The Place: Kabuki Japanese Restaurant (inside Howard Hughes Center): 6081 Center Dr., Los Angeles; (310) 641-5524.

The Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 p.m.-close; Sunday, 8 p.m.-close.

The Deals: $2.95-$5.95 appetizers and sushi rolls; $1.95-$9.50 beer, wine and cocktails.

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The Digs: Kabuki sits at the edge of an oftentimes sleepy Howard Hughes Center, just off Sepulveda Boulevard. Surrounded by businesses such as Subway, Mrs. Fields and a small cigar shop, the Japanese restaurant is rarely packed on weeknights, so a reverse happy hour starting at 9 p.m. makes sense. Above the sushi bar, ideal for sports fans, there are two small flat screen TVs hanging above the scrappy chef.

The decor is fairly simple, with black leather booths, wood tables, and white walls covered in Asian designs and large red painted Japanese alphabet characters. There's nothing too exciting in the complex: Islands, Johnny Rockets, and a handful of fast-food type eateries. Kabuki, aside from The Hummus Factory, which is “coming soon” at the opposite end of the mall, provides one of the healthier options.

Chu-Hi; Credit: Celia Soudry

Chu-Hi; Credit: Celia Soudry

The Verdict: It's nice to be greeted with a shiny little bowl of glistening edamame while you sift through the menu in search of the perfect roll. And it's nice to have more than a few options on a happy hour menu. There is wine, sake, saketinis, beer, and about six appetizers and nine large sushi rolls from which to choose. Ordering the Chu-Hi lychee cocktail made with shochu (Asian vodka) was a bit of a let down: tasty and sweet, with a plump lychee hanging on its rim, but with the alcohol content of a weak mimosa.

A perk in the reverse happy hour is that you can opt for brown rice in your rolls at no extra charge. The firecracker appetizer (two large dollops of mayonnaise-spiked spicy tuna with chopped tomatoes and scallion) is good but not recommended before a movie, unless you enjoy a good deal of spice and don't mind a runny nose and slightly teary eyes. If you're planning on dinner and a movie and want sushi but don't care to pay inflated prices at a place like Century City mall's Houston's for Americanized sushi, Kabuki is a solid option. It's a non-pretentious joint serving beefy rolls stuffed with spicy tuna, imitation crab and shrimp tempura. Sure, it's a far cry from Urasawa or Katsuya, but then so are its prices.

Grade: B

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