Monday, March 19, 2012

A Yellowtail That Doesn't Fail

This isn't about the cocktails, as I've blogged before about those, not that they weren't once again wonderful. This isn't about the brilliant little box that is Ray's, surprisingly warm on a rainy LA day (does too happen!), managing the shift to dusk while never growing dim, or its clever tables with drawers that hide-away the silver service. This isn't about the service, perfectly professional and even better knowing the menu inside out--our waiter seemed able to describe each dish as if he had a hand in cooking it. Very helpful when trying to decide between the sturgeon and the pork belly. But this isn't about that pork belly, either, one of the best I've ever had, taking the dish past its trendiness through execution (that great crispy top) and balance (the sweet fat cut with the acid of a vinegary sauce).

No, this is about the Hamachi, pictured above. Stop to admire it. Even an iPhone can capture much of its beauty, and this is at an art museum, after all, so looks do count for something. (Worse yet, an LA art museum, so looks perhaps count for everything.) Be sure to check the accoutrements, for those teensy mushroom caps, like umbrellas for the black sesame seed crumble, aren't just gorgeous, but pickled just enough that their earthy-shroominess has one more register--how can something that small still taste like what it's supposed to be? And then those tangerines; if the flattened golf-ball-sized ones at farmers' markets are Pixies, what are these, Pixie dust? But again, their size belies their kick.

All that said, there's no denying the plate's star is the hamachi. Perhaps there needs to be a grade higher than sashimi grade for fish this good. I always think such a clean taste, but that's obviously not the right word as clean makes it seem like there's no taste and that's far from the truth. It's a purity, fish denying it could ever get fishy. Set off with the aji amarillo vinaigrette, with the taste equivalent of a mere knee-bend of a kick, it was magnificent. I came close to changing my main order and telling our waiter to keep bringing plates of that till I swam out. Perhaps getting back and forth to LA and Ray's and Stark Bar would be easier if I could swim and not drive.

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