Nozomi in Torrance

nozomiNozomi means hope in Japanese. Is it hope by the restaurant to do well in serving its customers or hope by the customers to have a good meal? I am always all for the latter. The interior is a nondescript, pleasant minimalist environment.

What may make it more unique is the east wall is devoted to two alcoves which are equivalent to a modern version of an Ozashiki or tatami room. Instead of the traditional straw woven flooring, the Ozashiki at Nozomi is floored with short cropped carpeting similar to what is found in a child’s reading nook at a public library. Each of these alcove Ozashiki seats up to 10 people for more private dining.

We ordered the Spinach Salad, which seemed inspired by the American version since besides the Japanese white sesame dressing, mushrooms, tomato,  had bits of bacon and crumbled hard boiled egg incorporated in the salad.  It was homage to American as well as Japanese cooking.

Nozomi KarasumiA more unusual starter was Karasumi, which is mullet roe salt brined, pressed, and dried.  The eggs are so fine and pressed to the point you can’t make out any of the individual eggs.  The Karasumi is slightly salty, sweet from a possible addition of Mirin or sweetened Sake (sah-keh), and lightly smoked.

The consistency is almost like a semi-moist fruit leather.  The flavour reminds me of a ripe cheese with a lightly fermented fish-like finish.  This goes great with a dry Junmai style Sake or a light bodied Koshu-, which is aged Sake, for those who want their drink and Karasumi appetizer to be on the wild side. To act as a good palate cleansing counter-point, The Karasumi is thinly sliced and placed on top of a thin slice of raw Daikon or Giant Japanese radish.

We ordered the standard Chirashi (chee-rah-shee), which is a bowl of Sushi rice (Japanese rice flavoured with Japanese Rice Vinegar).  Placed on the Sushi rice are:

a)  pieces of Sashimi (raw fish)
b)  Takuwan (pickled Daikon,
c)  Daikon no Tsuma ( raw crispy Daikon shaped like Capelli d’Angeli or angel hair pasta)
d)  Shiso leaf or Japanese basil. (For you purists it’s called Beef Steak plant, whatever that means.)
e)  Shi-take (shee tah keh) mushroom that is braised in sweet soy sauce
f)   Sho-ga (show gah)  sweet pickled ginger
g)  Wasabi
h)  Hidden under all the above ingredients are slices of Kampyo- which is a dried gourd cooked in sweet soy sauce, and tiny slivers of Nori (black seaweed sheets)
i)   Tamago (sweetened egg omelet)
j)   Kamaboko (steamed fish pate/terrine)
k)   slice of lemon to apply a gastrique to enliven the flavours any item.

The Sashimi consisted of Ebi (shrimp), Shake (salmon), Tai (Japanese Red Snapper), Hamachi (yellowtail), Tako (octopus), and Uni (sea urchin) placed on top of a slice of Japanese Cucumber so that the Sushi rice doesn’t rob the moisture from the Uni.

Nozomi Orion BeerAll the above was paired with Orion Beer brewed in the southernmost prefecture (state) of Okinawa. Orion is a clean-tasting lager with a bit of a sweetness as a finish.  The hops are smooth, with only a touch of bitterness to refresh the palate. Mild yet full rounded mouth feel, this paired well with all the above foods that were eaten.

Service is prompt, efficient, business-like. They do keep an eye on their assigned tables as demonstrated by when we finished our meal & were nursing the last of the beer, the waitress came and served us Japanese green tea as the finish.Thankfully, the tea was served piping hot, which aids in the steeping process so that the tea infuses its flavours properly.

Nozomi is a pleasant place to eat Japanese food cooked & raw. They even offer a Wagyu (wah-ghee-yu) style steak, 8 oz for $40, which I have not tried yet. Nozomi has some more tricks up its sleeves like “Same no Nankotsu” which is made from Shark cartilage, and is an excellent Kozara (tapas) for beer or Sake.  Prices are a touch on the higher side for a restaurant of this genre, but the quality, flavor, and unusual food items make it seem worthwhile.

Gary Idama

About Gary Idama

A gourmet since the mid 1970s, Gary Idama has an extensive knowledge of a variety of cuisines, but is partial to Japanese food. When Gary reviews restaurants, he looks for good food and drink, good bang for the bucks, a clean eatery and kitchen, plus knowledgeable and enthusiastic service. He is a member of Yelp's Elite and spends his time at restaurant and cultural events, hanging out with friends, and attending Sake/Wine tastings. His last meal on earth would be Omakase with premium Sake at Mako Sushi in Little Tokyo and maybe a little salted, preserved Fugu ovary with a Napa Pinot Noir.
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