10 Best Sushi Restaurants in Los Angeles
Have a favorite sushi spot? Nominate it for our Best of L.A. 2015 Readers' Choice Award.
Jiro might dream of sushi, but we Angelenos seem to spend our waking hours obsessing over it. From the too-numerous-to-count sushi bars dotting the San Fernando Valley to the strip-mall gems embedded in the South Bay, sushi is ingrained in the Southland’s DNA.
Beyond the world of crispy rice and dynamite rolls, however, there exists an upper-echelon of sushi in Los Angeles that competes with the best in the world — outside of Japan, of course. The term omakase has slowly worked its way into our common vernacular over the past few years, and the idea of asking whether your uni hails from Hokkaido or Santa Barbara no longer seems obnoxious. There has never been a better time to turn over your tastebuds (and your wallet) to the whims of a skilled itamea.
As you already might have guessed, eating L.A.'s best sushi is a pricey endeavor, but for those looking for the most exciting sushi available without a passport, here are 10 of our top contenders.
Omakase meals at Kiyokawa often involve a gorgeous six-section plate, roughly the size of the cafeteria tray, filled with intricate appetizers: steamed lobster on a square of fried wonton, uni soaked in white miso or maybe a foie gras torchon studded with grains of truffle salt. Even though his undecorated storefront might not suggest it, Chef Satoshi Kiyokawa is something of a one-man orchestra. He hangs over his plates with intense focus and arranges them with the kind of intricacy and creativity you'd see in the kitchen of Thomas Keller or Grant Achatz— all taking place no more than a few feet away from your chair. He might serve a rudimentary matzo ball of sorts, made from bits of scallop and tofu, swimming in bottarga broth, or maybe a simple vegetable soup scented with braised daikon and taro. Both reflect the ethos of Kiyokawa perfectly: layers of flavor and texture woven together to produce a single, symphonic result. 265 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 358-1900
Courtesy Nozawa Bar
9. Nozawa Bar
Before Kazunori Nozawa became the patriarch of the Sugarfish empire and of the fast-casual handroll spot Kazunori, he was a badass chef in the late '80s holding court at his small sushi bar in Studio City, a place where ordering a California roll or asking for spicy mayo could get you tossed to the curb. He was the original “Sushi Nazi,” and his uncompromising style defined how Angelenos experienced proper sushi for years. Nozawa officially retired in 2012, but the best place to experience his legacy is inside a 10-seat, cedar-lined dining room in the back of Beverly Hills’ swank Sugarfish location. It’s here you’ll find Nozawa Bar, where head chef and Nozawa acolyte Osamu Fujita serves a 20-course barrage of omakase dishes, which might include halibut fin sashimi or seared Japanese squid. The hallmark of Nozawa Bar is its lush simplicity — the dinner will cost you $150 per person and will feature seafood that Fujita hand-picked at that morning’s fish market. Of course, the famous house rules are still in place: reservations require a non-refundable deposit, cancellations must be made 72 hours in advance and latecomers are not tolerated. That’s just the Nozawa way. 212 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; (424) 216-6158; nozawabar.com
8. Go's Mart
You've probably heard the "hole-in-the-wall with amazing food" refrain applied liberally in this city, but few, if any, can claim to match up with the sheer absurdity that is Go's Mart in Canoga Park. In a converted Japanese grocery store (check out the VHS rental selection), a small bar is stocked with a dizzying array of Japanese seafood delivered via weekly air shipments from the famed Tsukiji fish market. Reserve a seat and explain to Go your desire to enjoy the best he has to offer, and you'll be introduced to a decadent world filled with gold flake-dusted chu-toro, uni-stuffed king crab and caviar-sprinkled Kumamoto oysters. If you can convince your skeptical friends that a meal of this caliber can be found in the upper reaches of the Valley, they may even brave the drive with you. 22330 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; (818) 704-1459
Chu-toro nigiri at Zo
7. Sushi Zo
Even its most devoted regulars will agree: Sushi Zo is far from the most hospitable environment. Your greeting by the hostess will be followed by an unapologetic warning that this is omakase only. Photos are strictly verboten at the sushi bar, and heaven help you if owner Keizo Seki spots you pull out your iPhone for a mid-meal tweet. But in spite of all these rules — or more likely because of them — Sushi Zo, which now has two sleek locations, in Cheviot Hills and downtown, excels at its craft. The strict menu of minimalist nigiri is designed to highlight the extreme freshness and quality of the star ingredient. There are buttery coins of raw Hokkaido scallop, sweet shrimp the color of pink pearls and types of fish you didn't even know existed until they leapt from the edge of Seki's exacting blade. You will be bluntly instructed on how to best enjoy all of them — we recommend you listen. 9824 National Blvd., Cheviot Hills; (310) 842-3977 and 334 S. Main St., Ste. 1106, downtown; (424) 201-5576; sushizo.us.
6. Mori Sushi
When chef Morihiro Onodera sold his namesake restaurant to an assistant chef in 2011, the reaction among sushi gurus was something akin to the response to armageddon. Could a Michelin-starred restaurant whose excellence relied on meticulous quality control — Onodera had a reputation for creating almost everything in-house including soy sauce, tofu, rice and flatware — continue its ways once its founder had retired? Years later, the answer is still an unequivocal yes. The charred giant prawns continue to arrive looking a prop from a Japanese sci-fi flick, the strips of scale-on baby barracuda are still marked with a gentle sear, and your meal will, as always, end with a dainty bowl of green tea ice cream churned, naturally, from scratch. 11500 W. Pico Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 479-3939
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