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ISO amazing sushi and confused

I'm an SF chowhound heading down to LA next week and would like to take my parents out to sushi (omakase). I've heard that LA sushi >>> SF sushi, so I wanted to give it a try!

I've been reading through a ton of posts, and it seems to be Ursawa is the consensus #1, but that is unfortunately out of my budget. Other than that, a couple places that seem promising are Asanebo and Sushi Zo. But there seem to be SO many options and posts and I'm having some trouble figuring out the best one...

Ideally it would be $100/pp or less, take reservations, and not be too brutal of a drive from San Gabriel.

Thoughts?

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  1. Both Asanebo and Zo will leave you feeling like you have had a great meal. Asanebo if you are more into sashimi. Zo if you are more into nigiri. Enjoy and report back.

    1. This is a never ending debate and people will have their favorites. IMO, for the best pure no fuss sushi, no one does it better than Nozawa. The restaurant is not fancy but he serves some of the freshest and most delicious sushi i've ever had. He is known as the Sushi Nazi, but as long as you obey his rules, he'll be nice. You can easily come out at less than $100pp with sake, tip and tax.

      9 Replies
      1. re: TailbackU

        Hmm, they don't take reservations though, right?

          1. re: gemster

            For this circumstance I would definitely PASS on Nozawa. I agree his fish is among the freshest, but the place has zero atmosphere or ambience, and they rush you through like cattle. If you are looking for a nice, relaxing meal as well as good sushi then Nozawa is not the place. If you are looking to have some very good sushi and get in and out in less than an hour for lunch (which is when I always go) then it fits the bill.

            1. re: markn

              p.s. I highly recommend Asanebo. Also across the street from there is Tama Sushi which has a nice $55 omakase.

              At Asanebo you won't get traditional nigiri sushi, more like sashimi, toro tartare with caviar, maybe some kobe beef, usually some kind of tasty soup, etc.. Tama is more traditional sushi.

              1. re: markn

                While I prefer true omakase, I've had nigiri sushi as "omakase" at my request at Asanebo; quite a variety, too. yum. Also, I have found that the Itamae at the good sushi-ya will accommodate most requests.

                1. re: yinyangdi

                  If you ask me, the terms "omakase" and "at my request" are mutually exclusive. Omakase means you are letting the chef decide.....if you are asking for nigiri at Asanebo, then it's not omakase. :-)

                  1. re: markn

                    Again, not true. See link below. If you can ask for omakase flowers, you can ask for omakase nigiri. It will be chef's choice nigiri.

                    For example, at Mori, there's a regular omakase choice which includes sashimi,cooked items, and nigiri (more of the set menu concept actually) and there's also omakase nigiri which is the chef's selection of nigiri. Throughout the meal, I was asked what I liked and didn't like and he tailored my meal perfectly. I was offered sayori, kohada, snapper marinated in kelp and buri belly and never once offered salmon, albacore, or farmed hamachi.

                    1. re: markn

                      fwiw, I used the term "omakase" loosely as that particular night in question I couldn't decide what I wanted to eat, had a brief talk with my itamae, and only then asked if he would serve me up a smattering of nigiri sushi, his choice.

                      And, as for omakase being the chef's choice: that used to be a given (at least at the sushi-ya I went to). The last several times I have asked for omakase at different sushi-ya the itamae inquired as to how much did I want to spend and exactly what kind of dishes I wanted; the "omakase" was going to be customized to my answers. When I expressed surprise at being asked such questions each of the itamae explained that they had several price points with varying options and that I had to choose. Quite frankly, that used to be part of the fun of ordering omakase: what was I going to be served and what was the final $$-$$$ going to be?

              2. re: gemster

                Usually, it is hard to get reservations at the Bar. Most places will do it only if you call ahead and tell them you want OMakase. Tama does, but be careful. My reserved seat was "moved on the sly" at Tama after "regualrs" called. Feh.

                Otherwise, you can reserva a table. But I hate eating Sushi anywhere but at the bar. I like to interact with the Itame.

            2. Sit at the bar at Kiriko and be amazed by Ken-san & his adept gang.

              The drive from SG to Kiriko borders on brutal, but is soooo worth it.

              Kiriko
              11301 Olympic Bl. #102
              (West) Los Angeles, CA 90025
              (310) 478-7769

              3 Replies
              1. re: J.L.

                can you really get out of kiriko at $100/pp or less including tax, tip, and beverages? don't forget that they charge extra for the wonderful homemade ice cream.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  I've never had a problem as long as I avoid a lot of sake. On occasion, I've specifically told Ken my price-range and asked if he could do an omakase specifically for that amount. He has always obliged, and we've never left less than stuffed.

                2. re: J.L.

                  For the OP, "brutal" in this case could be well over an hour.

                3. The original comment has been removed
                  1. Both Zo and Asanebo would be a pretty "brutal" drive from San Gabriel.

                    That said, both are good, solid choices and you probably won't be disappointed with either.

                    Just one caveat, however. The thing with omakase is that to really enjoy the dining experience you have to develope a good working rapport with the chef. This is nearly impossible on a first time visit.

                    On a first time visit, if you are truly doing an omakase, chances are the experience will be a bit bumpy as the chef feels you out and you figure out what the chef does well and doesn't do well in terms of your preferences.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      No necessarily true regarding omakase. Keizo's omakase is pretty much on autopilot so your experience on the first visit won't be lacking.

                      Also, Silverjay has explained more eloquently than I ever could on the meaning of omakase in this thread

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/488878

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I don't disagree with what was said in that post. But to me, omakase is about the traditional way of omakase ... it shouldn't really be about a set menu.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I totally agree. Omakase shouldn't be some set menu ending in a blue crab hand roll. However, the point was made that you can indeed have an excellent omakase without familiarity and I think that is also true.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            Agreed.

                            (And FWIW, I cut/copied your orginal post in case I'm ever in NYC or SF looking for a sushi joint ...)

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I've posted that list before so it's in the archives. If you wind up in NYC, post on the Manhattan board and I'll try to respond in a moderator friendly manner.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            I agree with Ipse. Omakase, if it is truly waht is freshest and best, should be off the cuff and different depending upon when you go!

                            Set omakase menus are just not right, more like Nomakase.