My husband has many valuable skills: bug killer, trash taker-outer, dish washer, and a newly discovered skill: new sushi restaurant finder. It was last week that he decided to utilize this skill by taking me to Zu Robata, which opened just a couple of months ago.
We arrived late - 9pm on Thursday - and there were only two other parties seated. Despite being empty, I loved the decor and atmosphere of the place. It’s dark, loungy, and swanky. My favorite element was the wall of ShÅchÅ«, a Japanese liquor similar to vodka, infused with fruit (see my picture below…for a picture in daylight, read Tuna Toast’s review). I desperately wanted to try it, but seeing as it was so late on a work night, I went with my typical sake instead. I do plan on going back to have a sample, though. My husband was excited when he learned they had Sapporo on tap, but unfortunately it was watered down and tasted more like Miller Lite than anything else. The very nice bartender offered to swap it out for him, and he chose Kirin Black, in the bottle - basically Japanese Guinness. He was much happier with this choice.
The wait staff, in general, were all very nice and helpful. My only problem was that our entire order came out at one time. I am talking, the table was overflowing with miso, edemame, sashimi…this is really a pet peeve of mine. I want my order well spaced. First, it’s imperative to start with soup, then edemame, then appetizers, then sashimi. Even though I found this frustrating, I will chalk it up to us arriving so late. I am more than willing to go back another time and see if the pacing is better.
Now, onto the food. Zu Robata is going for a tapas style of infusion sushi. They keep everything on small plates - perfect to share with one other person - but they don’t have a lot of traditional fare. Still, my husband and I (ever the sushi traditionalists) were able to pick our way through the menu, finding we liked everything we chose.
The miso soup was very good, in both flavor and size. It was one of the larger bowls of miso I have been served, and the broth was a light amber color, signifying a rich, stock base. The edemame was simple, with a nice covering of visible sea salt. My favorite item that we ordered was the steamed spinach appetizer, normally known as gomae. While it had the typical sesame flavor of gomae, this spinach also had what tasted like a peanut and tahini sauce with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. It was truly delicious. I could have probably eaten three orders of this on my own. Our two orders of sashimi were also wonderful. We had the albacore and salmon - both were in ponzu with onions and garlic. I enjoyed the albacore a bit more than I enjoyed the salmon, because I felt that the salmon was cut a bit on the thick side. Still, they both had incredible flavor. Our final item for dinner was the spicy tuna roll - or Zu Robata’s take on it. It was actually a regular tuna roll with a dollop of spicy mayo on each piece. It was pretty good and very spicy.
We decided to do something we don’t normally do at sushi restaurants, and we ordered dessert! I am so glad we did. We went with the chocolate mousse with cream cheese and raspberry sorbet. It was a sensory treat - I would have taken a picture, but I think we ate the whole thing before I could get my camera out! The dessert consisted of a small cup of mousse with chocolate shavings, and a layered scoop of both sorbets, covered in a chocolate shell, and then cut in half. This all lay on a large white plate, drizzled with raspberry and caramel sauces, sliced strawberries, and a tall sugar decoration. And yes, I ate the sugar decoration.
Zu Robata is a fun, trendy restaurant with a fusion take on sushi. In this way, it reminded me quite a bit of Katsuya, but without the inflated prices and “see and be scene” attitude. Actually, the prices were quite reasonable. As I said, my husband and I definitely plan on going back, hopefully earlier in the night so we can see what it’s like when the place is full.
Zu Robata is located in West LA at 12217 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (310) 571-1920
Note: They serve metal chopsticks! They take some getting used to, but it’s nice knowing you’re not killing a tree to eat your sushi.