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Feb 6, 2008 07:14 AM

Tama Sushi (Studio City) - Still good?

I am looking for a sushi lunch, Tama in Studio City and West to the Conejo Valley. I haven't been to Tama in over a year and I have read mixed reviews on these Boards.
I would love some current information as to whether or not this is the best option for a sushi lunch.

(I know this is a repeated question, but the sushi landscape changes quickly and what was good yesterday might disappoint tomorrow.)

I have been to most of the Ventura Boulevard sushi bars, and for this particular occasion, Asanebo (Studio City), Iki (Tarzana), Sushi Spot (Tarzana), both Brothers (Woodland Hills) and Shibuya (Calabasas) are not options for various reasons. Is there anything great that I am missing?

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  1. Hi Liu, we were at TAMA last week & found it average & uninspiring. We didn't get any more excited over Ter Sushi which we tried a few days later (thats next door). Try Sushi Hirosuke in the Encino. We find the quality, service, & whole ambience a delicious class difference! We have not yet tried Sushi Dan Sasabune on Laurel Canyon, but have heard its good. --JET

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jet

      Hey, Jet!
      Thanks for your response!
      I was worried about this kind of review for Tama; my list of really good sushi bars is quickly diminishing. Twenty years ago I used to love Teru Sushi, but I agree that it is not nearly as good anymore. I have been to Hirosuke; it was okay years ago, but I have not tried it recently. With your suggestion, I will keep this one in mind.

      However, Sushi Dan Sasabune is a really good suggestion that I did not think about. If anyone can give us a report of their current experience at Sushi Dan, please do so. Thanks!

      1. re: liu

        A definite thumbs up from me for Sushi Don Sasabune. I've been there several times over the past few months.Their donburi bowl and sushi combo is a great deal and is my default order.

        The menu is pretty limited though, but they're great for the basics - salmon, tuna, yellowtail, etc. I also really dig their crab and scallop hand rolls.

        The place is actually very casual - you place your order at the counter and they bring it to your table. Note however that they make the sushi in back - not out front where you can watch, and that seems to bug some people.

        My only complaint is that they close too early - 8pm Monday thru Saturday.

        Sorry to hear that Tama is going down hill. I go there pretty regularly but haven't stopped by in nearly two months. For me, their sashimi and chirashi meals have always been satsifying. Big, generous portions at a reasonable price.

        1. re: RacerX

          Thanks, RacerX, for your report on Sushi Don. As you describe it, I remember being there once. We thought it was pretty good for a casual lunch. I agree with everything you say.

          I have not been to Tama recently, but I am not hearing rave reviews.

          Does anyone else have any other very current recommendations for something going West from Studio City?

          1. re: liu

            What about Go's Mart in Canoga Park? I've been dying to go and have heard wonderful things about this place. I believe it's strictly sushi.

            Go's Mart
            22330 Sherman Way
            Canoga Park, CA 91303
            (818) 704-1459

            1. re: Veggietales

              Go's Mart was of exceptional quality a few years ago, but I have not been recently. However, it tends to be a slow lunch, and for this particular occasion, we might not have that much time.

              I would love to hear from someone who has dined there recently.

              1. re: liu

                go's generally does take a while - simply because it's just the man himself working the fish at all times. as for the quality, still stellar.

                1. re: moeberg

                  I'm glad to hear your glowing report!
                  I will go when I can enjoy more leisurely.

          2. re: RacerX

            ditto -- love the handrolls, brimming with fresh and silky raw fish, that I get at Sushi Don Sasabune. Tho you can eat there, I prefer to take out.

            BTW - they close early bc they are *open all day* which is fantastic for someone such as myself who eats lunch around 3pm when all the sushi places are closed.

            1. re: Maxmillion

              I agree about their hours being terrific! Otherwise, the only options for sushi off meal hours are the supermarkets (Bristol, Gelsons)

      2. I never liked Tama to begin with.

        I prefer House of Taka or 4 on 6 in a similar price range.

        1. Tama has ALWAYS been phenomenal; sit at the sushi bar.

          9 Replies
          1. re: vinosnob

            I'm always happy w/ my meals @ Tama. Excellent fish, great ambiance, good service. Not inexpensive but very good value. I think 4 on 6 is very good, but find it very very pricy; conversely, House of Taka is very reasonable, less $$ than Tama, but only ok--for that level of casualness & price range, I prefer Iwata in Sherman Oaks--very tasty fresh fish & relatively inexpensive.

            1. re: archer

              I usually go to Tama about once a month, I haven't noticed any change in quality there. Agree, 4 on 6 is a bit overpriced, but the quality is good and I like the laid back vibe there with the smooth jazz, it's nice and quiet as opposed to Katsuya across the street where your head might explode from the noise.

