10 Best Sushi Restaurants in Los Angeles
5. Kiriko Sushi
Few itamae balance the stylings of modern and classic sushi with the flair of Kiriko's Ken Namba. Some nights there will be plump tomato geleé or squares of bright orange king salmon that Namba smokes himself in the back kitchen. Other times it's pale lozenges of skipjack topped with yuzu rind and shaved pink sea salt. He might even surprise you with a bowl of cooked tuna mashed with bits of okra, green onion and grated yamaimo, a dish that would be well received at any PTA potluck. Kiriko is a place where it pays to be a regular — that albacore sashimi with ponzu jelly from one night might transform into a seared filet dusted with fried garlic the next. Of course, sitting at the gorgeous, rough-hewn sushi bar, all dark and mahogany, with Namba calmly doting overhead is reason enough to inspire regular visits. 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 478-7769; kirikosushi.com
There are always surprises when it comes to chef Shunji Nakao’s tasting menus, which showcase the bounty at the local farmer’s market as much as they do exotic seafood. There might be rock shrimp and mountain yam stuffed into zucchini blossoms and fried tempura-style, then served with a pinch of sea salt mixed with finely ground green tea powder, or a ceramic bowl of chilled seaweed mixed with slippery baby sardines. The specials board right above the sushi bar can be dizzying most days, but the genial presence of Shunji and his staff soothes any F.O.M.O. concerns you might have. Housed in an odd, circular-shaped building that started its existence as part of the now-extinct Chili Bowl franchise, the restaurant marries creative Japanese small plates with immaculate fish and warm rice better than anywhere else in town. Whether it’s a brief but indulgent omakase lunch (a bargain at $40) or a blowout dinner stocked with monkfish liver and live lobster, the perfect meal for the occasion can be found at Shunji. 12244 W. Pico Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 826-4737; shunji-ns.com.
3. Sushi Tsujita
If you were one of the skeptics who thought Tsujita’s prowess in producing kick-ass bowls of ramen couldn’t possibly translate into an ultra-traditional, edomae-style sushi restaurant, you wouldn’t be alone. But with veteran Tokyo sushi chef Shigeru Kato at the helm, there arose a new heavy-hitter for Japanese cuisine along the crowded Sawtelle corridor. Arrive at dinner time and you’ll encounter an ambitious and occasionally outlandish omakase menu that spans from braised abalone decorated with tofu skin to homemade squid cake paired with a stalk of puffed rice. A meal here can be far more expensive than the noodle house down the street, but with elegant geodesic patterns and glowing chandeliers adorning the space, Sushi Tsujita is as transportive as any of L.A.’s serious sushi bars. The greatest perk is the lunch menu, where an epic chirashi bowl will cost you as little as $15. You’ll receive the same fish as those who opt for the higher-priced omakase, just slightly less cosmetic cuts. It’s like the Nordstrom Rack of sashimi, and it’s one of the city's most enticing sushi deals. Sushi Tsujita, 2006 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 231-1177, sushitsujita.com.
Hiroyuki Naruke, head chef at Q, is a stranger in a strange land. He was wooed to the U.S. by three L.A. lawyers who frequented his six-seat sushi bar in Tokyo’s Roppongi District and who promptly helped him relocate to a quiet, cathedral-esque sushi bar downtown near 7th and Grand. In that small space he’s been doing things that should excite even the most well-traveled of sushi aficionados: intricate preparations and subtle flavors that point to a mastery of centuries-old techniques from Japan’s Edo era. A $185, 22-course meal with the quiet and studious Naruke might include lobes of uni marinated in miso so they explode like umami bombs on the tongue, or a thick slice of Spanish tuna topped with rustic sansho peppercorn paste. There are no flashy gimmicks or avant-garde spins at Q, only a laser-like focus on the essence of what you’re eating. If Naruke serves eel, it will taste more like eel than you thought possible. His piece de resistance arrives at the meal’s end: a square of tamago (sweet egg omelette) as dense as pound cake and made with minced sweet shrimp and scallops. It’s a humble gesture, but one that packs so much flavor per square inch, it’s essentially a culinary diamond. 521 W. 7th St., downtown; (213) 261-3479; qsushila.com.
When discussing Urasawa, it's probably best to first address the elephant in the room. This is unequivocally the most expensive restaurant in the city. It's the kind of commodity, along with courtside Lakers tickets, that most people spend years squirreling away for. The real question: Is it worth it? Chef Hiro Urasawa trained under Masa Takayama, a man who is almost unanimously agreed upon to be best sushi chef in the country (Takayama left Los Angeles a few years ago to open Masa in New York, where dinners often command even more astronomical prices). Urasawa speaks the delicate language of kaiseki with a level of fluidity most chefs can only dream of, teasing out the nuances of Japan's most prized delicacies: Kobe beef sashimi, foie gras shabu shabu and — if the season is right — sweet filaments of hairy crab imbued with layers of creamy shirako. The bill might become more bearable if you think of it as a first-class Japanese vacation that lasts only a few hours. Imagine the money you saved on airfare. 218 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 247-8939
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