In a recent TV interview for Canadian Broadcasting, famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa was kind enough to give me credit for helping him achieve great early success for his Matsuhisa Restaurant on La Cienega in the late 80s. Writer Larry Gelbart and I went to the small 15-seat eatery on opening day and sat at the counter for four hours, sampling 16 dishes, then came back the next day for the rest of the menu. I then called every food journalist and celebrity I knew extolling the incredible, then-unusual food, sending out a special edition of my Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter to thousands of loyal readers. In two weeks, you could not get a reservation there it was - and still is - so successful. I remember rescuing Barbra Streisand from the long line waiting in front and bringing her in the back way through the kitchen. Over the years I have written about Nobu-san many times, traveling extensively with him to Hawaii and Japan... and proudly wearing the 10th and 20th anniversary custom leather jackets he gave me.
So I do have some credentials when it comes to recognizing superior Japanese cuisine... which leads me to this early laudatory review of a new Japanese spot in the heart of Beverly Hills by several Nobu alumni. Tiger Sushi (340 N. Canon Drive, B.H. 310-274-3200) is in a location last occupied by an unlucky sushi restaurant called Luckyfish; the only lucky thing about it was they got out when they did, considering it featured a moving conveyor belt of tired sushi plates for non-existent customers. Replacing it is a stunning, sleek, minimalistic and exquisitely modern spot. I am sure the name was selected long before it took on a different connotation, but I do find it confusing to associate pristine seafood and Pan-Asian fusion dishes with a beautiful, predatory animal. Executive Chef Jon Maza tells me it may have been selected because of the upcoming Chinese Year of the Tiger. So be it.
The front room onto the street is ideal for a casual lunch on a sunny day, while the interior room is elegant with its custom-made designer furniture. The sushi counter to the right is ideal for watching the energetic chefs carving fish, and there is a master bincho chef cooking foods over a smokeless 1000 degree Japanese charcoal grill. One partner is the fabulous Luis Decasas, with some 14 years experience with Nobu. He last worked with this Chef Jon at the Nobu in the Bahamas.
The new Tiger follows in that tradition, not just in being a sushi/sashimi/robata place but also in embracing Western specialties with an Asian twist. The 34-year-old chef was born in Hawaii and began at age 14 apprenticing with a Japanese sushi chef; he has vast experience in Japanese and French kitchens. As I popped edamame kernels into my mouth surveying the menu, I knew I would be spending much time here plumbing the depths of the interesting choices. There's a Japanese Seafood Chowder ($10), but I sipped a bowl of Miso ($5) until the raw sashimi came. Much of the fish is flown in from Japan. I began with a selection of Yellowtail (two pieces for $6) and then Tai, Japanese snapper, followed by my passion, Uni (sea urchin, $9). Then a delicious Soft Shell Crab Roll ($10), followed by a grilled Robata choice... Strip Loin & Foie Gras (two pieces for $14), extravagant and worth every penny. I liked the Octopus ($10), here with a Peruvian glaze. I am one of the few who loves the foie gras-of-the-sea, Monkfish Ankimo pate ($7), among the best I have ever had. Tiradito was a take on Nobu's majestic invention, drizzled hot olive oil over sliced raw fish, here with an interesting habanero-lime sorbet.
But it's not only seafood: Free-range Jidori Chicken is superb, and my favorite meat dish here, the Short Ribs ($22), braised for eight hours at a low temperature in veal stock, prepared with blood oranges and Cohiba leaves (yes, like the cigar, remembering when Fidel Castro personally gave me a Cohiba cigar in his office). At all my meals here I also have several Tempura dishes... my favorite, the Crispy Squid with Thai Bird Chili Peppers ($8). For meat lovers, a dry-aged Filet Mignon ($18), a fabulous buy.
Tiger is a fresh take on Japanese cuisine, much like the Tapas restaurants we all enjoy in Spain... only in the heart of Beverly Hills. A beautiful, sophisticated restaurant offering delicious choices for any palate.