The windows at Yamakase are frosted over and the sign reads "Closed." But if you’re lucky enough to secure a seat at this invite-only restaurant, a Japanese omakase experience unlike any other in Los Angeles awaits.
Chef and owner Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, a surprisingly jolly Yama-san, has a storied past. He is the chef of the highly-praised but ill-fated—closed after serving illegal Sei whale—Santa Monica Airport restaurant, the Hump. This time around, though, at his year-old Palms restaurant, he's playing by the rules.
Behind the eight-seat sushi bar—the cramped, shoebox of a restaurant is somewhat devoid of atmosphere and seemingly makeshift with boxes spilling out from curtains and empty sake bottles lining shelves—Yama skillfully prepares course after course (we counted 20): jamón Iberico topped with Osetra caviar, orange clam with shiso, chawamushi with truffle butter, tenderloin steak with matsutake mushrooms, neatly cubed jellyfish presented in a soup spoon of cold sesame broth and a tomato wedge—chewy, slippery, cool, refreshing and absolutely delicious. According to a Japanese patron sitting next to me one night, Yamakase serves better sushi than 90% of the restaurants in Japan. And four hours, 20 courses and $300 later, I believed him.
What to eat: It’s omakase, only, so what’s served is the chef’s choice and varies nightly. Expect exotic ingredients—jelly fish, poached monkfish liver and crab brains are just a few of the many surprises—and beautiful presentation.
Where to sit: The intimate sushi bar holds eight seats and one seating a night.
What to drink: There’s no corkage fee, so diners generally bring their own bottles of wine and sake. And they usually share with the chef. But, for those that don't BYO, there’s beer and two sakes by the glass or bottle.
Conversation piece: Diners can experience the "invitation only fine dining" by filling out a request form on the restaurant's website. A confirmation emails provides you with the restaurant's exact address.