I used to think that I didn’t like sushi. That was before I discovered Nobu and Katsu-ya. It turns out I just didn’t like cheap sushi; I love good sashimi. The other night at Katsu-ya’s Izakaya in Manhattan Beach, I sat at the bar for only the second time. An Izakaya is an informal establishment for drinking and meals that are typically lighter than a restaurant but heavier than a bar. It’s kind of like calling it a gastropub. Having made my first faux pas within moments of sitting, I relaxed and drank my Asahi, ignoring the rules of sushi etiquette that had been drilled into me.
We began with a Yellowtail combo of hamachi, Yellowtail belly, and kampachi. The fish in the photo looks ragged because we split them in half with the side of a fork — my apologies to the master sushi chef. Hamachi is one of the milder varieties of fish from the amberjack family, although it is often confused with yellowfin tuna.
Scallop kiwi was comprised of recently-live scallops thinly sliced to transluscence. Each scallop rested on a kiwi round, which I expected to overwhelm the scallop, but was surprisingly complementary.
We tried the iridescent Seabream on a lark. It is a very fishy fish. the tuna, however, retained just a slight memory of the sea.
It may seem like a beginner’s move to order Tempura, but we were curious as to what a restaurant of this magnitude could do with the lowly dish. The kitchen produced shrimp cooked spot-on and a lovely, non-greasy coating.
Yellowtail collar arrives with two large, meaty collars. The fish is so tender it flakes apart between the chopsticks. The center meat is a delight, but the skin and charred edges can really overwhelm you.
One of the best dishes of the evening, in fact, one of the best dishes of the year, was the halibut cheeks. We didn’t know what to expect, but they arrived battered and deep-fried, like the finest of fish and chips.
The Izakaya didn’t disappoint, and I am losing my fear of sushi. The next time the chefs shout a greeting at me, I just might holler back.