Suddenly ubiquitous, crudo rivals kale in popularity on Los Angeles restaurant menus. Where tartare used to hold court, crudo now reigns supreme.
But what is crudo exactly? Opinions differ — vociferously. Technically, crudo translates to “raw” in Italian. This applies to meat, fish and even vegetables (a close relation to crudité). In practice, though, crudos have been popping up mostly in fish form, garnished with Mediterranean accents, like olive oil and fresh herbs, rather than the expected ginger-wasabi-soy sauce trio usually served with Japanese-inspired sashimi.
Chef Yoya Takahashi of Hamasaku says, “Sashimi is eaten to enjoy the natural flavors of the fish with soy and wasabi. Crudo is the same but eaten with extra virgin olive oil, salt and some citrus.” Brilliantshine’s Chef Richie Lopez adds, “Sashimi derives from the culinary practice of sticking the fish's tail and fin to the slices to identify the type of fish you're eating.”
However you slice it, crudo is here to stay. A light dining alternative with infinite possibilities, raw fish has become a cornerstone of dining in Los Angeles and it’s no surprise to find it turning up in restaurants ranging from Peruvian to Italian to American. There are dozens of places in the city that both specialize and serve crudo to the masses. Here's a few of our favorites:
Most restaurant concepts begin with the food and then come up with cocktails to pair with it. Of course Julian Cox and Josh Goldman, the mixologists extraordinaire behind such restaurants as Acabar, Short Order and Bestia, did the opposite, Alice in Wonderland style, beginning with the drinks and only then turning toward the menu. But that doesn’t mean the food is an afterthought. Chef Richie Lopez does many things well, including a beautiful striped-bass crudo with white soy sauce and peaches. The technique is impressive. As Chef Lopez says, “For our crudo at Brilliantshine, we use a technique called kaimin katsugyo to kill the fish. This means that fish are put into a coma-like sleep using acupuncture allowing for the fish to be bled out without stress or muscle stiffening and preventing early decomposition while in transit.” Don’t forget to have a drink while you’re there. Try the Maragato’s Lament and revel in your good fortune. 522 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-451-9341
The trio of crudo (crudi?) at Catch are made all the more lovely by their glorious setting. To mangle George Gershwin’s "Summertime," the living definitely feels easy. Director of food and beverage Paul O’Dowd says the revamped decor at Hotel Casa del Mar and its restaurant Catch is meant to conjure up the Spanish isle of Ibiza. Of course, the real star is the view. As one of the few restaurants in LA with unobstructed views of the Pacific, Catch dazzles whether daylight, sunset or after dark. The best of the bunch of crudo is surely the lobster. Bedecked with black truffle, green apple and California caviar, the true nature of decadence is revealed in the first mouthful. Catch also serves a delicate hamachi and a melt-in-your-mouth red snapper crudo. Pair any or all of these with champagne and have your own crudo crawl right in the restaurant. 1910 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, Casa del Mar; 310-581-5533.
The only beef crudo on the list hails from Scarpetta, and it's a Snake River Farms Wagyu carpaccio that's worth indulging in. Surrounded by the excellent company of hen of the woods mushrooms, crispy sunchokes and white truffle, this baby packs a wallop. Chef Freddy Vargas also serves up a big eye tuna crudo with apple gelee horseradish and poppy seeds, as well as a yellowtail with olio di zenzero and pickled red onion. Why not make a night of it? Romance fills the air. 225 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-860-7970.
Hamasaku means "of the sea," in Japanese, a fitting name for a spot-on sushi place. Helmed by Chef Yoya Takahashi, this celeb-heavy restaurant is worth seeking out in its tucked-away mini-mall location. Only one of the numerous sashimi dishes wears the mantle of crudo, the rest reflecting the purity of Japanese presentation. The salmon crudo differs by reveling in a Mediterranean approach with the addition of olive oil, lemon, maldon salt, pepper and horseradish aioli. Try it with a sake flight and pretend you're Hollywood royalty. The newly renovated restaurant reopened January 12. 11043 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-479-7636.
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Bedazzled with pomegranate seeds and bejeweled with finger lime pulp, the pink snapper crudo at The Hungry Cat is a Hemingway-esque moveable feast. The addition of ginger, shiso and radish take this crudo from picturesque to sublime. Savor it slowly, though you will be tempted to slurp it down quickly. The pops of juice from the fruit are like mini-fireworks in your mouth. Too much? Try it and decide for yourself. 100 W. Channel Rd., Santa Monica; 310-459-3337.