Nigiri at Hama Sushi
Nigiri at Hama Sushi

There's an Off-Menu Item at This Sushi Bar Worth Waiting for

Hama Sushi is a delight. I'm talking about the one in Little Tokyo — the unrelated Hama in Venice might be a delight too, but I've never been there.

The tiny restaurant on the south exterior side of Japanese Village Plaza has only a three-sided bar and one table. There's a sign on the door announcing "Only Sushi/Sashimi. No Tempura No Teriyaki No Noodles No Rice Alone." It's repeated inside on a whiteboard.

But once you're seated, everyone who works at Hama is nice. In fact, one of the sushi chefs is quite flirty, pretending to have a favorite half of every couple that walks in, showily giving that person extras and all the orange slices at the end of the meal. He drinks cans of Sapporo at his station.

You can have a decent feast of high-quality fish for less than $50 per person here, so it's not one of the city's big blowout sushi spots. But the standard hourlong wait for a seat here is worth it — this is the best sushi on Second Street. Get the yellowtail, the snapper, the sweet shrimp with fried heads.

Hama also serves a small menu of cooked items, usually things that seem whipped up to use the entirety of the fish. Which is why I'm comfortable recommending one absurdly decadent off-menu item: the salmon belly nigiri. You know how people say things taste like butter but hardly ever mean it? The salmon belly tastes like butter. Save it for the end and order only one piece. You'll probably have to sit and stare at the wall and contemplate existence after eating it. The servers will be understanding for at least four minutes.

Order some fish you've never heard of before, too, and any grilled collars. Maybe donate some money to an ocean conservation group. Then savor that piece of salmon belly and give thanks to Poseidon. 

347 E. Second St., downtown; (213) 680-3454.


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