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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

Sushi served with a view

August 14, 2003|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

The space above the 7-Eleven at Holloway Drive has a terrific view down La Cienega Boulevard to the net of lights thrown over the city after dark. I've watched this West Hollywood location morph from a cobbler restaurant into a country Korean kitchen into something else again, already forgotten. Now I notice it's become a sushi restaurant named Wa.

Chef-owners Tomofumi Igawa, Toru Takenaka and Hiruki Imai, all alums of Matsuhisa, obviously didn't have big bucks to start this diminutive sushi restaurant. The kitchen is hardly a beauty queen, and the equipment has seen some hard use. But what Wa lacks in appointments (other than that view and a few tables), the sushi chefs more than make up in friendliness and the desire to please their customers.

Working seven nights a week, the trio is clearly charged with the thrill of owning their own place. For a couple of regulars one night, a chef merrily seared the outside of a salmon roll with a blowtorch.

Another return customer brought a friend to try the Chilean sea bass topped with seared foie gras that he'd raved about. Confronted with the reality, his friend declined the foie gras and went for the straight fish.

At Wa, the best strategy is to stick with the straight sushi (which is priced singly, not by the pair). Ask the chef what's best that night. It could be velvety slabs of toro, sparkling fresh hamachi or a sliver of giant clam wrapped in a belt of seaweed.

Although I loved sea bream sashimi topped with caviar and ribbons of shiso, in trying to outdo the master, Nobu Matsuhisa, the chefs try some ideas, such as that sea bass and foie gras or a salmon roll dabbed with cocktail sauce, that fall flat. One notable success is the broiled Santa Barbara spot prawn crowned with ochre sea urchin in a silken beurre blanc.

Dessert is a sweet surprise. What's described as green tea pudding is really a green tea creme caramel turned out of a mold, and it's delicious. There's also a pear poached in red wine and served chilled. On a smoldering summer evening, that last cool bite takes the edge off the heat.

*

Wa

Where: 1106 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood

When: Dinner from 6:30 p.m. to midnight daily. Beer and sake. Parking lot underneath.

Cost: Sushi, $2.50 to $7.50 per piece; other dishes, $3.50 to $14; chef's choice (omakase) starts at $60.

Info: (310) 854-7285

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