Restaurants that thrive in New York City don’t necessarily find an audience in Los Angeles. Bond Street, a lower Manhattan sushi bar import, offers a perfect case study in how successful restaurants can’t always be rooted up and plopped down without losing something essential in the process.
Owner Jonathan Morr made a good call setting up shop in a sushi-loving town like Los Angeles. However, leaving the restaurant’s dated menu unchanged proved to be a huge misstep. Just how disastrous were the early days at Bond Street? Try a zero-star review by S. Irene Virbila.
Since last April’s scathing write-up, a talented young cook named Brian Redzikowski has come on board as executive chef. His shining resume includes a degree with high honors from the Culinary Institute of America and stints in some of the nation’s top kitchens, including Le Cirque, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, Le Bernardin, Nobu (Aspen), and Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas). His culinary hero is Joël Robuchon.
Photo by Alen Lin
“Bringing 1990s, unevolved food to L.A. in 2008 did not translate well at all,” says Chef Redzikowski. “Being surrounded by farms and farmers, it’s necessary to utilize this resource for the freshest produce and products.” Since coming to Bond Street late last year, Redzikowski has done everything in his power to innovate, update, and incorporate new ideas. However, corporate headquarters has required that he leave a small fraction of the menu as is, including the overplayed and over-fished miso Chilean seabass.
A few months ago, I received an email from Chef Redzikowski inviting me to come try his new, and hopefully improved, Bond Street menu. I’m no stranger to freebies, but was flattered beyond belief to be personally invited by the Chef to sample his wares. It’s as if Billie Joe Armstrong called me up and said, “Yo, Cathy. We want you to come into the studio and listen to some new Green Day tracks.” We scheduled a date and time, and I eagerly anticipated the day.
Think of the new Bond Street not as a sushi bar, but as a thoroughly modern Japanese fusion restaurant featuring small plates. “I feel it is important to order multiple dishes to experience different textures and sensations, rather than ordering one large entrée,” says Chef Redzikowski. There’s also some dabbling in molecular gastronomy, but fear not, the Chef never attempts to use exotic preparations to mask subpar flavors.
The Astronomer and I started off our Bond Street tour with Big-eye Tuna Tarts topped with micro shiso and white truffle oil. The base of the tart was made by pressing two wonton wrappers together through a pasta maker and searing them on the teppanyaki. The result was a pleasantly crisp and mild shell, which contrasted delightfully with the supple fish.
Course number two consisted of three pieces of fluke laid across slices of lemon, all upon a bed of shredded daikon (left). We were instructed to consume the fish in tandem with the lemon, and to garnish with the spicy minced daikon/Sriracha mixture and the ponzu. Although this dish had a lot of potential, it ultimately didn’t work for The Astronomer or me because of the lemon slices. Cut just a smidgen too thick, the lemon was overly tart and unpleasantly bitter. To make matters worse, we were sipping sweet cocktails that seemed to intensify the acidity.
Course number three (right) more than made up for the previous one’s weaknesses. The two bites consisted of Hamachi belly “film strip” (back) and “Encased” King Crab sushi (front).
The Hamachi belly creation is one of Chef Redzikowski’s “New Age” sashimi dishes. Building on an Italian approach to crudo, the Chef created a thin sheet of soy sauce similar in composition to a Listerine strip. The soy strip quickly disappeared on my tongue, leaving only a trace of saltiness to mingle with the fatty belly. The “encased” King Crab was paired with a rice sushi vinegar gelée with bacon foam. The crab meat was so sweet that all other elements faded into the background.
The fourth course was quintessentially L.A. with its thin slices of seared tuna rolled around micro shiso, tightly bound lettuce and avocado spring rolls, and a ginger soy dressing. This deconstructed dish was definitely more interesting in terms of textures and presentation than an average salad, but the flavors weren’t anything of note.
Next, we were presented with two bright orange slabs of salmon nigiri. Flown in from British Columbia earlier that morning, the salmon was buttery and smooth. Topped with pearls of soy sauce “caviar,” the nigiri went down mighty easily.
This off-the-menu creation of brûléed foie gras was something out of the Alinea play book. Sprinkled with a bit of turbinado sugar, the foie gras was torched until it glistened then perched upon a rice crispy treat base. The cube of fatty sweet perfection was adorned with fresh basil, a lemon pepper sauce, cacao granola, and three types of yogurt—chip, powder, and plain. The dish’s flavors teetered between sweet and savory, while the textures changed with every bite. This was definitely one of the most memorable courses of the evening.
The transition to warmer dishes began with a Japanese bouillabaisse. An intensely red broth was poured over a thick pool of uni rouille at service, creating a luxurious soup with a distinct creaminess reminiscent of the sea. Generous hunks of lobster, squid, shrimp, and fish, none of which were the slightest bit overcooked, were bathed in the rich broth and were all the better for it.
The luscious bouillabaisse was followed by a decadent pork belly preparation. Sous vide for twenty-four hours, the miso glazed Kurobuta pork belly was gloriously tender and had me sighing with each bite. The inspiration behind this dish were baby purple artichokes from Suncoast Farms, which were used in the foam and served whole underneath the foam. An olive oil powder made with tapioca maltodextrin provided a quirky finish.
Our final savory dish of the night was Australian wagyu with applewood baked bacon, spring onions, fava beans, carrot spheres, and onion puree. The strip loin was prepared sous vide for forty-five minutes at 59 degrees Celsius. At pick up, the steak was seared and glazed with soy-garlic and sprinkled with coarse salt. The result was a perfectly cooked and gushingly flavorful piece of meat that paired beautifully with the seasonal produce from the Beverly Hills Farmers Market.
We began our foray into sweets with “Burgandy in a Bite” (left), which consisted of a pinot noir and strawberry sphere oozing with a spiced red wine glaze and accented with dehydrated strawberries.
Next, I tucked into some “Vietnamese Coffee”— a frozen espresso sphere injected with milk jam. The sphere was served alongside a quenelle of espresso ice cream and spiced rice puffs, and finished with a kaffir lime cappuccino. Eaten together, the flavors were an abstract approximation of an authentic ca phe sua da experience.
While I was engaging with my very molecular Vietnamese coffee, The Astronomer dug into a plate of mochi donuts with yogurt, candied rhubarb, and coconut ice cream. Chef Redzikowski employed a basic donut recipe but swapped out the all purpose flour for mochiko and ricotta cheese. The donut’s texture was simultaneously dense and springy, and unbelievably morish. My friend Sook knows something about its addictive qualities.
Our final bite of the evening was a “chocolate ball” resting upon a hill of caramel powder and filled with liquid vanilla bean ice cream. The cocoa dusted sphere was a thing of beauty, and it pained me to have to crack it open, but I did it anyway. It was a sweet pleasure through and through.
In the short months since Chef Redzikowski arrived at Bond Street, huge strides have been made to erase past mistakes and to woo a new and discerning audience. Under his guidance, I am certain that Bond Street will garner the buzz that it deserves. Chef Redzikowski is a genuine talent and is destined to succeed. I can feel it.
9360 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212