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Apr 12, 2002 12:30 AM

quest for best sushi in town

  • p

for all the sushi lovers out there, i would like to ask if they know of any sushi restaurant which is better or comparable to sushi sasabune or sushi nozawa. If you don't know or have not tried either of those two, please do not reply.

i have tried some of the so called good sushi restaurants, like the hump, hide, uzen , sushi roku, .... but they do not come close to sasabune, only nozawa has equally good fish, but his selection of fish on the omakase is less than sasabune.

it seems tsukasa in j-town maybe be worth going and R23 as well..... thanks in advance

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  1. Don't bother with the one's you have yet to try because I've been and there not even close to your CORRECT CHOICES which are Sasebune and NOZAWA which no one else will be able to touch. I used to go to Sasebune weekly, but I now (for the last couple of years) go to NOZAWA instead weekly. Nozawa is just tighter with the quality and quanity plus price, he's FIRST in line at the Suppliers and it shows. Your quest is over, at least in LA.

    8 Replies
    1. re: russkar

      I don't know if this is true but a friend told me that there are only 2 restaurants in LA who get their fish fresh everyday. The two are sasabune and uzen. And the chef from sasabune is usually one of the first at 2:30 or so in the morning, every morning.

      The information comes from someone who works in the fish market, so it is very reliable.

      As for nozawa and sasabune, it's quite intriguing but they seem to have same style of menu. They both start with sashimi, sasabune with albacore and nozawa with tuna,....they both have blue crab roll.......most importantly....they both have WARM rice which i have not seen in other places.....hamasaku seemed to have a mildly warm rice but overall the rice was bad.

      1. re: paul

        Almost every Sushi Bar in LA gets fresh fish multi times a week. Sasebune from Tru World around 4a, Nozawa from International, LA Fish, Pacific Fresh(?)etc. There are few secrets in the Wholesale fish business. I buy from many of the same places, but I'm not in the Sushi BAR business. NO ONE is PICKIER than NOZAWA, PERIOD! ASK ANYONE. Most fish doesn't measure up to his scary high standards. Just like the coffee commercial, "We only buy the best" so guess who buys the rest of the crop? Everyone else.

        1. re: russkar

          I admire your devotion to Nozawa, russkar, and bow to your expertise. But as one who spent several years virtually restricting my sushi eating to Nozawa and then branched out to other more experimental places like Asenobo on the opposite side of Ventura, I found there was some exciting dining on the other side of the wall. And more relaxed too!

          1. re: roger simon

            Actually my Sushi stuff started back in the late 70's at Tokyo Ki Kan in LA. I was the only Gringo at the Sushi Bar then came the eighties and the rest is history. I try to get to all the new places as they pop up. I just find Nozawa to be unusually consistent which makes the 50 mile drive from Newport well worth it.

            1. re: russkar

              That's funny. I used to eat at Tokyo Kaikan (I believe that was the spelling)during the 70s too. They also had a tempura bar, as I recall. Great place for it's time. But I do remember a fair number of gringos at the sushi bar. We weren't THAT prescient.

              1. re: russkar
                Leslie Brenner

                Hee-hee--I'm a Tokyo Kaikan alum, too. I haven't been to all listed, but I'd say that on any day of the week Mori blows Matsuhisa out of the water.

        2. re: russkar

          Nozawa is great, but I also recommend R23. The sushi nazi at Nozawa does indeed get some very good fish, but his selection is limited, his attitude can be very harsh and abrupt, and the restaurant's atmosphere is lackluster. That and the long wait to be seated can make for a rather stressful dining experience. Also, some of my friends don't particularly care for the warm, loose rice or the sauce that is often generously poured over the fish. Personally, I like the fact that this restaurant is unlike any other sushi restaurant in town.

          The best way to enjoy R23 is to sit at the sushi bar, check out the fish on display, and ask the sushi chef questions or for recommendations. They usually have several special items that don't appear on the menu. One night I had a delicious seared toro and they often have an incredibly rich yellowtail belly that's the consistency of butter. The dungeness crab salad, while not an "authentic" Japanese sushi item, is wonderful - an ample mound of fresh greens topped with a generous portion of sweet dungeness crab complemented by a delicate rice vinegar dressing. Even the "regular" items - maguro, sake, aji, shiro maguro, etc. - are several notches above most other restaurant's in terms of freshness and quality, but the prices per item are about the same as most mid-level sushi restaurants.

