MOST PEOPLE IN LA become euphoric when talking about their favorite secret sushi spot. I don’t have one, so I asked friends to send me to theirs.
I got out of here for under $20, including tip (cash only). That’s obviously what is working for this place. The chefs I ate in front of were gruff, expeditious, and not the kind who put love on a plate. They gave it to me fast and without rubbing my shoulders after they were done.
I’m not a spicy tuna fan but reviews all point to Noshi as the jam for this particular roll. It was chucked together and chopped in 20 seconds, and plunked in front of me, semi-falling apart. I was suspect. It turns out that this is one of the best spicy rolls I’ve had, and a big recommendation for people who are spicy tuna freaks.
Regular ‘ol tuna sushi: great. Salmon belly: creamy as it should be. Quality blue fin sushi for $5? Very pleasing. A note on the sushi, if you’re not a fan of wasabi, be explicit about this, otherwise you’ll be getting extremely generous dabs of it under your fish.
Bottom Line: Above par sushi served with New York pizza-slice attitude. If you’re looking to be fluffed, look elsewhere.
Wilshire Center, 4430 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004
This un-fancy Little Tokyo gem was jammed. It’s all about the sushi bar here, which has to seat at least 30 people, all facing eight chefs aiming to please. It’s an order as you go, freestyle kind of place. One quick nod and your next piece is being cut.
Why is the sushi so good here? Constant turnover. I don’t see how fish could last more than a day, there are so many people whoofing it down. The scallop sashimi was perfect, as was the snapper with a dot of jalapeno. I tried my best to savor the tuna, salmon, and yellowtail sushi — the flavors were bang on. I couldn’t resist ordering more salmon, and for dessert I picked a spicy tuna roll, which is also on the most-discussed list here as well (definitely the spiciest I’ve had).
Sushi Gen is not cheap but it’s obvious that the money goes into the quality of the fish and chefs. My binge ran me about $45 with tip, a beer, and parking.
Bottom Line: Friendly service and great food. Don’t go if you’re looking for concoctions. Do go if you’re looking for straight up sushi or sashimi.
Little Tokyo, 422 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sugarfish (Brentwood location)
The cult of Nozawa is deep. Many have recommended one branch or another of this five-restaurant chain, which is a looser version of his famed “sushi nazi” namesake (now closed). The menu leans heavily on his three omakase options, which come pre-ordained on the menu.
For $29.50 I went with the “Trust Me” selection and despite how annoyingly crowing his faithfuls can be, it did not disappoint in the least. Crazy-good tuna sashimi appetizer with a sweet sauce, a toro hand and yellowtail hand roll, as well as albacore, salmon, yellowtail, and halibut sushi. In a town full of stunt-rolls and gloopy “baked lobster roll” theater, it’s nice to be presented with what counts: great fish.
The sushi rice was among the best I’ve had and it should be noted that the ginger is the freshest, juiciest around. The restaurant itself has the buzz of people celebrating special occasions — alive and cheerful.
Bottom Line: Clean, superior sushi with no fluff and appreciated expertise.
Five locations, visit sugarfishsushi.com for details.
4 On 6 Sushi
Two sushi chefs serve a room that could hold about 30, and do it with extreme grace. Everyone at the bar seemed to be a local who knew just what they liked, and all of them envied that I was blowing the bank.
On what? The omakse. All sushi, one piece at a time, without any question of what was coming my way. It included baby jack mackeral, scallop (with a perfect amount of lemon and salt on top), uni, grunt, threadfin bream, seared king mackerel, albacore toro, baby yellowtail, yellowtail toro, and gravlax (topped with a spot of something sour cream-y). I was told to order until I gave up, and at that point I did, but not without considering the sake steamed mussel soup that was a special of the day.
Bottom line: If you blow $50 once a year on whatever the chef’s recommendations then this is a great place to do it.
16573 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436
Little Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya
Katsu-ya is the go-to sushi chain for most of my friends. I was thrashed by one person for not having visited this outpost and decided to channel my inner valley girl and, like, totally give it a try.
The food here is fusion-y, a mash up of different Japanese treats. The lane isn’t just sushi, it’s also very much about invention. When it works it kills (a roll with spicy tuna and popcorn shrimp) and when it fails it’s not a complete disappointment (yellow beets, tuna sashimi, arugula, and some kind of creamy dressing).
I eeked in at the end of happy hour and nabbed some surprising ceviche, a draft Kirin, and edamame for $7. I also snagged an order of tuna and yellowtail sushi, both very good. My vegetarian friend joined me and proceeded to order a number of things that I mooched in on, including the supreme-tasting garlic pumpkin. Taking a second look at the menu, I could see how a vegetarian would be very happy here. Fish is a component but not essential in some tasty dishes.
Bottom Line: Go-to if you’re in Sherman Oaks. The Studio City Katsu-ya lobbyist will scream that theirs is better, but they’ll never even try this place because they’re the Studio City Katsu-ya lobbyists. Bonus points for a Freddy Prinze Junior sighting, which I’m told is not uncommon.
Sherman Oaks, 4517 Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91403
If the author was to do a Part Two, where would you send him?