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A sushi chef and an Italian chef collaborate on the feast of a lifetime

L.A. Japanese and Italian chef's feast
L.A. Japanese and Italian chef's feast
courtesy of Mori Odonera

As a way of winding down after the hectic pace of service at their West Los Angeles restaurants, chefs Sal Marino and Mori Onodera would team up to cook imaginative late night meals for a handful of other chefs. Like jazz jam sessions these off-the-cuff dinners were a way for the two restaurateurs to get their creative juices flowing.

The resulting dishes had amazing Italio-Japanese synergy—not strictly sushi but definitely related and more refined than the purest modern northern Italian dishes of the day.

Now after more than ten years experimenting together the duo goes public on May 9 and 10 with two dining events that they’re calling “Two Best Friends Cooking Together.” They’ll be offering a twelve-course menu (and optional wine pairings) at Il Grano.

Of course you know the indulgent spread has to be fabulous. The long time success of these super-dedicated guys lies in their obsessions with culinary details. Marino grows a slew of heirloom tomato varieties and has used them to create seasonal tomato-focused dinners way before the terms locavore and farm-to-table were in our vernacular.

Regulars at Mori Sushi knew that besides sourcing incredible fish, he was among the first itamae here to use locally-grown yuzu and to insist on fresh wasabi grated in front of each customer. Not only did he mill his sushi rice daily but he had a unique strain grown for him in Sacramento. Today he’s paired with a farmer in Uruguay to grow an incredibly toothsome variety that he distributes to other chefs and that will appear in several preparations at the dinners.

Highlights from the menu: A5 Wagyu beef from Japan with olio nuovo; cherry gazpacho with Dungeness crab and lemon verbena, Hokkaido scallop with chrysanthemum pesto. There will be crudo based creations, pastas and a welcoming sake-prosecco cocktail with shishito pepper foam.

FOR RESERVATIONS: email Cost: $125 per person without optional wine pairings, tax or gratuity.

Il Grano is at: 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90025. Phone: (310)477-7886.

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