Finding a delicious restaurant in Los Angeles can be difficult among the city’s thousands of dining options. To help readers narrow down their search, the Daily Bruin will review restaurants located along main street boulevards near UCLA each week.
The only thing brighter than Hamasaku’s neon sign is the luminescent UPS logo of its parking lot neighbor.
Between the shabby stores alongside Santa Monica Boulevard, Hamasaku is a chic, high-end sushi restaurant with delicious rolls and extravagant takes on traditional Japanese dishes. However, despite its smorgasbord of sumptuous sushi options, each dish is extremely pricy, making it a good spot for a special occasion but not for an everyday meal.
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Hamasaku is a smaller restaurant that features table-dining options as well as a long sushi bar. The atmosphere is upscale, with verseless background beats that intermingle with hushed customer conversations.
Minimal black-and-white block paintings decorate a single wall facing the sushi bar, while a wall-length red painting, one of the only other pieces of decoration in the restaurant, occupies the wall across.
The monochromatic paintings mixed with the sparse decorations focus customer’s attention on the food, which is a form of art in and of itself.
Miso soup is a staple of any Japanese restaurant, and Hamasaku’s dish lives up to the restaurant’s elegant atmosphere. Served in a covered black bowl, the soup stays warm and boasts a strong miso flavor with moist tofu and salty seaweed flavoring.
Other appetizers include traditional dishes like chicken karaage – a Japanese fried chicken plate – but the spicy tuna rice stands out. Crunchy sweet rice forms the base of the dish, which is topped with fresh tuna, avocado puree and sweet soy. The seafood tastes fresh and the hotter flavors of the spicy tuna sauce compliment the sweeter rice bottom. The crunch of the rice foundation also provides an appealing contrast to the softer textures of the avocado and tuna.
Where Hamasaku stands out is in its presentation of the dishes. Each piece of the appetizer is put together with vibrant toppings of avocado against dark, almost metallic plating. The modernization of the food presentation creates a more elegant dining experience than that of the conveyor belt sushi joints of Sawtelle.
Hamasaku also offers a wide selection of sushi, including traditional sashimi and roll options as well as premium rolls that boast clever names such as the Curator or the Blondie.
The Green Dragon includes six rolls made with spicy tuna, avocado, soy paper and sweet soy. The pink tuna center and vibrant avocado top stand out against the shiny, black plate on which they’re served, and each piece melts in the mouth, especially when dipped in the tangy sauce served alongside it.
Hamasaku also offers baked rolls such as The Lawyer, which provides a refreshing flavor profile of warm fish and cold avocado toppings. Served with baked unagi (eel), tamago (fish egg), avocado, sansho pepper and sweet soy, the roll mixes together both warm and cold textures in each bite. The hot unagi tastes fresh and pairs with the cooler temperatures of the rest of the dish. However, due to its delicate structure, the roll easily falls apart.
Despite its hole-in-the wall appearance, Hamasaku offers a classy Japanese dining experience with quality food and great service for customers who are willing to pay for the excursion.