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Sushi Roku Tonight--Some Questions

Okay, I know that this place is not some hounds favorite, but we were given a gift certificate and we plan on using it tonight. So please no suggestions for other spots.

What I'd like to know is if there is a real sushi bar, or just a bar? If there is a sushi bar, is it worth making reservations for the sushi bar, or just stick to a table?

Any notable dishes?

Thanks!

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  1. Maybe you could buy one avocado roll and cash out the rest of the gift certificate?

    Roku on 3rd was one of the first sushi places I was taken to when I was a newbie to LA (way back in 1997). Even back then, when my chowhound palate was not fully developed (I was fresh off the turnip truck from central Missouri), I found the food thoroughly mediocre and was turned off by the scene. I seem to recall there was a sushi bar there (not positive) but I do not remember many specifics about my time there-- just an overall impression.

    Wish I could be more helpful!

    Mr Taster

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mr Taster

      I don't know . . . the place is lame and the menu features dishes that don't really appeal to my preferences regarding sushi, but the fish is good quality and the chefs can cut it without issue. I would rate it a lot better than mediocre if we judged them by their best dishes and sushi. That's precisely what's so infuriating about the place. The scene sucks and most of the menu is focused on crap but they are immenently capable of putting out quite good food if you manuever properly. This can, and should, be a very nice experience for the OPs.

    2. I was just at the Hollywood location last week for a business lunch. The sushi was amazingly fresh and yes, there's a sushi bar. I think it sits about 12 people or so. Make sure you get the rock shrimp ceviche. It's not on the menu but it's mind-blowingly good. I'm craving it as we speak. The hanabi is particularly good as well. My tuna and salmon sashimi were fresh and incredibly delicious. I know other Chowhounders have a deep dislike for Roku and that's their opinion which I respect but I have been going to the various Rokus for the last 10 years or so and I never had a horrific meal. Bad service and some subpar meals along the way, yes, but never horrific or "I'll never go back there again" meals.

      1. I agree with ECP. I think there are some good dishes at Roku too, please don't hate me. I like the yellowtail sashimi with diced chiles, the tuna sashimi carpaccio, the baked cod, the baked crab hand roll, the crunchy spicy tuna roll, the baked lobster roll and the dynamite roll. The chocolate lava cake is pretty tasty as well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Juji

          yes the yellowtail sashimi with diced chiles is great! go to the 3rd street branch - the clientele seems to be pickier so they make sure the freshest goes there.

          1. re: flavasista

            def agree on the 3rd st vs santa monica location. santa monica is soooooo loud, moreso than 3rd st. and 3rd st.'s sushi bar is nicer IMO.

          2. re: Juji

            I am going to go ahead and vouch for the lobster roll. I thought it was delicious.

            It's not 5* chowhound eats, but it's not bad.

          3. Thanks for the suggestions and the enthusiasm! It sounds like we'll definitely have to try the yellowtail sashimi with chilis and the hanabi. I'll have to see about that rock shrimp ceviche too.

            I realized I wasn't specific-we are going to the one in Santa Monica, so my question about the sushi bar is about that location. On the phone they said they could only take reservations for tables but we could sit at the bar if seats were available. That's why I wasn't sure if it was a real sushi bar or just a bar.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chowbee

              I've only been to the SM location a few times but it's twice the size of the Hollywood location and definitely has a full-service sushi bar.

              1. re: chowbee

                doh sorry, then my suggestion for 3rd st is silly, i apologize!

                try the miso eggplant as well as mushrooms in this ponzu broth... forget what it's called, and the soft shell crab. you're better off picking your own rolls, depending upon what you like, and they're pretty tolerant of leaving things out or adding items in...

              2. I've only sat at bar, not a sushi bar. It is near the sushi chef work station. I've been to sushi a few times at Sushi Roku, mostly for business lunches when I was a corporate stooge. It's always been fine for me. I do try to stay away from the tarted up stuff though.

                I've had great service at the bar on one ocassion and the only time I though the place was really good was when we ordered omakase. If the gift certificate is pretty substantial then you could go that route. Even if you had to pay a little out of pocket it would be worth it, I would imagine.

                1. As far as I know, I do believe there is a sushi bar at the Hollywood location.

                  My view on the various Roku locations:

                  Pasadena.... Bad.
                  Hollywood.... Worse.
                  Santa Monica.... Worst.

                  Hope that helps.

                  1. Thanks again everyone! Although it's not our typical kind of place we actually had a tasty meal and a very pleasant evening. There were some hits and misses (detailed below), the misses were just a little boring while the hits were really good (especially some of the suggested dishes).

                    We started with some overpriced, but tasty, miso soup and the tofu appetizer. I love tofu and this was a gorgeously presented, but overall disappointing dish. It seemed more about excess of the sauce (caviar, truffle, etc.) than the tofu. However, all was forgiven when my lychee ginger mojito arrived--an absolutely fabulous combination and something I will have to replicate at home because I'm simply horrified at the prospect of having to pay $14 every time I want one of these.

                    We then moved on to the sashimi special--four types of fish (yellowtail belly, tuna, salmon, and albacore) with four special sauces. The fish quality was quite good and the sauces/preps were interesting and enhanced the fish. I would have preferred four thinner slices to two thick ones, but the thickness was clearly intentional (not poor cutting) and it did help stand up to the sauces. Overall, we really enjoyed this.

                    We were going to order the yellowtail with jalepeno sashimi but it was one of the four on the special plate so we decided to go with a tuna tataki with ponzu sashimi plate. My husband loved this--his favorite of the night. I thought it was good, but a bit too much ponzu. We followed up the sashimi with albacore, amberjack, and bonito ngiri. All three were top-notch. There were some exotic items, like live scallops and conch that I hadn't expected them to have, and the sushi chefs clearly have skills. The folks next to us ordered the amaebi and they were incredibly fresh and feisty. One almost got away when the sushi chef was presenting them.

                    We finished up with the hanabi plate (spicy tuna on fried rice cakes) which was hands down the best version of this I've had and was actually my favorite dish of the night (thanks ExtraCheesePlease). I'll confess to being a spicy tuna lover when it's done right, which this was. This is not normally a dish my husband loves but even he really enjoyed it.

                    The restaurant was quite crowded so we had a leisurely pace to the meal, much more leisurely than I'm used to at the sushi bar. But, it was mostly pleasant rather than annoying. We didn't really have much interaction with the sushi chef and when I did ask for recommendations he sort of faded away after asking what I liked (I guess I didn't sound like a big spender), so we just picked out some things. Weirdly although we ordered through the sushi chef, he gave everything except the three ngiri to the waitress to deliver.Nothing like the kind of rapport I feel at the places we go regularly, but then again they aren't usually doing anywhere near the same volume.

                    Total damage for the food, 3 beers, a small hot sake, and the mojito was about $140 before tip. Considering that we've had a much more varied and overall better omakase at Kiriko for just $20 more I'd be inclined to do that again before going back to Sushi Roku. Especially because I think I prefer the more traditional sushi/sashimi in the end (despite my love the Hanabi). But, I may have to go back to the bar for a couple of drinks and the Hanabi after work.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chowbee

                      You're welcome. I love their hanabi. I love the seasoning of the crispy rice and the huge serving of spicy tuna. As for your review, I do whole-heartedly agree. I go to Roku when I have a business meeting because I like the ambiance but the prices are a bit high if I had to pay myself. It's not as high as say Nobu but it can get up there when you started to sample the menu. I'm glad you had a great time.

                      1. re: chowbee

                        glad to hear you had a decent time. I went there once and I thought the sushi was really great. I'm still a noob when it comes to describing sushi quality, but this place really got me into the raw stuff. But this place is pretty damn expensive for me.