"I can't wait to see you! Let's do dinner," said my West LA-based friend last year. Tentatively I replied. "Do you want to come out here to the SCV, or should I come to you?" There are few things more uncomfortable than having a friend explain that your hometown is not the Mecca of culinary cuisine. Now, with Sake Bistro & Sushi open in Valencia, I finally had a reason to avoid LA traffic - and prices. Promising that she'd dine on incredible dishes that put even LA's best to shame, I convinced her to make the drive up.
And what an evening it turned out to be! We entered through the stunning glass-walled heated patio where a jaw-dropping glass-rock fire pit illuminated all types of diners - young to old, some dressed up, most others in jeans - all seeming to have a great time.
We first ordered a cocktail from the one-of-a-kind copper-subway-tiled bar. My friend was surprised at the number of classic and signature cocktails and that they use an "all-premium" well and a healthy old-school pour. I ordered the original martini "The Martinez." This beauty's recipe hails from 1887, when sweet vermouth was the ingredient of choice. Cherry liqueur and bitters balanced the top-shelf gin effortlessly. A big surprise was The Old Fashioned. My friend is a snob about this drink and couldn't stop talking about how perfect Sake's was. Complete with muddled blackberries, blood orange and bitters, this Bourbon classic had us sipping in appreciation - and wishing our husbands were there to give this Rat-Pack era drink a try.
After cocktails, we were seated in a beautiful shimmering booth next to a white-quartz wall featuring one-of-a-kind copper artwork. Reviewing the diverse and creative menu - featuring steak, seafood and sushi - made us hungry in anticipation. My friend was shocked at the reasonable price points and said on the Westside these prices would be almost double.
We began with the delicious Lobster Salad with Avocado Mousse ($18). Half a Maine lobster is served on a bed of avocado mousse with mango caviar (a true culinary accomplishment), micro sisho and chorizo vinaigrette. The ultra-tender lobster was gorgeously presented and even more of a joy to eat. What a fantastic start! We also enjoyed the side plates Sake provides to make it easy to share a taste.
Next up was the impressive Truffled Scallops ($18). It was apparent that these giant succulent scallops are of the highest quality. Tender and sweet, and served on a creamy bed of white Italian polenta with pan-roasted wild mushrooms, they were, in a word, bliss.
Wild mushrooms again made a savory, earthy appearance with the perfectly-prepared Filet Mignon ($20). Starting with their hand-cut aged meat and using advanced Sous Vide cooking meant that it was incredibly flavorful and fork cut tender. The burgundy blueberry reduction was divine and not a nibble was left on the plate.
After noting that every dish had been cooked to perfection, we eagerly anticipated their sushi. Even though both my friend and I are seasoned sushi fans, this may have been the freshest and most flavorful we've ever eaten. They use only fresh whole fish and - wow - you can taste the difference! We savored generous cuts of melt-in-your-mouth Scottish salmon, Spanish mackerel, halibut, Big Eye tuna, yellowtail and more. We were again pleasantly surprised by the reasonable sushi prices (starting at only $4.50). (Worth noting: Sake uses Certified Grade A Sustainable Seafood; most options are also wild caught.). The Karai Kazan Roll ($16) was substantial and heavenly. Featuring crab, freshwater eel, spicy tuna and tobiko caviar, this roll was yet another highlight of the evening.
The night ended on a sweet note: Caramelized Banana Creme Brulee ($8). Candied pecan brittle, plus white and dark chocolate sauces, made this a dessert lover's dream.
After each dish, our dinner conversation had one major theme: Sake is as good as almost any top-rated LA restaurant. Even though we are both "seasoned foodies" we were introduced to new, compelling and completely satisfying flavors with beautiful plate presentation. With their casual elegance, relaxed and fun atmosphere, amazing quality and reasonable prices, we both agreed we could eat here every week and never get bored. Imagine my joy when, as we left, my friend decided to invite some LA friends the next Sunday evening for dinner and to listen to their Supper Club Jazz Duo singing Frank Sinatra and all the Greats. Redemption at last!
Sake Bistro & Sushi is located at 23889 Newhall Ranch Road in Valencia 255-7253 www.sakebistro.com