The Urasawa Experience

I drank juice for dinner every night for a week to allow room for the 30 courses we were about to consume at Urasawa, the famed two Michelin star, cost prohibitive private dining room just off Rodeo Drive, because I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience where I did not want to regret turning dishes away. If I lost a few pounds, I could surely afford to gain a few back  whilst eating with lust and sweet abandon which was my absolute intention. We also prepared ourselves by reading some house rules we found online like eat everything within 10 seconds, don’t take photos of the foie gras, and if raw fish isn’t your thing, just go somewhere else. Check, check, and check.

As is customary on our part, Matt waltzed in bearing lasagna cupcakes for the chef who seemed absolutely bewildered by the gesture. His assistant swiftly ushered them away before they could further abrupt the order that we were about to experience. Matt’s confident mid western charm can throw off the most disciplined of masters but he eventually wins them all over even when he initially obstructs the perfume of lily flowers wafting through the dining area with a package of toasted cheese, garlic and bolognese.

With our three friends from Smog Design, we were a party of five and so dominated half of the ten seats which (accompanied with the lasagna cupcake offering?) gained us the complete attention of Chef Urasawa who personally prepared each one of our courses in what impressed us as precisely choreographed movements- swaying, slicing, tenderizing- the likes which none of us had ever seen before. With awe, we recognized that this revered restaurant operated outside the general confines of the rest of us in the city. Uniforms were regal silk kimonos and wooden heeled sandals rather than ubiquitous chef whites and unsightly yet practical clogs, and the foie gras, which I paused before eating but ate anyway, was presented boldly, defiantly on each of our individual plates, with the disclaimer that it was a gift, before a qualified assistant reached from behind us with porcelain chop sticks to carefully cook each portion in a tiny bowl of warm broth. Divinity.

I spent a month in Japan when I was 18 and what I recall most is how much Japanese men love alcohol. This observance is not something I remember sharing with Matt so I believe it was his experience of working long thankless hours in fine dining kitchens that prompted him to buy the whole staff a few rounds of drinks. To this offer, they were very pleased. Together we emptied many bottles of sake, more than this person can handle fashionably so at this point photos are blurred and tastebuds became dulled. I apologize for these lapses as it was my desire to recount each exquisite course thoroughly but in retrospect I don’t think that is the point of going to Urasawa. It’s the experience that matters, the intimate seating that positions you so close to the remarkably deft action that you can hear the sharp whistles of each of the sizable swords, I mean knives, as they are removed from their casings and expertly maneuvered to slice fish as thin as paper and some of it while still living. It doesn’t get more fresh than that. Truly, this evening will remain incomparable to any other.

With sake pulsating through our veins and lots of conversation behind us, our party eagerly awaited for Chef Urasawa to answer Matt’s parting question to him if he would like to come cook at The Salon for a dinner pairing or at least just attend one as a guest. 

He did not say yes, but he did not say no. Upon our departure, I looked back for the final time to soak in any last delicious details I might have missed, and I daresay I spied Chef glancing at our postcard we left behind. Maybe we’ll hear from him yet.

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