Sushi is a happy food. All that tasty raw fish goodness AND it is good for you. Sure we quest out Edo Sushi and go to the most authentically Japanese places in town, but we also love finding places that really add a unique twist to the raw fish experience. There used to be a great place in West LA that did this..Sushi Anju, but the chef moved back to Tokyo. You’d never think Salmon Sashimi would work in a curry sauce, but they made it really shine. And sure LA is famous for the Nobu Matsuhisa thing where the addition of jalapenos to a piece of fish can blow the minds of people. And more recently, Crudo (Italian Sashimi) and Ceviche have become quite trendy as well. I was recently in South Beach and South American fusion sushi was all over town. But not until my experience with the new Sushi Chef at Chez Melange have I experienced…Tropical Sushi!
Jesse hails from the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas. He learned a lot there, but sometimes the student transcends the teacher. Jesse shared an anecdote where he was inspired to use kiwi as part of a konpachi carpaccio dressing. His boss turned his nose up at it. Well, I have to tell you, the boss was wrong. Mirin is a common sweetener used in Japanese sauces. Substitute a dash of kiwi and add some soy and other Japanese seasoning, and you have an intriguing flavor profile that has just the right amount of sweet-tart accent with that tropical flair, yet still honors its Japanese heritage. You really need to try this.
But that is just the beginning of our taste revolution with Jesse. Another creative dish was the Nantucket Bay Scallop Seviche. He butterflied the scallops so they wound up with a similar texture to Hotate. The dressing included yuzu, citrus, and tomatoes, and it had a killer kick from some unusual peppers. We also experienced another bay scallop preparation, this one involving truffle salt and some citrus. Sadly, he was pretty much out of bay scallops at this point so it was just a tiny morsel, but a memorable one at that. The truffle salt really brought out the creaminess of the scallop and the flavor of the sea. I will look for this next time to place a full order.
Later on, we challenged Jesse to do something clever with oysters. Sushi bars usually do something with Ponzu. Jesse’s interpretation also incorporated red onion and mint. It was a refreshing flavor with a gentle saltiness without being overly briny.
One of my favorite items was the Marugai, the giant clam. This time he dressed it with a bit of olive oil in addition to the soy, citrus, and mint.
Another thing worth mentioning is the rice. Good rice is not a simple undertaking. We often struggle with non-authentic Japanese sushi bar rice as a result. It is typically too sweet or too vinegary or too mushy. But Jesse gets rice. Each kernel was distinct and well-flavored. The rice was a great accompaniment for the lovely pieces of yellowtail draped over it. The YT was torch-seared and adorned with small jalapeno slices and subtley seasoned.
One of our favorite dishes was something I found quite unique – the Ahi Crisp. This is a great dish to share with a few other people, or just fight over it with one other person as I did. The base is a crispy (baked) flour tortilla, and it is topped with rich, red pieces of ahi, cilantro, mild red onion, shiso, and togorashi. This is tropical/fusion raw fish at its finest. It is a dish with simple ingredients that elicits complex flavor. The crispy tortilla with the bright seasoning and the smooth, subtle fattiness of the tuna is addicting.
There were plenty of other tastes too numerous to mention here. All I can suggest is for you to stop by Chez Melange one night, sit at the sushi bar (just 6 seats, so lots of personal attention) and tell Jesse to go for it. Oh, and don’t forget to offer him a taste of your wine. He likes that. Almost forgot, there is one more benefit to Chez Melange not being a traditional Japanese sushi bar…on Tuesday no corkage night, they let you bring your own bottle of Sake. Now this is good eating.
1716 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Check out some images, below. More Here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrea_hoffman/sets/72157603879452163