Japanese Food Encino

2017’s Best Bites on Ventura Boulevard

With 2017 now in our rear-view mirror, we take a look back at our 5 favorite tastes.

Ventura Boulevard spans 18 miles and allows for a world of opportunity, especially when it comes to food. In our coverage zone, which extends from Calabasas to NoHo, one can find restaurants specializing in cuisines that span the globe. Here, we take a step back to reflect on our favorite bites from this past year.

Okumura’s Chawanmushi

Since opening in 2012, Okumura has been a pleasant surprise in Encino. Talented young chef Ryota Okumura sources pristine seafood and assembles sushi with a jeweler’s attention to detail. They also prepare izakaya-style Japanese comfort foods like chawanmushi ($12). This Japanese egg custard is typically embedded with spare sea creatures and vegetables. At Okumura chawanmushi practically becomes art, studded with shrimp and edamame. Atop this bowl of high-value luxury, you’ll find a generous helping of creamy Santa Barbara sea urchin and Alaskan salmon eggs, which provide salty bursts. This dish is as delicious as it is beautiful. (read more here)

17302 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-986-9712

Davenport’s Smoked Salmon Waffle

Seasoned chef Nigel Davenport finally struck out on his own, opening a contemporary grill with his family called Davenport’s. The menu features impeccable preparations of seafood, steak and other meats, though options are hardly predictable. Take Davenport’s savory onion waffle starter for example. Crispy quarters with just the right amount of give are dressed with silky smoked salmon, dill, capers, red onion, lemon zest, fluffy cream cheese and tiny dabs of caviar that add savory elegance. People who enjoy breakfast for lunch or dinner—or just like a creative waffle—this dish deserves attention. (read more here)

16120 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-855-1203 

Sushi|Bar’s Belly

Sushi|Bar is an upscale, eight-seat, anything-goes hideaway from Phillip Frankland Lee and wife Margarita Kallas-Lee that patrons enter through Woodley Proper on the second story of an Encino strip mall. Here meals are omakase-only, meaning the chef serves you what he pleases, and you won’t see chopsticks or bottled soy sauce on the bar. Seared Canadian salmon belly served on prawn tartare is a powerhouse bite, but my absolute favorite is silky hamachi belly resting on sushi rice and dressed with sweet corn pudding, breadcrumbs, fresh-grated wasabi, and house-made soy sauce. Phillip is constantly changing the menu so one can only hope a similar belly preparation is available when you visit. (read more here)

16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-906-9775

SOCA’s Lobster Roll

SOCA, the sophisticated, modern steakhouse with global influences from chef Aaron Robins, has slowly expanded since opening in February. They launched a bar-only happy hour menu with “explosive bites,” including a killer lobster roll. SOCA’s Latin-inspired lobster rolls features sweet claw and tail meat with piquant aji amarillo-lime aioli, cooling pico de gallo and punchy house-pickled jalapeño on a toasted, split-top brioche bun. The lobster roll is not currently on SOCA’s menu, but it is likely to return when the weather warms. (read more here)

14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-301-4300

Toast Café’s Green Shakshuka 

In Israel, shahshuka vies for the title of the country’s most popular breakfast dish. It features eggs cracked into well-spiced tomato sauce that’s baked and served in a skillet. Tel Aviv native Yael Tal serves classic red shakshuka at Toast Café, plus the rarely seen green shakshuka ($14). In this case, a stainless steel skillet hosts a vivid slurry of sautéed onion, spinach, cilantro, pesto, green onion and cream, all blanketing two eggs, and served with toasted pita that scoops up herbaceous sauce and bright yellow yolks. This atypical shakshuka is earth-shaking. (read more here)

15001 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-461-9020