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Sushi Zo -- Only if you'll pay $150/person to be insulted by the rude and arrogant Keizo

WINNER!!!! of the most rude and arrogant restaurant award!!!! I've been lucky enough to dine at most of the top sushi places in LA, NYC, SF, Honolulu and some great places in Tokyo. After over 35 years of having the pleasure of eating at various sushi bars, I might not be an expert, but I can hold my own.

O.K. I've read the numerous accolades of this sushi bar. I've also read the numerous reviews of how rude Keizo can be. I find it interesting that patrons also try to make excuses for him by calling it his own brand of humor. Now, how incredible does a restaurant have to be in order to justify being rude and arrogant and still believe the customer will return? Is heavenly enough? Is very good enough? It is obvious that Sushi Zo believes that their customers are ignorant (and probably stupid) diners that know nothing about sushi hence the constant comment of no soy sauce. After a couple of times, it gets annoying to say the least. BTW, on a Saturday night at 8PM, 3 tables are open and the sushi bar is 2/3 emptyl.

Especially in this time of economic recession, let alone, at any other time, IMHO, the restaurant business is a service business. Yes, there is a large creative component and yes, the customer is not always right. However, for me, there is no excuse for rude and arrogant behavior.

Sushi Zo is supposedly the best sushi bar in LA besides Urusawa. To even compare it in the same breath as Urusawa is a joke. With Keizo, Kazoo and the helper in the front, it was strictly a production line. I found it better than the new Sasabune which is also a production line and slightly better than Hide. Maybe on par with Hump, and not as good as Nakamura and not nearly as good as Mori. Forget about comparing it to Urusawa or the late Ginza Sushiko. Not a chance!!

In my first and only visit to Sushi Zo, I dined alone at the sushi bar having the mandatory omakase. I found a number of misses as well as a number of very good dishes. Definitely the combo uni & toro sushi was a big miss. Scraps of frozen toro combined with scraps of uni. Not too good. For a place that supposedly prides itself on authenticity -- just read the Sushi Etiquette sign at the bar (NO KIDDING!!), pushing scraps of toro seems not too authentic. Anyone that has worked or been near a sushi bar knows that the tartare or handrolls are where the restaurant puts the scraps. I thought the orange clam and the spanish mackerel were quite good and were the highlight of the evening. The toro nigiri sushi had much too much sauce (there was definitely no reason to tell me to not put soy sauce). The salmon was non-descript as was the unagi. The hot chunks of monk liver was not good and the sardines were so-so at best.

Anyhow, to my point, at the end of the meal on this Saturday night, I commented that there was no scallops or no ono or pompano. So, I asked what days were the best in terms of selection of fish? The immediate response from Keizo was that every day was the best and if I did not like it, don't come. I was shocked to say the least, especially after racking up a $145 tab all by myself.

I've heard people complain about how arrogant French restaurants can be and that can be true. Having lived in Paris, I can comfortably say that Sushi Zo is by far the most arrogant and rude.

If you were treated like this, would you go back? Would you recommend it to your friends?

I think not.

Now, who do you complain to? Keizo the owner? I wish I could find out who the financial backers, if any.

Now, to all you Sushi Zo lovers -- before you rush to his defense, donate a $1 to your favorite charity. That will be much more worthwhile than defending Keizo. I really don't think he needs defending, just much fewer customers and a large serving of humble pie.

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  1. Excellent review.

    I like Zo, but I don't adore it. Keizo's never been rude to me, though.

    Most hounds already know how I go on and on about having sushi in LA Tuesday through Friday only.

    Having said that, I ask you to try Zo again, but this time on a Tue, Wed, Thu, or Fri - no guarantees about service or attitude, but at least you might find the seafood offering to be wider and fresher.

    I'm not defending Keizo's rudeness - I just believe that, unless the first visit was a total catastrophe, every joint deserves a second chance to redeem itself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: J.L.

      JL:
      I can't agree with you more on Tues - Friday. I avoid Saturday because it is usually too crowded or because there's more competition for the best fish and the restaurant you go to will likely run out or not get the best stuff.

      So, my issue is that with all the accolades that Sushi Zo gets -- next best thing to Urusawa, etc., then they should have no problems getting the best fish on Saturday. I was there early enough, sat down at 7PM, that running out should not be a problem. They definitely were not busy -- 2/3 empty when I left. So, it seems to be that they just don't have the "pull" to get the best stuff which immediately places them several notches below the 2nd tier of sushi places in LA. As for attitude and service, I avoid sushi on Thurs, Fri & Sat. because again, it gets too busy and the one-on-one service that is an essential part of eating sushi gets watered down very quickly. With the assembly line process that Sushi Zo uses, Keizo, helper and Kazu, unless you're fortunate enough to sit in front of Keizo, although with his rude and arrogant behavior that wouldn't make sense, you still don't get that one-on-one connection.
      Lastly, what is up with the "secrecy" behind the food? Every other top notch sushi place is glad to tell you where the fish comes from. At Sushi Zo, they treat it like some type of secret that if they tell you, they have to kill you. Are they that paranoid and for what reason? It is good, but not great. It's not cheap + being insulted by the owner -- STRIKE 3 and You're OUT!!!

