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Sushi Zo - two bad experiences

Been going to Zo ever since they opened last year. Use to love their fish but I will NEVER go back again.

Sat down at 7:45pm for dinner recently and by 9:20pm, we had only been served 4 orders of sushi (2 pieces each order). An hour a half for 4 orders!! Meanwhile, the two tables of four next to us were served repeatedly and I noticed the time it took for us to get one order, they got four! I asked the waitress about the rest of our order and she said the chef is very busy with serving the omakase first. The place was full on Friday but I didn't know you become the last priority if you're not ordering omakase. I've been to Hiko and Echigo when they're packed and didn't have the same problem even tho I didn't order omakase.

I gave Zo a second chance last night. I occasionally order their spicy tuna roll which is very good and has been on their menu ever since they opened. However, last night the chef rudely said "no more...we don't served spicy tuna rolls. If you want one, go down the street for one"....basically half-kicking me out. Fine, down the street I will go. I'm not a sushi beginner and I understand all the sushi "rules" and the "no california roll" blah blah but do you have to be a jerk? If you don't want to serve it, don't put it on the freakin' menu!! This kind of service is ridiculously unnecessary and uncalled for.

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  1. I had omakase at the bar there a few nights ago. My first time. I had read all the chowhound reviews about how great this place is...but, I didn't get it. The chef was definitely gruff, I saw him practically bark at a couple to get their attention as he handed over their crab rolls. A lot of rules and regulations (no cell phones, etc), which I'm fine with, except that the atmosphere was hardly tranquil (extremely bright flourescent lighting, ugly decor, hard surfaces and a lot of noise). Fish was good but very basic nigiri and sashimi. Not a worthwhile experience at $100/person.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mehfactor

      i think keizo's gruffness is usually tempered with a wink. he's just joking, it's part of the act, and he kind of lets you in on that. if you aren't part of the conversation itself (i.e. if you're just witnessing other customers getting barked at) it may be hard to tell.

      if not then i'm guessing he might have been having a bad day? i've never had one there though...

    2. Ouch - sounds like you either had an awful run of bad luck or their success may have gotten to their heads? I normally don't do sushi stuff but once in a blue moon, as I had more than my fill growing up, but this is one of the places that I put on my own to-go list if the yearning or need arose to find a great local sushi/omakase place (these two had been one in the same to me - alot of the sushi places I went to while visiting in mostly Hiroshima always put their good hats on). This is even more sad because I was planning on taking my bro-in-law who is visiting from Singapore in May. I guess instead, it will have to be Mori or Kiriko or... hey - there's plenty of good omakase in LA - more than enough to humble even the divus attitudes of these folks. I am sure it was word-of-mouth that made them so popular - I am sure it will be the same that will knock them down to earth as well.

      1. I am quite saddened to hear about your less-than-brilliant experiences at Zo recently.

        Just months ago, while he was empty, watching the door, and trying to get himself up-and-running, we Chowhounds posted loudly for him with rave reviews; he was good!

        I do hope anyone with any further RECENT experiences -- good or less-than will post here. I'd rather not go back and erase my glowing posts -- but I'd really like to know if he has what it takes to stay. I wholly agree with "bulavinaka" in that we have lots of other really good choices in L.A.

        2 Replies
        1. re: liu

          Hi Liu. I finally went to Sushi-Zo today for the first time. I really liked it, plus the tea was quite good! To me, when the tea is good, it shows me that the restaurant is paying attention to the little details and that the place is a labor of love, not just a sushi factory (Hiko comes to mind, for instance).

          Plus, I loved the idea of a good sushi bar blooming in an unlikely location, such as a shopping center in the middle of nowhere (I guess people who live near Sushi-Zo don't consider it in the middle of nowhere, but it's a bit far from my normal hunting grounds).

          I was a little shocked when Keizo-san addressed me by name - he remembered me from Hide. I think it's great that he left the cocoon of Hide and opened his own place. Long live entrepreneurship!

          1. re: omotosando

            Whew! I finally scored one with you, omotosando! I think I have sent you chasing before, and the destination was not your favorite. However, I also like Sushi Zo and Keizo-san a lot! And I do remember the tea as being very good! (As you know, for me it is not just a peripheral detail, but an important part of the sushi experience.) Did you have the yuzu drink at the end of your meal?

            Your story of Keizo-san calling you by name, remembering you from Hide days past, I had a similar experience. We bumped into him at 888 while having dim sum one Saturday morning. He came over to our table to offer a warm greeting and visit a few moments.

            I support him and very much respect his high standards; I would be sad to learn that he is compromising in any way. I thank you for your very positive report, and I am really glad that you enjoyed a delicious meal there!

        2. I've never understood sushi chefs that are rude.

          I can understand, and even appreciate, sushi chefs that are strict (e.g. Nozawa or Sasabune) when it comes to what they will serve you. Because in some sense these chefs are simply being true to their craft, which is admirable and should be totally respected.

          But when a sushi chef is simply rude, or off-putting, then it's totally uncalled for. This is especially puzzling when eating sushi, esp. at a bar, is such an intimate experience and the rapport you build with the chef can make or break a dining experience.

          If this becomes a pattern at Zo, then it is zo, zo zad ...

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Yeah the experience seemed rather "Nozawa-esque" to me (albeit even more expensive), which can be okay if you're in the right mindset, but wasn't at all what I was expecting given the descriptions on this board.

          2. I just went back last night, and I still love it (third time this month!). Granted, I've been lucky enough to go only when they're not very busy, but I could care less that the head chef is gruff. Just don't sit in front of him.

            The waitresses are all extremely friendly and gracious, and the second sushi chef is all smiles too.

            I don't know if the head chef is just not a people person or if it's a gimmick (sushi nazi), but for the sake of enjoying my meal I'm happy to play along. If you smile at his gruffness or gruffly joke back at him, he almost always cracks a grin to let you know he's just joking--even if he's a bad comedian and ends up offending some. Maybe he's just not a people person, maybe he has a short temper. We can't all have candy-sweet temperments, and I don't see any reason why he should. He could probably be more polite, but there are different ways to deal with different people and he's certainly not impossible.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pei

              I've been there four times. The first time was the worst... he was rude and very upset that we were taking photos. understandable. he is definitely mr. passive/aggressive, but we loved his food too much to let his demeanor/attitude ruin our food. like pei said, just don't sit in front of him. because we didn't have to deal w/ him, it was definitely an enjoyable experience at his restaurant. his new assistant is really a nice guy - we sit w/ him now and say 'oishii' occasionally which pleases Chef Keizo. but to everyone's point, no sushi chefs shouldn't be so rude. and as for nozawa, he was the nicest guy when we sat directly in front of him. he wasn't upright welcoming but nor did he say/do anything that would boil our blood. you can say that we've developed a numbness to LA sushi chefs.