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Sushi Gen last night - YUCK!

The girlfriend and I were really looking forward to it, having never been there and it does seem to be a perennial favorite here on Chowhound. We've both eaten a lot of sushi in our lives, all over the world, including a great deal in Japan.

Susi Gen, at least last night, at least for us, was terrible. I had a chirashi sushi and an extra order of aji (Spanish mackerel). The girlfriend had seven different individually ordered sushi, mostly nigiri, but also some maki.

To start off we had a simple order of edamame and that's where things started downhill. They were mushy, except for in a few spots where they were still frozen. It was as if they had simply bought a bag of them at Trader Joe's or something and did a lousy job thawing them out.

My chirashi consisted of a very modest amount of fish that was ugly in presentation, ineptly sliced (actually chopped up in coarse little bits in several instances) and not particularly fresh. To add insult to injury, the sushi rice it was set on top of was so utterly drenched in vinegar - with little pockets of sugar distributed unevenly throughout - that I could have squeezed it out, added some olive oil and made a salad dressing.

My aji was some of the worst I've ever had. Badly cut, fat at one end and thin at the other, mushy and tasteless and set on that overly vinegared rice. I ate one piece and left the other sitting there.

My girlfriend's sushi was all pretty much as awful as my chirashi for the same reasons. Several of the pieces came with explosive pockets of pure wasabi hidden in the bad rice. She'd bite into one and the taste of wasabi - not particularly good wasabi at that - would completely overwhelm any possible hope of tasting the fish. The fish itself was not great quality and a lot of it had a mushy texture due to the way it was cut and presumably the way it was thawed.

When I walked into the place I was a little concerned as I tend to trust smaller sushi places. There was a somewhat frantic hubub of too many sushi chefs behind the counter and a whole lot of tables that they were preparing sushi for, as well as the crowded, large sushi bar itself. Seeing that, I worried about the potential for lack of proper attention being paid to any one order. My worries seem to have been with good reason.

Perhaps some of you will say it was an off night. But the problems were so pervasive and due to factors that are well within the control of any well run restaurant, that it is highly unlikely that my girlfriend and I will give Sushi Gen another chance. We much prefer SushiGo 55 and Saito Sushi. In both those places we have had both hits and misses, but the few misses have never been due to aggregious inattention to detail and lack of quality ingredients, as they were last night at Sushi Gen.

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  1. Everything you describe has never happened to us and we have been going there for years(50+ times). Sushi Go 55 is Ok but not as good as Gen.

    1. My experience at Sushi Gen was also negative.

      1. Well Sushi Gen has been on my 'To Try List' for far too long, have not made it there yet. My friend Ikuko who spent the first couple of decades of her life living in Tokyo tells me that Sushi Gen is great and that I must try it!

        1. Perhaps we were simply unlucky, but our meal last night was exactly as described. No agenda involved. I was very much hoping to like the place after everything I've read here.

          1. I've been to Sushi Gen several times for lunch and the sushi was pretty good. The cuts of tuna, salmon, and hamachi have always been fresh and tasty.

            Did you speak to the manager after your meal? Not that it would have changed this experience, but they may have persuaded you to return for another try. Hopefully, it was just an off-night (not an excuse, of course).

            1. Other than having to wait a long time, I have nothing bad to say about the Gen.

              1. This is indeed disconcerting news since I've also been eating there for years and never had a bad experience. Perhaps they were understaffed or have some new, novice sushi chefs behind the counter.

                It'd be great if somebody else could report back over the weekend. I'm planning on going next week and now I'm worried there are staff problems underfoot!

                1. No, no novice sushi chefs. All experts, and the owner is dead center.

                  If you're nervous, wait to sit in front of him (the older guy who's always smiling.)

                  1. I've been going to Sushi Gen for over 5 years now, and I've never had a bad experience. Everything has always been consistent. I go at least 3-4 times a month. Actually, I just came back from lunch at Gen today and even had the chirashi bowl. Everything was as fresh as usual. I was also there for dinner last week (at the bar). Everything was great.

                    Sorry you had a bad experience. But maybe you can give them another chance. Try to sit at the bar, especially with either Toyo (middle guy/owner) or Hiro (far left).

                    1. I've eaten Gen only a couple of times, but have not found the food to be up to the hype. We've had sashimi and the sushi plate and the ankimo each time, and have not found it that much different from other sushi places we've eaten at. Good, but not worth the wait.

                      1. wowie! OP, I'm curious if you sat at the bar or a table?

                        1. i agree with the poster - i've given Gen 4 tries and been disappointed or underwhelmed each time. i don't think i've had quite as bad an experience as the poster, but i'm not surprised considering the scale and bustle of the place. the sushi just seemed sloppy, of mediocre quality and carelessly presented without much concern for flavor or presentation.

                          to be honest, i just don't understand the hype on the board about this place, especially when there are so many excellent sushi places in LA.

                          and i sat at the bar each time.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: shimpiphany

                            For me it's less a matter of sublime sushi as it is a simple cost:quality satisfaction ratio. I've always considered sushi to be outrageously expensive for what it is (I mean, think about it) and that figure brings it down into the everyman's ballpark.

                            At Sushi Gen, for $12 you receive a pretty generous plate of ok to good quality sashimi, soup, salad, appetizer etc. (Certainly a great deal better than what you would get at a Todai-like place for similar price.) Sushi Go 55 has a similar cost:quality ratio in that regard, with set specials between $10-15.

                            Dropping $65 for raw fish and rice is outrageous in my opinion.

                            (By the way, I'm not including Urasawa in this generalization as that $370 I paid was basically an evening's instructional tasting class of fine regional Japanese cooking, and well worth the money.)