          Another reason to sit at the sushi bar: each chef has an individual style. One prefers to serve the fish "straight up" with no or few garnishes; one serves each piece with different garnishes; and one has a variety of special preparations that the others don't use. Interestingly, all the times I've sat with a group at a table, the fish didn't seem to be quite as good as it was at the sushi bar, although it still was excellent. Maybe the chefs don't pay as much attention to detail when they have to prepare a big order at once instead of concentrating on individual preparations.

          I also like R23's "hideaway" location in a graffiti-decorated alley, the New York artist's loft atmosphere, cardboard chairs, and fighter plane artwork on the platters. You'll spend about the same amount as you would at Nozawa, but the setting is 180 degrees the opposite direction.

          1. re: Chris G.

            the first time i ate at sasabune, i was struck by how the albacore sashimi just melted in my mouth.....then all other sushi that came continued to amaze me with how it just melts in your mouth, and the warm rice is the key in making the sushi just glide down your throat. The cold rice, since has left me feeling that sushi, no matter how good the fish is, just seems to get stuck in my throat, and needs some greasing and coaxing to make it go down....

   it any wonder that 2 best sushi places in town both have same disgust for fancy, or common rolls, warm rice, and most importantly.....the blue crab roll.

        3. Sounds as thought you have not yet taken out that second mortgage on your house and used the proceeds to go to dinner at Ginza Sushiko. If not you still haven't eaten at the top rated Sushi Restaurant in town. Debtors Prison, and Sublime Gustatory Heights await thee. Also, have you tried Sushi Mori at Gateway and Pico in West LA?

          5 Replies
          1. re: WLA

            I've been to Ginza Sushi Ko even when it was on Wilshire along time ago, Madonna would sometimes slip in the back door. I'm not as ecstatic about his exotic creations as others but I can tell you the price is excessive. I really don't like MORI either and the only thing he has going for him is his FRESH wasabi and that just doesn't carry the so-so fish.

            1. re: russkar

              Having been to SG and Mori on someone else's (evidently inexhaustible) dime I will say that they are two of the top sushi places in LA. You can argue about who is the "best" until the toro comes home, but they are excellent for what they do. I don't go out for the best sushi all that often as the tab at the end of the evening can start me having atrial fibrillations, but my point would be, if you are on a sacred quest to try the very best that LA has to offer in sushi, you need to give these two a test run in order to make a valid comparison.

              1. re: WLA

                Been there, Done that! I agree that everyone has their favorites and we can argue what's the best, but I'm talking about THE BEST. Mori certainly isn't in the top 5. Ginza, Sasebune, Nozawa, Matishisa, Nobu, R-23 have been and are the big guns.

                1. re: russkar

                  Hmm, forgot about Matsuhisa. Another great meal on someone else's creatively written expense report. So that adds at least two places to his quest for the Manna from (sea)-Heaven.

                  To me, this type of holy grail search (one excellent place at a time), is much more houndish than the recent Chicago eat-a-thon, which smacks of a Guiness Book of World Records type of deal.

            2. re: WLA

              no i have not tried sushi mori, but friends of mine that have, said it's worth a try, but if i am looking for something comparable to sasabune or nozawa, it is NOT. So it's like matsuhisa, i will eventually try, but not yet.

              also....i have heard about sushiko....i believe it was rated the most expensive restaurant in us..few years ago....i don't think i will spend 300 per person on sushi anytime soon...unless of course, it's on someone's expense sccount..

            3. i'm sure i'll get some heat for this one... but where is nozawa located? also, where is uzen? i HAVE been to sasabune, thankfully :P

              4 Replies
              1. re: LR

                NOZAWA is located on Ventura Bl at the corner of Eureka just N. of Vineland in Studio City. Not open weekends , line forms at 11:45 M-F

                  1. re: j

                    Sorry....everything seems N. of Newport.

