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Changes at Iwata =(

h
hambriento Jun 14, 2007 11:25 PM

So I just moved to the valley a couple of months ago, was very sad to leave the Palms/Culver city area. I used to live within walking distance from sushi Zo!

Thanks to CH I found Iwata, which by no means compares to Zo, but does provide yummy, big bang for your buck meals. There has been a few posts on the quality of Iwata so I will not repeat here. One of the main draws for me was the great service Wazu (I hope I'm spelling it somewhat right), the main sushi chef provided. He was not only very competent but also a very pleasant and funny man. Iwata does not have any preset omakase, but Wazu, upon request, would masterfully prepare the best quality fish they had in stock.

Sadly the last two times I've visited Iwata, Wazu has been gone. Kogi, his second in command is still there, and provides good service, but not as great as Wazu. Tonight I learned that Wazu left for a new place, was not able to get the name, but it is supposed to be located in Toluca Lake. Does anybody know to which restaurant he moved to, or of any possible locations in that area I can ask around?

  1. Debbie W Jun 15, 2007 07:20 AM

    We've been eating at Iwata on average once a week for 9 years (including last night), and I have no idea who Wazu is. Shigei (sp?) is the owner - he's not always behind the sushi bar anymore, but he's around. Is/was Wazu the older, tall chef? He barely worked there, maybe a few months and not every day. I don't think there's actually a "main chef" anymore. I think Koji (Kogi?) is ok but he's not my favorite. Recently we've been sitting with Miki, the adorable female chef, but we found out last night that she'll be leaving in a month or so since she just graduated massage school and wants to concentrate on that. I do think it's regrettable that there has been a lot of turnover but we still enjoy the food a lot and barring some disaster, I'm sure we'll continue to eat there all the time. Oh, there's another younger male chef but I don't know his name, and we're also happy to have Alejandro serve us, he's a cool guy. Anyway, don't despair, we've survived many sushi chef changes at Iwata and it's still our favorite "everyday" sushi restaurant, by far. We have tried to find others in the neighborhood with the same tastiness/quality/price ratio but we haven't come close.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Debbie W
      h
      hambriento Jun 15, 2007 04:05 PM

      yes Wazu was the older taller chef. I've never sat with Miki, and Alejandro is a very nice guy. What's been your experience with Shigei? I've seen him behind the bar only once and I was not seated in his section.

      I will keep going back to Iwata just because it is so close, but will follow Diana's tip and see if he's at Sho.

      Thanks!

      1. re: hambriento
        Debbie W Jun 15, 2007 05:47 PM

        Well, I'm very fond of Shigei personally, he's always very sweet, greets us by name, asks about my husband's workload during tax season, chats about travel, baseball, other restaurants, etc. I don't think he's ever been the most talented sushi chef there, as I can name three chefs over the years, none of whom work there anymore, all of which have better knife skills and more creativity in general (as far as I know, these chefs decamped to Tama, Asuka and Hamasaku, respectively, though I can't say if any of them are still working at those places). When Shigei is behind the bar, we tend to avoid his section because we try to snag the two seats in the corner, to your left when you walk in, and Shigei has never worked that side. My husband is a big guy and he feels the seats are too close together on the longer side of the bar for him to be really comfortable if it's full. I think over the years Shigei's cuts have maybe gotten a little smaller, but that's probably a bit of nit-picking. Hope this helps. In the meantime if you go to Sho, please post on that because we've never been there and I'm interested to hear how it is.

        1. re: Debbie W
          h
          hambriento Jun 15, 2007 07:02 PM

          will do (although it may not happen until next wee), thanks for the info.

    2. d
      Diana Jun 15, 2007 07:56 AM

      There is a bar on Rierside in Toluca Lake called Sho. A lot of the good Valley chefs pass though there as they advance. I've seen people there go to katsu-ya, or Asanebo, or other places.

      Try there.

      Hope you find him. Once you have a favorite itame, it's hard to lose him or her.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Diana
        barcelona Jun 16, 2007 07:28 AM

        The owner at Iwata is definatel;y ruining the place!! I used to eat there 2-3 times a week when they opend up to support their business, they really had a hard time making it the first 2 years. Now they treat us like everyone else, and forgot all the great things we haved done for them

        My recomendations: for cheap but FANTASTIC sushi eats try Shiki -(818) 487-3938
        12745 1/2 Ventura Blvd

        for a more high end treat try Katsu-Ya , Matsuda, and Asanebo (progressively expenssive)

        1. re: barcelona
          Debbie W Jun 16, 2007 08:21 AM

          I'm not a fan of Katsu-ya (Studio City, been several times), overrated food, too expensive, and nasty attitude. But I know some folks like it and I can understand why. As to Shiki, we've eaten there lots of times, somehow we kept returning every few months, and would inevitably feel nauseated after eating there - bigger isn't better in the case of Shiki. We went to Matsuda a couple of times several years ago, it was ok, then we tried it again within the last couple of months and it was terrible. Hardly any variety of fish, poor quality fish, unskilled chef, ick ick ick. So thanks, but I'll stick to Iwata, you don't have to go there, it's too crowded anyway!

          1. re: barcelona
            d
            Diana Jun 16, 2007 09:18 AM

            just my opinion here, but I was put off when you said, "Now they treat us like everyone else, and forgot all the great things we haved done for them."

            Yes, you suporrted a struggling business, and that is good. But I dount you were the only ones. "all the great things"? Did you do more beyond paying for thier good food and helping them stay afloat? Did you overpay, or donate? were you an inevestor?

            You shouldn't expect total demi-god status. Good service is of course a must, as i good food, and oyu should expect that.

            But man, don't go in with the expectation that the place owes you some sort of life debt. Don't STOP supporting them because they don't!

            1. re: barcelona
              d
              Diana Jun 16, 2007 09:19 AM

              just my opinion here, but I was put off when you said, "Now they treat us like everyone else, and forgot all the great things we haved done for them."

              Yes, you suporrted a struggling business, and that is good. But I dount you were the only ones. "all the great things"? Did you do more beyond paying for thier good food and helping them stay afloat? Did you overpay, or donate? were you an inevestor?

              Katsu-Ya is overhyped, and just not that stellar. Matsuda is one of the few places I've eaten that has actually made me leave before I was done-really bad

              Asanebo is good

              1. re: Diana
                c
                compucook Jun 16, 2008 11:44 PM

                Tonight was our second visit to Iwata and we were confused and a bit disappointed with our meal. On our first visit a few months ago, we were there around 9 on a Friday night. The place was hopping the chef was creative and friendly and we had a totally good experience. Tonight we were in the neighborhood again and our visit was less than satisfying. We're not connoisseurs, but prefer rolls and the like. Our fish was fresh and well prepared but w/o any excitement if you know what I mean. When we tried to ask the chefs--we were assigned an older guy who didn't seem to understand so the chef in the middle are answered a few questions. Usually with as few words as possible. But beyond that, the rolls had a total lack of creativity. The blue crab hand roll had delicious crab packed on rice with a bit of broccoli. No sauce whatsoever. A bit of a kick or something else might have amused me more. DH's spicy lobster was generous too, but nothing he cared to repeat. We had two other rolls and called it a night. Competent and fresh, yes, but enjoyable? NO. We thought it might have been us, but after reading about the turnover, now I'm thinking they were the ones who changed.
                BTW we agree about the assessment of Katsuya, at least the Encino location. A ridiculous wait for a few seats at the bar, rushed service, sometimes with an attitude and food that can definitely called mediocre---except for their seared ahi with crispy onions!

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