                            Mr Taster

                          2. I've been many times. Always has been very, very good. One item of note is that I've ALWAYS had Omakase service there. I have never ordered anything else from them. I'm talking easily dozens if not scores of visits. Very possibly a three digit number. I'm not doubting the veracity of the OP, just stating that I've had a wildly different experience many times.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: woojink

                              What's really laughable is that there is a direct connection between IMP and LA Fish(the two main high-end Fish suppliers in LA for Sushi Bars). If anyone can get some of the best fish available, besides Urasawa, Nozawa, Sasebune it's Gen.
                              The quality for the Specials isn't the same as ordering OMAKASE at the Sushi Bar, night and day. Omakase is 65- a Sushi Special at the table is 12-, not the same quality.

                            2. woojink, i've eaten at sushi-gen many, many times, too (tho not in the triple digits!) but, maybe, it's the old regular ordering omakase and gettin' the good stuff done up a notch? But, having just said that ... I've sat next to newbies who got the same goodies I did.

                              1. Sushi Gen is one of my favorite restaurants....I think you must've had an off night although I've never come close to having a bad experience there...and I used to go at least once or twice a week for the past 3 years (until I got pregnant and had my baby)! But I ALWAYS sit at the bar so maybe sitting at the tables is not such a good idea?

                                1. We did sit at a table as we didn't want to wait for the bar. But, that said, if you're not having omakase I think you should receive the same quality anywhere in the restaurant. (I do expect, and expect to pay for, a different experience when I sit at the bar and order omakase.) If a restaurant can't do that, it really ought to downsize.

                                  1. This is coming from my experience working in the sushi industry and from a restaurant mentioned quite frequently on this board, I believe like most sushi restaurants there is a difference in quality from the sushi bar and dinner sets or table service.

                                    One of the main factors is time. At the sushi bar you can eat it not long after it was created. Like a handroll it is supposed to be eaten immediately so you can bite into into with a snap versus it getting soggy. Plus there the best is saved for sushi bar customers near the belly versus near the ends.

                                    Sushi Gen has a top notch sashimi lunch special and one of the best values anywhere. They train the helpers to make the sashimi well. I occasionally go eat there for lunch.

                                    What I noticed is that most people get the sashimi special and very few get the nigiri lunches. It may be just my imagination and this is coming from my experience only is that the nigiri sushi is not great at least from the table perspective and I can not speak about the sushi bar experience. I could be wrong that the sushi rice is inconsistent with rice wine vinegar. While many people like unagi, traditionally it doesn't belong in chirashi.

                                    In general, coming from my own experience, the sushi is better at the sushi bar. And to take it to another level, instead of asking for what you want, trust the sushi chef or ask him to make you something special to test the creativity and the mastery the itamae has with his knife.

                                    It is a shame sometimes to see sushi chefs full skills not being utilized and in turn their creative juices are held back. For example, seared engawa sushi (halibut fin muscle) with some yuzu kosho or toro takuwan (yellow radish) roll with no seaweed, or mentaiko(spicy cod roe) wrapped in ika (squid) with shiso sushi. Fresh Shiitake sushi. Tamago with narazuke sushi.(Egg omelette sushi with sake pickled vegetable) Yakitoro (seared toro in nikiri soy sauce with a touch of yuzu kosho. Tastes like high quality beef). It is only shown to a few regular customers who trust the chef to create whatever he wants.

                                    Just from writing this and maybe as a manager, I will encourage the chefs to be a little more vocal to ask the customers to try something new or trust him.

                                    1. I've been to Sushi Gen about 25 times, always at lunch... mostly the sashimi lunch special at a table for about $13, or occasionally nigiri at the sushi bar for about $30. Never had a bad experience with the food, it's always been great, the only downside has been the wait, and the fact that they won't just give you ponzu sauce.

                                      Sushi Go 55 is comparable but not quite as good as Sushi Gen, but is the better choice when you don't want to or can't wait at Sushi Gen.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: chowmominLA

                                        Strangely, I actually think the lunch specials (sashimi and sushi) are good for the price, but the omakase has generally sucked. while the head chef cuts well enough, his little helpers don't do a good job, no offense to anyone who thinks otherwise. the fish itself is decent but not top quality in my experience.

                                        1. re: choctastic

                                          Yes, the fish is consistently decent, but can be, sometimes, A to A- level and would agree with you that it is not “top quality” as I have never had A+ fish at Sushi Gen. But, I must say that, in my experience, the, ahem, “little helpers” have served me well throughout the years.

                                      2. I've eaten at Sushi Gen a number of times over the past 5 years, and I've never been impressed. Their fish is nothing outstanding, and generally pretty poorly cut. Their draw may be that their specials seem reasonably priced compared to other sushi restaurants, because you get a fairly large quantity of fish. But the catch is that the specials are primarily composed of very poor cuts of fish. Personally, I'd rather pay a little more and get better quality fish, especially at an establishment that holds itself out as a top notch sushi restaurant.

                                        Interestingly, I had dinner at Sushi Gen a few days after the OP, and I was also struck by how chaotic the restaurant was the entire time I was there. Perhaps there's been a change in the day-to-day (or evening-to-evening, as the case may be) management, but there was a very steep decline in how well the restaurant was being run. For example, my party was told that there would be a 15 to 20 minute wait. We ended up waiting an hour and a half, after being reassured every 10 minutes or so that a table would be available for us soon. (While we thought about leaving, after we invested 40+ minutes of time waiting for a table and were told that we would be seated next, we decided to stick it out.) In any event, I find it hard to believe that the host could, in good faith, have miscalculated the wait time by such a large margin.

                                        All in all, I wouldn't recommend Sushi Gen. You're much better off going to Sasabune or Nozawa.