Friday, September 12, 2008

Special Foodventure #70: Jinpachi (West Hollywood)

Per my FAQ, I rarely blog about comp'd meals, but Jinpachi is a worthwhile mention since it hasn't gotten a lot in-depth reviews (at least from what I can tell Net-searching the place before I went) and the meal wasn't paid by Jinpachi, but FoodDigger, an up-and-coming reviews/ratings/network site (think Yelp, but only for eats-and-drinks places, but with also Digg-like elements of voting up well-written reviews, and eHarmony aspects of "flavor matching" to see which reviewers are most like you in terms of taste.) That, and this restaurant has been on my to-try list for awhile and it's great to be able to cross it off and write about my experience there. So in case you glazed through the past paragraph, this my disclaimer that the meal was on someone else's wallet ~ and a thanks to FoodDigger folks.

Located in near-smack middle of West Hollywood on Santa Monica, Jinpachi is a little bit hidden and tucked away, and really doesn't draw much attention to itself (though that may be because so many nearby businesses are so glitzy, glam and in-your-face -- hey, it's Boy's Town). Likewise, the interior is simple-but-elegant, with a lot warm wood tones and soothing lights. Also very cozy and intimate (I think the capacity is around 30-40 people, which is good since you'd know the chef, Hirotaka "Taka" Fujita, would have a hand and an eye on everything served).

Because we were a large party of 10, we got sat in the upstairs dining area. Minor downer for not being at the bar and seeing Taka at work, and also kind of bad for him since he can't see how fast we're eating, so the pacing of the omakase was a little slow. But only more time for fellow foodbloggers and I to talk about our obsessions (food, cameras, and generating Web traffic.)
Starting off was a crispy tuna sushi topped with a pepper and grilled shishito peppers (not pictured); the sushi was a nice mingling of tastes and texture, the little heat from the pepper with the creamy tuna and the crispy bottom layer (I think the sushi was pan-fried/grilled to achieve that effect). The grilled peppers were great when fresh and warm, I loved the slow lingering heat it provided. After they cooled down, they weren't as spicy so were just OK, but gives me something asides from edamamme to nibble on between courses.
Next came salmon and red snapper sashimi in a shallow pool of soy-based sauce and a dollop of fresh wasabi. It's been a while since I had red snapper raw, but the grassy taste and slightly firm texture brought memories of this wonderful, understated fish. And the salmon is nice and rich and buttery as to be expected from any sushi place worth their salt. The slight tart sauce (ponzu maybe?) is a nice complement to the fatty fish slices, I would've preferred slightly less of it though.
The seared black cod and shishito tempura came shortly, served with hoisin and miso-mustard sauces. The cod was meaty and mildly flaky with a nice char flavor, and the tempura was done well (crispy but not greasy) and the sweet sauces provided a nice break from all the savory courses that we had thus far.
Following that are bluefin tuna (top) and japanese yellowtail nigiri. I must say, given all the recent stories of the bluefin being overfished, I felt a little guilty eating it. But the two were delicious, great texture and flavor accented with a unexpected pop of wasabi.
Three more nigiri came afterwards, from left to right: albacore, yellowtail and halibut nigiri. Honestly, this is where my palate started wearing down a little (from both the courses thus far and the sake) but I do recall the albacore being my favorite of the trio (and arguably the best albacore I recall having ever, smooth and flavorful).
Next up, shrimp tempura rolls -- and it makes a great difference that the shrimp is fresh from the fryer! The batter is still light and crisp and the warm, meaty shrimp was a nice contrast against the cold crunchy cucumber and sushi rice.
And ohhh... uni sushi, the much loved (and occasionally loathed) sea urchin gonads, greatly hinging on how fresh it is. Thankfully, these are and the uni practically melts on my tongue with a wonderful, delicate mix of ocean brinyness and slight sweetness. Easily one of the top unis I've had.
Following that is a shad nigiri, a leaner, smaller fish that I'm not quite familiar with. Other had warned that this may taste fishy (particularly because it still has skin on) but I found it pretty delicious, reminds me of oil-soaked sardines.
The final set of nigiri were fish we already had before salmon and albacore, and part two were as every bit as yummy as I remembered.

Wrapping it all up, no pun intended, is a
blue crab hand roll that was, simply put, sweet, succulent, fresh.

One thing that was a significant bummer is that Taka's wife is no longer there to do her famous dessert tastings. But we were served ice cream mochi, and the hosts also brought us macarons from Paulette, which definitely lived up to their hype.

Of course, the best thing I loved about the meal was the company. Ten foodbloggers of vastly varying culinary interests carrying on and on about all things edible and potable till the wee hours of the night (we couldn't believe that we had gabbed for four and a half hours, right up till the restaurant closing time.) Along bloggers I already know, including Gourmet Pigs, Caroline on Crack and Food Destination, I also made quick new foodie friends Potential Gold, LA Food Hunt, Drink Your Milk, LA Pizza and Eat Only What Feeds Your Soul. So it's a foodventure I'll definitely treasure for many moments to come, not to mention one that got the rest of my September/October eating schedule full! So many meetups, so little time! And so much more motivation to keep my palate polished and my exercise regimen rigorous too!

8711 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 358-9134

P.S. No I still don't have a Kobayashi-like belly, for the dishes that were served in fours & fives, that was for the group and I took a single piece.


Khoi said...

Vivid descriptions of taste and texture leave me huuuuungry. You guys are in a league of your own when it comes to food... I love the reviews. Keep the Sept/Oct foodventures coming :)

heysandra said...

Great to meet you the other night H.C.! Your descriptions of what we are were totally spot on, I gotta catch up on my accompaniment post!

Also, when are we going to eat "secret beef"???

mattatouille said...

i got invited to this even but decided to go to the jonathan gold event at the hammer museum instead. i had a swell meal at il grano afterwards.


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