At Rebel Omakase, tradition and creativity come together for a curated meal rooted in remembrance.
By Ashley Ryan
Japanese cuisine—especially the art of sushi-making—is steeped in tradition, but enhanced by creativity. From selecting the freshest seafood to perfecting the rolling techniques and dreaming up exquisite plating designs, there are so many ways to honor this culture while also injecting some beauty and excitement in each dish. And there’s no better way to toe the line of classic and contemporary than with omakase.
In Japanese, omakase roughly translates to “I leave it up to you,” giving the sushi chef the freedom to incorporate his finest cuts of fish into inventive, high-quality courses. And at the new Rebel Omakase, which opened along Forest Avenue in August, it’s no surprise that leaving it up to the chef is this restaurant’s specialty.
The 10-seat sushi bar, set in the middle of the room, provides ample opportunities to watch chef-owner Jordan Nakasone—who opened the restaurant with wife Debrah Cha—at work. Beautifully lit, with soft music filling the air and smooth river stones and artwork lining the walls, the ambiance is one of relaxation that also allows you to focus on the meal.
Those seeking an omakase experience here can enjoy a prix fixe menu with 19 appetizing courses, all crafted meticulously in front of the guests. Select a sake to accompany the meal, such as the premium Tanaka 1789 X Chartier Blend 001 junmai, a pure rice variety that is easy to drink. Beer, wine, Champagne and tea are also available.
When it comes to the culinary side, the menu is ever-changing, giving Nakasone the freedom to concoct new items, incorporate seasonal ingredients and more. The restaurant structures its omakase experience to begin with plated traditional items like tempura, where ingredients like black snapper and broccoli are coated with a gluten-free batter then topped with fresh crab meat or a small river crab (intended to be eaten whole).
Other options that diners may encounter: The Clear Soup, made with green tea soba noodles and Japanese clams, or chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard topped with tiger prawns, caviar, wasabi and edible gold flakes.
Before moving on to the sushi portion of the evening, guests are given a watermelon sorbet infused with wasabi to cleanse their palates. Then, the chef takes his time preparing pieces of nigiri that are sure to delight.
Nakasone knows the importance of using high-quality ingredients—not simply for the fish, but for seaweed, ginger and rice as well. The seafood is sourced from a Los Angeles fish market as well as a company that flies in certain types of fish from Osaka, Japan, ensuring a wide variety as well as optimum freshness. Rotating selections include everything from red snapper and bluefin tuna to sea bass, amberjack and Japanese sea bream.
He draws inspiration from traditional sushi restaurants in Japan, but also from Michelin-starred eateries in Europe. “We do it our own way and add a little twist at the end,” Nakasone says. “But we have respect for traditional sushi—we don’t do spicy or creams or sauces or artificial ingredients. Everything we serve here, we made.”
Growing up in a large Japanese community, he recalls the flavors and aromas of his childhood, which also serve as inspiration to him now. Any big party was filled with tables of food, though it was often improvised—made with a twist, the same way Nakasone does now. “Those older ladies who made it struggled to find Japanese ingredients, so they used what they had at the moment,” he explains. “Those flavors are great memories.”
Reservations are required for the omakase experience, but a la carte options are available as well, and walk-ins may be accommodated. Rebel Omakase will also soon open for lunch, offering nigiri, sashimi and hand rolls in the afternoon.
361 Forest Ave., Ste. 103
5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday