- Eliot May 14, 2002 08:08 PM
After pretty much giving up on Katsu-Ya (very good fish but permanent crowds and a knee-busting waiting area), I was about to abandon Susho Row on Ventura when the missus and I wandered into Tama, which now occupies the spot where Katsu used to be (but burned down).
Turns out it's still Katsu -- the name change is probably a matter of superstition -- and it's damn good. Katsu himself presides (the same guy who founded -- and sold -- the original Katsus in Los Feliz and on 3rd Street) and my wife immediately noticed that they serve uni not from a cute wooden box but from an ugly (but fresh) sea urchin. He uses a special tool -- sort of half-cutter, half-wrench -- to split the spiny devil and extract the orange ambrosia (to some, anyway).
Next we noticed the prices -- everything very fresh, very tasty for $1.50-2.00 (except for a few special items from Japan). Hamachi sushi (excellent) for example, just 1.75 each. Albacore (mmm-m-m, and not swimming in ponzu) just $1.50.
The other thing we've noticed, however, is that it's NEVER crowded. Ordinarily, this makes me grin, but it's reaching a point where we're afraid Katsu is going to go under if things don't pick up. Having learned a lesson from touting Katsu-Ya (no relation, by the way, just neighbors) too vigorously, I don't make a point of recommending favorite sushi joints, but take my word, you'll like Tama. It's light years better than Matsuda across the street or Maeda down the block or that tired old fish-themed amusement park Teru next door.