much was this meal again? Did I read the price right?!

I splurged for a glass of their “favorite” sake for the pairing with the sushi course, and I am glad I did, because this Daiginjo, called “Ken,” might be the best sake I’ve had. It was the balance of the sake that stood out the most. While I’m no sake connoisseur, to be sure, this is a bottle I will certainly seek out.

Sushi, some of the best I’ve had, was next. From left to right:

- Chu-toro, my favorite bluefin cut, simply prepared with shoyu. Jesus.

- Black snapper from Japan, with a shiso leaf beneath. Shiso is blowing my mind these days.

- Kinmedai, or goldeneye snapper, with finger lime. So good, but a shade too tangy with the condiment. Could have used some balance.

- Jack with plum and ginger. Ded.

- Santa Barbara uni, and one of the first times I have seen it without nori around it! I dig.

Despite the fact that I had feasted on so many prepared dishes, I was a bit bummed to learn that sushi only included those five pieces. I came here for sushi, after all! So, being flush with time and full of sake, I asked for chef’s choice of five more. Here they were, again from starboard to port:

- Torched sea perch with lime (sksksksksk as the kids say)

- Ora king belly with caviar (OH MY GOD).

- Hotate (scallop) with yuzu kosho, one of my favorite types of sushi with one of my favorite condiments.

- Mirugai (geoduck), again with finger lime.

- Amaebi, or spot prawn from Santa Barbara, one of the greatest things that you can possibly consume. The head of the prawn (not pictured) is traditionally served fried, and I normally don’t really care for it, not just because it’s weird eating something with eyes but also because I kinda find the head guts and bug-like legs of the prawn revolting to eat, but this version was the absolute best I’d had, and I managed to eat all of it.

My god, people. I miss California so much. It’s a catastrophe out here for cost of living and climate change (and also recall elections), but the food is still just unbeatable. I’d buy a house in Santa Barbara just so I could come back and eat their uni, spot prawns, and spiny lobsters, and drink their pinot noir. Maybe that’s where I’m headed one day.

A clam broth soup closed the savory portion of the meal, and afterward a matcha cheesecake was my sweet bite for dessert. So good.

I have to say I came into The Brothers feeling like I had “settled,” since I wasn’t able to score a seat at a shinier spot. I even drove to Q in downtown LA, which recently got a Michelin star, to see if I could get in there instead of The Brothers, thinking, foolishly, that it would be better because it had more hype. I am so glad that Q turned out to be closed for lunch. This meal at The Brothers ranks among my top five sushi meals of all time, and while if I had to do it over I’d opt for even more sushi, or perhaps one of their more sushi-focused omakase options, I have never been more impressed by an omakase that comes in at less than $200. Of the thousands of sushi spots in the Valley, I can see why this is listed consistently among the very best.

Los Angeles… what a city! My love-hate relationship with LA continues, this time in the direction of love. And wait until you see the report from my dinner. Lord have mercy!

Reviews from Salt Lake and Vegas are up after LA, as well as a bit of an examination of the peculiar Vegas culinary universe. Both of you, stay tuned!

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