Really good sushi is expensive. And while we'd all love to eat at Urasawa during our lunch break, it's not exactly feasible (and not just because it costs a few hundred dollars — they're also closed for lunch). So people can't always consume the freshest kohada flown in from Japan, but they do keep finding ways to grab some raw fish for lunch, and eat it at their desks. Whole Foods will make you a brown rice, tuna and avocado roll filled that omnipresent orange sauce; SanSai will let you pick up a take-out box of sushi with all the charm and grace of a Koo Koo Roo; and Ralphs, we're pretty sure, makes sushi too (though we try to pretend they don't). To help you find some better options, today's food fight will pit sushi and rolls from a truck against some from a Japanese supermarket.
When the Fishlips Sushi truck first opened, some people were a little apprehensive about the idea of eating raw food from a truck, but it's almost a perfect set up: in essence, what they've created is a sushi bar on wheels. We ordered the “spicy set,” which included four pieces of a spicy tuna roll, and five pieces of temari sushi (a smaller, ball-shaped piece of sushi). On this day, the temari included tuna, salmon, albacore, eel, and shrimp.
The fish appeared to be made to order, and at first glance, already seemed like one of the best on-the-go sushi options we've come across. The fish in the temari was fresh, and while it of course can't rival the better restaurants around town, it was still tender, appropriately luscious, and lacked any off-putting odor whatsoever. The spicy tuna roll was mellow and enjoyable as well. But as most sushi aficionados will tell you, it all comes down to the rice — and this is where Fishlips really sets itself apart. Again, it's definitely not worth comparing to the stuff at Mori, but compared to Whole Foods? It's not even close. It was cooked and seasoned nicely, and lacked any of the gummy characteristics you expect in a setting like this.
For our second competitor, we visited the Mitsuwa Marketplace on Venice and Centinela. Sadly, all it took was one look in the refrigerated sushi section to know that Fishlips was going to win. We bought some spicy tuna rolls as well as some nigiri, sat down, and were pretty disappointed. The main issue, of course, is the rice. Refrigeration kills rice, and does it quickly. It dries it, hardens it, and turns it into plaster. Both the rolls and nigiri were not really worth eating, particularly after having tried the stuff at Fishlips. The pieces of fish themselves were also a bit dry and tough.
Our one note of caution here is that we went to Fishlips around 12, and made it to Mitsuwa close to 1. So while we can't assure you that the rice at Fishlips is consistently of this quality, we can be pretty certain that it will always be better than the stuff at Mitsuwa, or Ralphs, or any other place that leaves their rice in a refrigerator case. If you really want to eat sushi from a supermarket, we suggest going in the morning and eating it for breakfast, while it's still fresh.