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Go’s Mart

It was inching close to 8 PM on my drive back to Santa Barbara (from LA). I knew by the time I got back, everyone would have already had dinner and I would be stuck with either rushing to prepare something or getting fast food. I also knew that Canoga Park is right off the 101. I had about 20 miles to decide and I soon realized what a good decision getting on the offramp was.

I read about this little hole in the wall place in Canoga Park that had sushi that was supposed to rival Urasawa. Ok, whoever said that is probably crazy, but really, this place is getting rave reviews. You know me, I love finding hidden gems, so I knew I had to eat at Go’s Mart the moment I read about it. It’s snuggled between a hydropnics store and a tanning salon in a small run of the mill stripmall. It’s on Sherman Way Blvd and though the street crosses Topanga Canyon Drive, the two couldn’t be more different. I actually had visions of it moving because, at first, I couldn’t find it. Finally, when I was about to leave, I saw the sign in big bold letters – SUSHI.

When you walk into Go’s Mart, you immediately pass shelves of Japanese videos for rent. That’s right, it’s a rental shop. But, keep on walking towards the back and you’ll see Go’s wife hanging out. I told her it was just me and she directed me to the bar. The bar runs along the side of the left wall and has about 10 seats. There was a large rowdy group of (mostly) Filipinos and two white ladies on the end. I sat in the middle.

I ordered an iced tea from the wife and when one of his assistants asked me what I wanted to drink, I misheard and told him what I wanted – omakase. The word translates to “entrust” or “protect.” It is basically saying “I put my meal in your hands. Give me the best you’ve got.” There are obviously real dangers to omakase. For example, you don’t know what you may get. It might be something you don’t like or are allergic to. You also don’t know the cost. I saw no menus anywhere. On the wall were two dry erase boards with the fresh fish and shellfish of the day. No prices.

I, unfortunately ran out of batteries on my F45fd and I didn’t have a charge or extra batteries with me. You’ll have to refer to some other sites for pictures. I am sorry. Instead, I will describe the dishes to the best of my ability.

1. Chinese broccoli with bonito flakes and sesame – Go-san handed this to me and told me to put some soy sauce in. I thought he meant this was for my soy sauce, as in the ingredients were supposed to somehow flavor the soy. I didn’t eat a bite of this. I later learned this was an appetizer and the soy would cut the strong (bitter?) flavor of the broccoli. Next time I’ll eat some. It should also be mentioned that I did not touch the soy sauce a single time that night. I feel that if you trust the chef, you should eat the food the way he presents it.

2. Ankimo (monkfish liver), sweet plum sauce, scallion, daikon, gold flakes, goji berries – I was told “no soy” for this dish. No problem, Go-San. I described this as “like foie gras” to my roommates. I later learned that it is indeed called the foie gras of the sea! Excellent mousse like texture. The sauce was nice and thick and I wrote down “hoisen?” Very creamy and delicious.

3. Whitefish sampler – snapper, kampachi, kelp halibut, and ??? – Great way to compare different white fishes. Each fish was served nigiri style (on a little bit of sushi rice). In fact, you should note that all the items that night were served in the same simple manner. Each whitefish piece differed a little bit in the seasoning. There was truffle oil, chili powder, citrus (acid and a tiny bit of zest), and sea salt.

4. Toro and Peruvian tuna, gold flakes, crispy fried garlic slice – Talk about melt in your mouth goodness. I generally don’t like paying double for Toro versus Albacore, but this was great. The gold flakes may be a little over the top but you gotta know this about Go – he loves truffle oil, various salts, and other fancy add-ons. But you know what? It works. These items enhance already excellent fish, to make it even better. They are not used to mask bad fish.

5. King crab, snow crab, sweet japanese shrimp with uni – Crab can get pretty firm and these pieces definitely were, but nothing was bad about it. Extremely sweet and flavorful meet. My favorite though, was the shrimp and uni. It was like two luxury pieces paired up. I never ever order shrimp sashimi. I may have to change my mind.

6. Giant clam, baby abalone, Japanese conch – Served with a light sprinkling of salt. They were a little chewy. Reminds me a bit of octopus. I wish I remembered it better because Alex seemed really curious about it. Salt. No real hint of the ocean. I don’t eat these items often so I wasn’t blown out of my seat. I need to get more accustomed.

By this time, the large party was starting to wrap up. Go-san knew everyone there, and knew most of their names. When each party left, they all said bye to him and he would say goodbye back. He is really funny and jokes often with the customers. Personally, I sort of felt out of place, like I crashed someone’s party but that was probably because I was new. He never actually did or said anything negative toward me. I could tell he had his hands full. When the large group was winding down and finally left, his attention turned to me.

7. Blue crab handroll – I was given this by one of his (two) assistants. One of the best items of the night. So simply made. Just blue crab, sushi rice, some truffle oil, and seaweed. Each piece was easy to bite and the seaweed tore away. Those of you that have eaten handrolls know what a big deal this is. Sweet, tangy, delicious.

Go-san asked if I was full. Actually, he made the full symbol with his hands. I shook my head no and motioned “bring it.”

8. Sakai salmon, Copper River King salmon – Another comparison of salmons. I actualyl don’t like salmon sashimi. Ok, well that’s not true. I just never order it. To me, salmon is like chicken. Sure you can have really good specimens of both, but it’s still fricking salmon! These two pieces were good. No, they were great. They were buttery and soft. But like I said, a little wasted on me.

9. Duo of freshwater and saltwater eel, orange peel garnish – God, I love how Go-san operates. He doesn’t give you 2 or 3 pieces of the same fish. He gives you one of each so you can compare and contrast. The eels were served with the sweet eel sauce you always see them with. That leads me to a question that has plagued me for years – how come you never see eel without that sauce? I wonder if we actually tasted a grilled eel without the sauce, if it’d taste like crap? Ok, so which did I like better? I liked them both!

After I savored this dish, I told Go-san that I was full. He asked me how everything was and I said great. He stated that I was new and asked me where I heard of the place. Before I could answer, he said “Internet?!” I nodded.

10. Cantaloupe, raspberry, condensed milk – Fresh fruit, simply prepared. Excellent palette cleanser and closer.

By now I was the last customer in the restaurant. They were cleaning down the place and Go-san was sharpening his blade on a waterstone while I signed the bill.

Total for one: $130

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