Asanebo. For a while, Asanebo was famous as the No-Sushi Bar, an establishment that served only sashimi and tiny portions of proto-Japanese cooked foods — grilled salmon with mashed potatoes and salmon eggs, fried squid with asparagus, steamed catfish with miso and ginger — and all Hollywood seemed to flock to the place, eager to visit a restaurant that had come up with an entirely new way to deny satisfaction to its customers. Still, it is a pleasure to pull up a stool to the bar, to utter the magic word omakase — “Feed me until I burst!” — and to sit back and wait for the food to arrive. Soft, oily salmon, mounded in a bowl, is garnished with caviar; fillets of kanpache, a tiny cold-water tuna imported from Japan, are arranged into a little fishy Stonehenge. The ankimo (seasonal), cylinders of molded monkfish liver in a sharp ponzu sauce, is fine. 11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-3348. Lunch and dinner,Tues.–Fri. Call for times. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $25–$90. Japanese. JG $$$ Ü
i Daikokuya. The hub of the ramen cult at the moment is Daikokuya, a long, narrow lunch counter that has been around for a couple of years but feels as if it’s going on 50, a center of steam, noise and garlic at the heart of Little Tokyo’s noodle-shop district. Most ramen shops offer an endless list of possibilities; at Daikokuya, the choice is taken out of the equation — you will have the house style of ramen, thin, curly noodles in pork broth, or you will have no ramen at all. But the pork broth is a formidable liquid, opaque and calcium-intensive, almost as rich as milk. Floating with the noodles are plump slabs of simmered pork, slices of seasoned bamboo shoots and a boiled egg per bowl. Daikokuya feels just like Japan. 327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680. Lunch, Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner, Mon.–Sat., 5 p.m.–3 a.m.; Sun., noon–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Food for two, $13–$25. Japanese. JG ¢ * H ¦
The Hump. This little crow’s-nest sushi bar, named for a difficult Himalayan airway, sits atop Typhoon at the Santa Monica airport. Eat kampachi sashimi off Mineo Mizuno’s ceramics and watch the planes pop on and off the runway. Much of the fish comes directly from the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and the chefs can go as simple or sophisticated as you like. Try the chopped Tataki-style sashimi. 3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Third Floor, Santa Monica, (310) 313-0977. Lunch, Mon.–Fri., noon–2 p.m.; dinner seven nights, 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $35–$150. Japanese. MH $$$
Ita-Cho. Despite a recent move to a larger space on Beverly Boulevard, Ita-Cho still inspires long lines on the weekends for its country or village-style Japanese cuisine. The food comes out on a series of little plates that can be shared by everyone; and, hey, if someone bogarts the sautéed miso-soaked eggplant or marinated black cod, just order more. The kitchen and service staff are so swift, you’ll hardly notice the wait, and the prices aren’t punishing. 7311 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 938-9009. Tues.–Sat., 6:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and sake. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $20–$50. Japanese. MH $ ¨ ¦
Kagaya. Shabu shabu is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. If you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 617-1016. Mon.–Sat., 6–10:30 p.m.; Sun., 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. D, MC, V. $35 fixed price. Japanese. JG $$
Kokekokko. The ritual at Little Tokyo’s Kokekokko is to order one of the set menus, either five or 10 courses of grilled chicken flesh and innards: loosely packed chicken meatballs, faintly scented with herbs; grilled skin, threaded onto the skewer in accordion pleats; marinated slivers of thigh, separated from each other by slices of onion. Grilled hearts, served with a smear of hot Chinese mustard, are a little tough, but intensely chicken-flavored. Wisps of breast stretched around okra and Japanese chile provide just a smidgen of residual sliminess that works to intensify the texture of the meat. 203 S. Central Ave., downtown, (213) 687-0690. Dinner, Mon.–Sat., 6–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Takeout. Street parking. D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30–$50. Japanese. JG $$
