Hokusai for Japanese-French excellence



I was very impressed with Hokusai, a casually elegant exceptional restaurant with lasting impressions. Many might remember "Continental" previously at that address. Entering takes one past the colorful bar, into a mood room, intentionally darkened, with beautiful woods and black table linens, along with a black shiny pretty rock on the table. We couldn't figure it out until we were told that it was for our chopsticks. How unique! Along with candlelight and serious art, I could recommend the appearance of Hokusai for dating, and just about any event. Actually, it was named after a famous Japanese artist whose work was Zen-like in ambiance. Among the banquette seating was a darkly mirrored booth, which we chose, sort of reminiscent of the night sky. The chandelier was exquisite, and through mirrored reflections you would think you were seeing many moons, stars, or whatever one imagines it to be. In addition, the ceilings were extremely high set with lights, along with floor to ceiling windows, and a large open busy kitchen bar. Diners enjoyed watching the intricate foods being prepared. Oh, I also want to mention the room upstairs for private parties.

Executive Sushi Chef, Koji Matsuzaki features a menu with innovative techniques, unique ingredients and some of the freshest fish available outside of Japan. There's also an executive kitchen Chef, Charlie Nagase at the helm, and a slew of other kitchen helpers. Specialties included "kindai," the only sustainably raised Blue-Fin tuna being served in the United States, also Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese style tasting menu. I want to especially mention their Scallops, probably the best I've ever had. The "Omakese" sort of means, "trust me." This way of dining is lots of fun; that's when the chef keeps sending out delicacies until you say stop!

We began our dinner with lots of wonderful combinations and many words that are unfamiliar to me, so we left it to the chef. Our dinner began with yellowtail sashimi, (every course has a special sauce) this one came with Nikiri Soy, and gorgeously displayed. On the same platter there was a Crispy Kampachi, baby Yellowtail on wonton served with black bean sauce.

The second course included Tuna Wasabi; "Kindai," Blue Fin Tuna with marinated Asian bean; also lightly seared salmon with crispy ginger & tofu puree; plus Toro capriccio, along with boiled & chilled diced main lobster with avocado.


Our third course was soft shell crab springroll, scallop, and angel shrimp wrapped in a crispy potato. I particularly remember the fourth course, because I asked for Salmon and it came in four pieces, roasted and stuffed with a spicy lobster bisque, scallop, sauteed spinach, and shiitake mushrooms, a most fantastic dish. One must remember that the beauty and placement of the food is very important in Japan.

Their wines emphasize top regional selections and while the sake list includes some of the best choices available from Japan. The cocktail menu features drinks with an American influence using Japanese ingredients. Drinks like the Yuzu Mojito and Oishi Sugar Plum Martini add the right touch for festive after work cocktails.

The menu takes up many pages, and I found an interesting grouping of skewered items served with dipping sauces. Each one was $6 for beef, chicken, shrimp, scallop, and salmon. However, although I love sushi and those marvelous "rolls," I think you should ask the chef for a tasting platter. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening of dining, and being there felt like a real night out, most pleasurable.

8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (323)782-9717. Lunch Mon-Fri; 1130am-2:30pm. Dinner from 5:30pm. Happy Hour M-F from 5:00pm-7:00pm. Lunch Specials; $13-$17; Combinations, with rice, miso soup & salad are priced for Tempura, $10-$13, Sushi $14-$17, Sashimi, $13-$16.

Salads, $9-$15; Hot Appetizers, $12-$16; Sea food, $21-$26; Farm, (including steaks) $18-$26, (chicken, Kobe Cheek Stew, Pork Rib, Japanese beef). The chef named the "Rolls" after TV shows. Mr. Ed Rolls had combinations of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and jalapeno wrapped with daikon, $13; Dancing with the Stars included albacore, avocado, spicy tuna & crispy onion, $18; KJ Rock includes baked lobster, asparagus, & butter lettuce, $18; and there's many singular choices from $5-$10.


This might be the place to re-start and old flame.