              1. re: markn

                I just want to add my $.02 and say that I've always been a fan of Tama as well. Been going there for over 2 years regularly and have always been satisfied.

                Truth be told, Tama's probably my favorite regular sushi stop (it used to be Sushi Gen but its so crowded and I haven't been by in a couple of years.)

                I'm not big on fancy rolls and fancy presentation- I generally stick to chirashi and sashimi. Tama seems to fit my preferences, though I have friends who aren't very blown away by them.

                I've been to 4 on 6 and Hirosuke and felt that they were both overpriced and didn't measure up to Tama in terms of bang for the buck.

                I've been to Shibuya twice now and have really enjoyed it. Only complaint with them is the long waits to get in. They may be turning into my new fav.

                1. re: RacerX

                  Thanks for the comparison; it is always helpful to examine them side-by-side.
                  I have been to all of the ones you mention at various times over the years. Except for Shibuya, I have not been to the others very recently...within the past six of months, and all things sushi bar can change pretty quickly.
                  I find Shibuya to be inconsistent. I refer only to the fish; sometimes I am served really good cuts, and other times I find some of their items stringy and mediocre. It can also be a zoo in there; the bar is very tight.

            2. re: vinosnob

              Diana and vinosnob -- It is most curious to me that there are such divergent opinions of Tama.

              1. re: liu

                It happens. People have different tastes, expreinces, and such.

                My expreience was tremendously bad, cold and impresonal service for an omakase meal I had called ahead for. I was promised a seat in front of the man himself. I was bumped when a party of "regualrs" came in. . I actually saw the reservation paper sign with my name on it moved "on the down low" from where I was waiting to be seated. then the "regulars" who came in to a very hearty greeting by "the man himself" and a wave at what has been my reserved spot decided to sit at a table, leaveing the place I was told was not mine (yeah, I saw you guys move the sign down the bar) open for quite some time.

                When I had called, I had asked for sashimi, he started off with sushi, and I had to send the first plate back and remind him, as politely as I could, even though I was really seething inside. The fish was not really remarkable in any way.

                I called later from home to talk to them about it, and was told "You're not a regualr. When we see you more, you will get treated like a regular" (paraphrasing, here, it was a while back.) I have never gone back, nor don't plan on it.

                In comparison, even though I am not a regualr at Asanebo (as if I had the $$$!) I am always treated like a welcome guest by great itames who obviously want me there. My Omakase experience there was amazing, and the food was outstandign, worth the $$$!

                House of Taka also has a great customer service standard. While not as amazing as Asanebo, the fish is flavorful.. The hand rills (an evil treat) are bountiful, the sashii really good stuff. His imaginative dishes (non traditioal) are also worth the trip to the non-purist side of the fence-a rare trip for me!

                4 on 6 has amazing fish that you don't see very often, and they treat all customers right. The Jazz is a side benefit.

                But I have read that some people have had AMAZING expreiences at Tama, and I believe them. Sometimes, it comes down to the night or hour you go. Perhaps the itame was put off by the fact that the regulars didn't sit in front of him. Perhaps someone that looked like me had run over his dog that morning. If the regulars had not come that night and called ahead, I would not have been bumped down the bar.

                What cut it for me was seeing that card moved and then the absolute lame excuse on the phone, with no "COme back, and let us take better care of you." or even "Wow! I'm Sorry!"

                But still, if you liked it before, why not try it again?

                1. re: Diana

                  Wow, Diana. What an awful experience. You were probably too hungry to just walk out in disgust.

                  BTW 4 on 6 is very high on my wish list.

                2. re: liu

                  I think it's completely normal with something as subjective as food/restaurants. Diana has posted before about her disappointing experience with Tama. The food wasn't the issue, but if you're already agitated from the get go, its hard to appreciate the food later on and that has soured her view of the place. Totally understandable and she has a right to say so.

                  On the other hand, I've never had a bad experience and consider Tama the best high quality/value sushi in town especially for omakase. Plus, Katsu (and his assistant, forget his name) are so friendly and welcoming.

                  1. re: vinosnob

                    Seriously, it could have been an off night! Who knows why I was treated that way? We sometimes forget that itames, chefs, servers and the like are human. it isn't easy to go to work when your day sucks.

                    If it happens repeatedly to many, like at Sweet Lady jane, whole just seems like a-holes every time most of us go there, then God, they need to find a new line of work.

                    If one or two people have a bad time, but a lot of others don't, then it's worth a try!

                    Will I go back? No, I doubt it. Not unless someone blindfolds me, takes me, and pays for a really good meal. I have found sushi spots I personally prefer.

