Before there was Whole Foods, Mrs. Gooch’s was one of the first natural foods stores in Los Angeles. It also was one of the first to offer sushi, something relatively new and exotic in Los Angeles.
When the mega-chain gobbled up Mrs. Gooch's, along with other mom-and-pop markets across the Southland, sushi chef Tonny Soesanto came along with it. His product became so popular that he launched Kikka Sushi 30 years ago and went on to become one of the biggest sushi suppliers in the Los Angeles area.
Now, together with master chef Ando Yoshiharu, Soesanto is celebrating the launch of his new concept, Tosai Sushi, an easily accessible, eco-conscious restaurant serving high-quality sushi in the food court of the newly remodeled Westfield Mall in Century City.
While Westerners are more used to ribbon cuttings, Yoshiharu and team celebrated their grand opening on Feb. 20, with a traditional “fish-cutting” ceremony, taking a 60-pound, line-caught fresh whole tuna from Fiji and sharing the ruby sashimi with guests.
“Watch the tuna change color as it blooms,” Soesanto gushed. “It oxidizes when the air hits the flesh and will get redder.”
And he knows a little bit about chemistry. After coming to the United States from Japan, he received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley, where he published a paper on fructose, sucrose and glucose, and perfected his "bear instincts" — catching, cooking and eating fish. He then earned his master’s in chemical engineering from Caltech.
The entire Tosai eco-conscious concept is based on serving affordable sushi and inventive menu items made from sustainable ingredients that are free from hormones, antibiotics or any artificial colors or flavors. Selections include vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Tosai sources all-natural, line-caught salmon from Iceland or Scotland. It is cut and prepared daily and then frozen per FDA safety rules.
Because eel ranks among the worst seafood choices according to the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch, and is on its “avoid” list, you won’t find unagi on Tosai’s menu, as you would at many popular sushi bars. The restaurant is certified by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.
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What you will find at Tosai are unique selections like the spicy and crunchy sriracha roll, which comes with either brown or white rice, and the vegan orchid roll made with forbidden black rice, avocado, Napa cabbage, carrots and spiced pink orchid sauce. The sushi burrito is about as filling as the usual Mexican version with a fraction of the calories, as it's made with tuna. And for a sweet treat, there’s a seasonal aloha fruit salad roll with sweet dipping sauce.
Specials include rolls that are fleshy and crunchy, such as kaffir lime shrimp and spicy shrimp tempura. There are the traditional nigiri choices as well as sashimi. All the self-serve to-go packages are in the $8 to $12 range.
Tosai Sushi, Westfield Century City Food Court, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., (424) 343-0440, tosaisushi.com.