Matsuhisa. Nobu Matsuhisa was the first sushi master to introduce Americans to yellowtail sashimi with sliced jalapeños. Playing with tradition has made him an international star. Locally, you can try his food at the modest Ubon noodle house at the Beverly Center and the high-end Nobu in Malibu, but his original, stunningly uncharming location on La Cienega is still, to our mind, the best bet — especially if you sit at the sushi bar and give your chef free rein. To this day, despite many attempts, nobody has improved on his innovations. Reservations are a must and, at times, a pain. 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 659-9639. Lunch, Mon.–Fri.; dinner nightly. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $15–$50. Japanese. MH $$$
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Shiro. Deep-fried catfish are almost as inescapable around here as personal trainers or Chevy Suburbans, but Shiro, a Japanese-French bistro unaccountably tucked into a Midwestern-looking South Pasadena streetscape, serves so much of this ponzu-steeped stuff that it might as well rename itself after the fish. Its version of the dish — imagine a whole catfish the size of the shark from Jaws, stuffed with ginger and fried to a crisp — is everything you could want from a bottom-feeder. 1505 Mission St., South Pasadena, (626) 799-4774. Lunch, Tues.–Thurs.; dinner Tues.–Sun. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $16.50–$24.50. Japanese-French. JG $
Tama Sushi. Formerly known as Katsu (until a fire closed it for a year), Studio City’s Tama Sushi is owned and run by veteran sushi master Michite Katsu and his wife, Tama. Katsu’s first restaurant, which opened on Hillhurst in the ’80s, was seminal for its beauty and art, both on and off the plate; subsequent establishments (Katsu on Third, Café Katsu) upheld his aesthetic standards. Now, there’s only Tama Sushi, a spare, understated yet charming piece of architecture, with Katsu himself expertly carving up fish at the bar — it’s both educational and joyous to watch him at work. Start with a plate of assorted sashimi, and you’ll find he cuts fish as a gem cutter works with rubies, accentuating inherent virtues. And don’t miss his live scallop sushi, dressed in lime juice with a sprinkle of Italian sea salt. 11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-4585. Lunch, Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner, Mon.–Thurs., 5–9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Sushi and sashimi, $1.50–$15. Japanese. MH $
Wabi Sabi. In a neighborhood where artists once rented studios for pittances, a sleek new commercial district of antique stores, design offices and high-end restaurants has evolved — including Wabi Sabi, a skinny storefront refashioned into a Matsuhisa-derived sushi bar/Pacific Rim dinner house. Drop in for a big bowl of Cal-Asian style “bouillabaisse” or linger through a multicourse meal of small plates (including standbys like miso-marinated bass or eggplant). But sushi, here, is the real stunner — which, given the prices, it should be. Don’t miss the lobster roll. 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 314-2229. Mon.–Thurs., 5:30–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m. Sun., 5:30–10 p.m.; Full bar. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $12.50–$18. California Japanese/Pacific Rim. MH $$
White Lotus. The kitchen at White Lotus, a lavishly designed, Asian-themed Hollywood restaurant-club, began as a collusion between Hiroji Obayashi, of Hirozen (Brian Ueno has since taken his place), and Andrew Pastore, formerly of Granita, the Pig ’n Whistle and various New York establishments. If their credentials make White Lotus sound like a serious, even innovative, food-focused dining establishment, this would be misleading: What you eat here is essentially a fusion-inflected version of familiar club comfort fare . . . plus sushi, an already well-established combo in this town. For appetizers, there’s dim sum. For steak and potatoes, it’s steak and rice. But food and dining are not necessarily the featured attraction; as the evening deepens and the throng thickens, the noise level rises, the martinis flow, sushi flies from the sushi bar — it’s a locus, a scene — and a pleasant one at that. 1743 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 463-0060. Dinner, Tues.–Sat., 6 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $14.50–$32. AE, D, MC, V. Asian fusion. MH $$ ¨ H