Dear Mr. Gold:
My British girlfriend is coming to visit the U.S. in a couple weeks, and she has requested American-style sushi. We’ve been teaching English in Japan for the past few years, so we’ve had our fill of good, simple nigiri and sashimi for the time being. So where should we go for primo California, Philadelphia, spicy tuna, rainbow and caterpillar rolls? Oh, and we’re both unemployed now so we’re on a bit of a budget.
Thanks so much!
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An interesting dilemma — the people I know are usually looking so hard for the kind of nigiri-sushi unchanged since 1906 that the roll question gets swept under the bamboo mat. But Los Angeles, of course, is the birthplace of both the California roll and the fusiony Matsuhisa thing, and it is harder to find sushi bars that avoid the caterpillar roll than it is to find places that make good ones. Hamasaku, the West Los Angeles restaurant, is kind of a roll mecca, a home of all things rice-inside and rice-outside, spicy and sweet, crunchy and gooey, fish-masking and fish-intensive, named for people like Judy Ovitz and Harrison Ford and served to a talky, happy crowd of industry types. If chef Nozawa worked there instead of Hiro Fujita, he’d throw himself out of the restaurant. (A second edition of the restaurant is set to open soon in the Melrose Avenue space where Kumo was until recently.)
Hamasaku, of course, isn’t cheap — the fancier rolls often reach $20 a piece. Which brings us to the cheerful South Bay sushi mecca Kamiyama, which serves delicious homegrown versions of some of the Peruvian-Japanese sushi preparations that Matsuhisa made famous, a decent selection of traditional sushi, and an absolutely baroque selection of Waterpillars and Goliaths, Piranha rolls and Krunch rolls, poke rolls and something called a Philly Slur, which is kind of like a Philadelphia roll squirted with the Peruvian hot sauce aji. And afterwards, you get to stop at Chantilly across the street for one of Keiko Nojima’s exquisite black sesame cream puffs. 2408 Lomita Blvd., Lomita, (310) 257-1363.
Got a culinary question? E-mail Jonathan Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org.