Five years ago, a restaurant group opened a high-end Japanese yakiniku, or tabletop barbecue, called Yazawa in the former Bierbeisl space in Beverly Hills. Now the same group has opened an extravagant new shabu-shabu and sukiyaki destination called Ima right next door as a U.S. branch of Tokyo’s one Michelin star Imafuku restaurant. Ima opened back in September 2019 to little fanfare.
The menu basically has four options. There’s a $140 “basic” sukiyaki tasting with appetizer, vegetable platter, rice, soup, 4.5 ounces of beef loin, and dessert; and a $180 option for 6.5 ounces of beef loin. Sukiyaki has humble origins as a simmered vegetable and meat dish prepared on a tabletop, where fat and juices coming off the beef slices help cook the vegetables along with soy sauce. Each slice comes served over lightly beaten poached egg as its only sauce.
A similar setup takes place for the shabu-shabu, a traditional Japanese hot pot where the meat and vegetables are gently cooked in simmer broth or water. The shabu-shabu tasting includes beef tongue, four different cuts of beef, ramen noodles and more, also split into a $140 basic and $180 premium pick. Some a la carte options are add-ons to the tastings, in case diners want to spend even more cash on various wagyu beef cuts, like a $125 chateaubriand or a more humble $40 rump. Ima claims to ship every piece of wagyu beef directly from Japan, and with these prices it’s hard to dispute that claim.
The restaurant makes a lot of sense next to Yazawa too, since the yakiniku restaurant has its limitations as a grilled meat destination. Since sukiyaki and shabu-shabu reside in the high end in places like Tokyo, it was only a matter of time before the expensive Japanese beef situation landed here in Los Angeles. Naturally, an extensive menu of whiskey, shochu, wine, and sake accompanies the sukiyaki and shabu-shabu.
Up until this point, most of the shabu-shabu restaurants in LA were on the mid-range, sub $50 mark, but Ima brings a baller option for anyone with a big expense account (or preference for Japanese wagyu). This level of sukiyaki, with only the highest grade Japanese wagyu, is something that’s almost never been seen in LA until Ima’s opening. Reservations available on OpenTable.