    2. I posted about it at the time, but I did not have a good experience at Sushi Zo. Instead of being made to feel like I was having a wonderful dining experience, I was made to feel hurry up and eat as much fish as we can possible put in front of you as quickly as we can put it in front of you and then pay a huge tab and get out. That was almost exactly a year ago, it was my first time there and I haven't been back. And, it was a quiet weeknight. As I write about it I remember my anger, which lasted several days after the meal.

      1. It is a MAJOR gaffe in Japan to ask "what's fresh?" because it implies something is not. There are sushi chefs who can never accept that many Westerners see nothing wrong with the question.
        I agree that maybe it's time for Keizo to acclimate, but the behavior is not unique. It's quite easy to insult Mori or Nishimura, for example, I have seen it happen.
        And, IMO in Paris they're just a bit more subtle...

        2 Replies
        1. re: cls

          Obviously the solution is to add "don't ask what's fresh, it's offensive" to their how to act in a sushi restaurant guidelines.

          1. re: cls

            While you might not want to ask what's fresh, you can (almost) always ask what is especially good or at its seasonal best now.

          2. We've been to Sushi Zo a few times, when the restaurant was new, and delicious fare was something that we came to rely on. At the time, Keizo was an enjoyable host. Hubs and I live in Sherman Oaks, and typically we don't travel to the west side as an every day Sushi excursion, because we have some favorites over here. Normally we keep restaurant reviews slightly at bay, because we like to form our own judgments. That being said, this thread has had enough corroboration that Sushi Zo will not be re-visited by us. Our Sushi dollars will be better spent elsewhere. Not happy, but nonetheless thankful for the original post.
            Cheers all,
            Jeff

            3 Replies
            1. re: JeffW

              I can tell you that I really do love Sushi Zo. However, with his success came a huge difference in how people were treated and how food was served to you. Back in the day when it first opened, I didn't feel like my food was coming to me from some "production line." Nowadays, the original poster really hit it on the mark with the "production line" tag. I really don't appreciate that feeling when I'm dropping three figures for sushi.
              Keizo has never been rude to me when I've dined there. However, I can echo some of the other's negative experiences on this board when you don't do "omakase." The only time I went in for a "non-omakase" dinner, my friend and I sat for a painfully long time before we got any of our stuff. The food came out like a very slow drip and, the experience was just as annoying as a slow drip! While the food was awesome, the experience sucked, to say the least. I was embarrassed that I had brought my friend there. However... I kept going back (sans friend or anyone else) for Keizo's omakase.
              Like the OP said, the constant reminder of "no soy sauce" on certain items that OBVIOUSLY shouldn't have soy sauce on it is really annoying... especially if you're a customer by first name basis. However, I was appreciative of the guidance at first, as a newbee.
              Luigisdad: Like cls said above, I can see how you might have offended Keizo. I'm not defending Keizo by any means, I'm just saying that I can see it from his side too.
              However, like JeffW, your review put the last straw on this ass' back. I'm sorry you had such a terrible time. Thanks to your extremely eloquent review, I am able to put words to why I'm just not a huge fan anymore. I'm done with expensive "production line omakase sushi." I'm done with a place where I'm not sure if I can bring my friends. I'm done with being treated like an idiot who never learns... I'm done with Sushi Zo... I hope that makes you feel better.

              1. re: banquisha

                yep, i also commented on the production line issue when i reviewed sushi zo on another board. i do enjoy keizo-san's offerings, but have been turned off by the henry ford approach to meals there....it's beginning to feel sasabune-esque now. in addition, it felt (during my last outing there 1.5mo's ago) that the knife-work was a tad sloppy compared to my earlier visits. i had dangling pieces of flesh on 3-4 pieces of fish and a lil gristle as well...not a good sign.

                1. re: wilafur

                  I was there for the first time last week and I too was put off by most of the same elements as the OP. Though our chef (not Keizo) was not overtly rude, he was running around frantically as if something was perpetually on fire and about 50% of our fish looked sloppily cut, with little bits missing and dangling. Some of the offerings were delicious and well cut, some looked pretty mangled. We were there on a mid-week day and the restaurant was not completely full, so we were a little surprised after all the great reviews of Zo. Overall it wasnt a bad experience, but I think for the money I wouldn't rush back.

            2. What's interesting about Keizo's attitude now is that he got his start at Hide Sushi. Hardly a temple of strict sushi authenticity.