Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Sushi & Sashimi

Raw fish, sharp knives: San Francisco sushi chef wins Sushi Masters competition

Sushiwinner

Four sushi chefs went maguro to maguro on Sunday at the annual Sushi Masters competition, held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. One sushi chef had figs and foie gras. Another armed himself with lecithin and methyl cellulose. But, except for the rhubarb and the fact that there were more than 25 ingredients in his signature roll, the winner might have been the least flashy.

Sponsored by the California Rice Commission and emceed by former "Top Chef" contestant Brian Malarkey and the leggy "Stiletto Chef" Candice Kumai, the contest drew an audience that filled the Little Tokyo auditorium. 

Each of the four competitors was required to prepare one morikomi combination plate and one signature roll in 45 minutes. The competitors sliced and rolled to a soundtrack that included Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Devo. 

Aside from chef Randy Noprapa of Maneki Neko restaurant in Falls Church, Va., whose arsenal of ingredients was the most streamlined, the finalists' aim might have been to use as many products as possible. Too bad Noprapa's foie gras didn't do it for the judges.

Hyun Min Suh of Sushi Ran in Sausalito might have wowed judge Ilan Hall of the Gorbals with his mise en place ("mind-blowing," Hall said), but in the end, the foams and powders weren't enough to persuade judges to give him the gold.

It could have been the raspberry sauce that put Toshio Furihata of Moshi Moshi in Miami Beach at the bottom of the competition.

Winner Tomoharu Nakamura of Sanraku in San Francisco (pictured above) won judges over with his signature roll, which he called "Harvest Celebration." It was inspired, Nakamura said, "by the harvest." According to an announcement released by the rice commission, chef Nakamura credited his success "to the use of seasonal items and a special combination of three varieties of California rice." 

-- Betty Hallock 

Photo credit: California Rice Commission

Katsuya opens at L.A. Live; Hyde Lounge to open at Staples Center

GeishahorizOn Wednesday night at L.A. Live, nightclub and restaurant impresario Sam Nazarian opened his fourth Katsuya in 3½ years. The man who's attempting to transform Gladstone's into something other than a tourist trap, where the foil-wrapped leftovers and the views of the Pacific are far more impressive than the food, beamed with pride as he took the stage.

Preceded by taiko drummers and a short speech from Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, who was attending on behalf of the charity After-School All-Stars, Nazarian officially announced that on Oct. 27, SBE will open an outpost of its Hollywood nightclub, Hyde Lounge, in the Staples Center.

Scheduled to coincide with the first Lakers game of the 2009-10 season, the $1.3 million venue will hold 175 guests and feature food items from Katsuya as well as other SBE restaurants. But not anyone can get in. For the first year, Hyde will be open only to those with suites or court-side seats. Memberships will be available in the second year.

Nazarian was joined onstage by Fisher, sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke, where they performed a kagami-biraki, a Shinto ceremony that involves breaking the lid of a sake barrel with a wooden mallet and then serving the sake. Amid Nazarian's relentless drive to dot Los Angeles with flashy, self-consciously exclusive venues, it was a brief moment to honor tradition.

[Pictures after the jump.]

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Very Small Bites, Part I: Veggie Grill, McCormick & Schmick's, Bluewater Grill

Red snapper and dungeness crab cakes at the Bluewater Grill, circa 1999.Secretly vegan, fast-casual restaurant the Veggie Grill, which has been under construction for months, will open in late September in the renovated Sunset Plaza at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. 8000 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood. www.veggiegrill.com.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants began offering a "Reel to Reel" deal on July 24: Guests who purchase any dinner entrée can add a movie ticket for $5. The deal will run through September, or while supplies last. www.McCormickandSchmicks.com/ReeltoReel.

Sushi chef Akihiko Noro has left Manhattan Beach's Sashi to become executive sushi chef at Bluewater Grill. He'll be based at the Redondo location but will develop a new sushi menu for all three locations: Redondo, Newport and Tustin. www.bluewatergrill.com.

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Red snapper and Dungeness crab cakes at the Bluewater Grill, circa 1999. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.