                    Should other people try it? I'm gonna be a bit more mature than I usually am here and say, heck yeah.

                    Some of my favorite spots to eat other Chowhounds loathe with a passion!

              2. I know you specifically asked for a lunch spot. Not having been to Tama in a while, I can't comment about it, but I did go to Yuta the night of that horrendous rainstorm in January for dinner, thinking that there would be no problem getting a place at the sushi bar, and I was right; the place was deserted. Yuta prepares all things sushi and sashimi in front of you on a small table behind the sushi bar. I had a wonderful dinner consisting of a bowl of Miso, 3 pieces of sushi -Yellowtail, Spanish Mackerel and Toro, then the oh so good Crab cake entree, the best interpretation of this dish I have ever had, and finished off with a slice of decadent Chocolate cake. Yuta is only open for dinner. I recommend it highly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pizzafreak

                  pizzafreak - I enjoyed your post about Yuta; we were there just a few months ago and enjoyed a pleasant small plates dinner. It is very cozy inside...a nice place to escape from a "horrendous rainstorm" as you did!

                  1. re: pizzafreak

                    yuta's horrendously overpriced, over-styled and haphazard. service was non-existent the first week after they opened, haven't been back.

                    why would one go there for sushi/sashimi is beyond me. it's clearly "styled" as a izakaya.

                  2. Thanks to everyone who has offered their ideas...
                    I am thinking Sushi Iki in Tarzana (even though it is quite $$$), unless someone can tell me about something to compare. From Studio City to Thousand Oaks, I just don't think there is anything better or even close...???

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: liu

                      For Sherman Oaks, I'll say Iwata, as I always do. For me it consistently delivers good sushi at a fairly reasonable price. There are also some very good value lunch box specials. There's been some sushi chef turnover again, though. Not sure why that's been happening.

                      1. re: Debbie W

                        I don't like being a difficult poster...
                        I have enjoyed Iwata a couple of times for dinner, although it is a little chaotic for me. The prices are good, as you have mentioned.
                        For this particular lunch occasion, however, Iwata will be too lunchroom-ish.

                        1. re: liu

                          No worries, I don't take it personally and I don't think you're a difficult poster. I tend to agree with your opinions on SFV sushi bars. Iwata is a bit short on atmosphere, but it's a veritable palace compared to Don Sasabune! Sounds like you want someplace nice, and Iki can't be beat.

                          1. re: Debbie W

                            Hey, thanks, Debbie W!
                            If it were a regular lunch and/or I were by myself, I would go anywhere and find something good. However, this is a specific occasion and I am looking for something that won't shock my guest, yet will be nice with really good sushi -- we know the diff!

                            Really, I liked Iwata the times I was there for dinner; I thought the sushi was -- as you point out -- a good value.

                      2. re: liu

                        Asanebo will blow Iki out of the water. 4 on 6 is a contender, too.

                        1. re: Diana

                          Thanks, Diana, for relating your Tama experience and for reaffirming what I believe about Asanebo. What is the price range for lunch? Also, can you offer any tips about getting in early enough to sit at the bar? Are there any "must haves?"

                          1. re: liu

                            For Asanebo, I would go for dinner, I really don't know about lunch. give them a call. I just rarely eat out for lunch, prefering to brown bag it at work or have a good salad at home, or some nice market salad bar.

                            get there before opening, if you can. I kid you not. of course, one person is easier to seat than two or more at a sushi bar. But Asanebo's "secret" is more out than ever, so it's crowded!

                            I love whatever my itame reccomends. The tilefish is good, the halibut devine. The Japanese and spanish makerel are good, too. All of it's good! (I am a fan of monkfish liver, personally, and he has nice stuff). If he has any live sashimi, get it. Live santa barbara spot prawns, sweet, shrimp octopus, crab, lobster, whatever. Once, we had this amazing blue shrimp i've never seen before. he said he was the first on the west coast to get it. It was an off the menu thing. it was AMAZING! (if you chat with you itame, and follow his lead, and seem really interested, ask him to do some off menu-stuff and he'll thrill you, no matter who it is.)

                            Don't ask for some silly roll. You can get basic simple ones if you must, but keep in mind that asking for a roll will sort of "mark" you. God forbid you ask for a hand roll or baked scallop roll!

                            If he has it, get the fresh house made sesame tofu. it's so creamy and has this amazing sesame flavor. it's almost like a creme brulee without the sugar, only sesame! MMMmmmmmmm.

                            I posted the menu a while back, bu I can't find it.

                            Be aware, it ain't cheap!

                              1. re: Diana

                                I go for lunch often -- it's great. still pricey but worth it.