                1. re: LR

                  uzen is on santa monica blvd, going toward the ocean, not far from sasabune. it is few blocks west of sushi en. But if you have a choice and have not tried nozawa, it is probably top of list to go.
                  it cost about the same as sasabune for omakase, ~100 for two, and it is not much better in terms of decor, so girls aren't too happy, like in sushi roku.

                2. I would highly suggest you try 4 on 6 in Encino. It is located just west of Hayvenhurst on Ventura Boulevard. It is in the same center as Office Depo, Tony Roma's and Numero Uno on the North side of the street. The restaurant is located in the back of the center on the west side. The sushi is excellent and unique. It is owned by Saito formerly a chef at Nobu. In my opinion, 4 on 6 is a giant step above your favourites. Give it a try.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Mitch
                    Barbara Nevens

                    Mitch, I am so happy to see that someone else likes 4 On 6 as much as I do. I've posted several messages about it in the past week. I just stumbled across it two weeks ago while going for a walk. Since then, I have been there five times! Since I'm a sushi newbie, I don't have the basis for comparison that most of the other posters have; nonetheless, I'm hooked on 4 On 6. The fish is wonderfully fresh and tasty and there are still many interesting-looking things that I've not yet had the chance to sample. I love the spicy tuna "biscotti". Toro, when they have it, is sublime.

                    I am (again) including a link to Larry Lipson's January 2002 review.


                    1. re: Mitch
                      Barbara Nevens

                      So, Mitch, were you there last night? I told Jun about the acitivity on this forum; he seemed to think that you were there last night. We had a fabulous dinner tonight. Incredible Blue Fin Tuna, Toro, Giant Clam, Sea Bass, and Scorpion Fish sashimi; awesome Crab-Stuffed Calamari; Spicy Tuna "Biscotti"; Avocado, Asparagus, and Pumpkin Tempura; cold Sake and Beer; and Red Bean Ice Cream. Only mistake was that we took the car; most definitly should have walked home! I just can't seem to get enough of this place.

                    2. 1. I'm not the biggest fan of Nozawa. First, I don't like his rice, it's too mealy for my taste. Second, I hate scallops with the mayonnaise sauce. Although I don't mind omakase, I find I like a choice sometimes. Try Nozawa, though, because it's good, although overpriced.

                      2. I still stick with my two favorites, Tsukasa and Shibucho with some caveats.
                      First caveat, the fish is always good, sometimes amazingly wonderful, sometimes just competent. Depends even on the individual fish.
                      Second caveat, forget the silliness at Shibucho (this is why I don't care for Matsuhisa). There are plenty of places to get great foie gras or exquisitely dressed salads, or sturgeon caviar. The Japanese training makes it look lovely. But I don't want to waste my time or money. I can get wonderful foie gras presentations at Melisse for under $60 a head. I can get great sturgeon caviar at Diaghilev, I don't need to break the bank at Matsuhisa. And I don't need or esp. want ponzu anywhere near Sturgeon caviar. Frankly, I can boil an egg, chop onions and open up a good sized container of Sevruga on my own. Sushi bars give me exquisitely fresh finfish that I couldn't buy on my own.
                      I like traditional dishes. If you want "spicy tuna roll" or dynamite or spider rolls, save your money. You don't need frighteningly fresh fish for those.
                      Asanebo is fine, it's not a sushi bar. They have some raw fish dishes but the specialties are definitely not sushi.
                      I've gotten sea pineapple (ho-ya) shirako and wild salmon at tsukasa. In the fall they make a delightful soup from pine mushrooms (matsudake-shiro). They are reasonable. When crowded, it takes a bit too long, but it's inconsistent. One Saturday afternoon, the bar is completely full. The next, you're the only people in there.

                      And tsukasa and shibucho both go for seasonal specialties. They won't carry something when it's out of season and so expensive that the regular clientele can't buy enough. I understand Tsujiki in Gardena has hire-sake with the fugu fins. Shibucho used to carry it but they just don't have the demand so he doesn't. I think tsujiki even has a licensed fugu chef.

                      My two cents.