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Nozawa Sushi A Bust

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A friend and I thought we would grab some sushi last night. Over the last 4 or 5 months it has been rather difficult to get us to try anything other than Sushi Zo. While fellow Hounders have mixed feelings regarding Keizo-san and his manners, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the man. Granted I tend to have some basic manners while dining and show the chef respect, but I have never experienced any attitude or arrogance rising to the levels that some Hounders describe. Further, his sushi is awesome and I would gladly, although I have never had to, endure a little attitude for such amazing sushi. Literally second only to Urasawa IMO.

With that said and the fact that we were feeling adventurous we thought we would try Nozawa Sushi in the valley on Ventura Blvd. Arriving there early, the restaurant was completely empty with the exception of 2 busboys and the chef, Nozawa I assume. Upon arrival, we were greated by a busboy who tried to quickly sweep us off to a table. Prefering the sushi bar, I made my preference known. Busboy #1 attempts to explain, "You have no choice at the sushi bar! You should sit at this table." "Omakase?" I asked. With no response provided I assumed this was the case and, typically only dining omakase, I was quite happy to sit at the bar despite busboy #1's shock. Eventually we sit at the bar. (Don't worry I will get to the food but the experience is often as important to me)

Without a hello, we begin with a plate of baby tuna. Not bad. The pre-cut pieces of fish were a nice start. Meanwhile, busboy #2 had the most attitude I have ever encountered in my life! This was like Keizo-san on steroids. Don't do this...don't do that...don't touch that. As I mentioned above, I am not completely against a little attitude, if your food backs it up. This, on the other hand, was quite different. I was getting sushi attitude from busboy #2 who was no more Japanese than Venus Williams and no more sushi chef than Bobby Flay. Having realized that the service was just notgoing to be great, I tried to focus on the food...

As I feel rice is the foundation for great sushi, I begin here. Nozawa's rice was mushy. It had no texture and felt like I was eating rice pudding.

The second plate was Toro. This is where I realize that Nozawa uses a brine to soak his fish in before service. While the toro looked no different than a regular piece of tuna you would get at Todais' all-you-can-eat sushi bar, the texture was soft (brine!). Needless to say it didn't quite bring me the joy I typically feel when I eat Toro.

Next was halibut. This may have been the best order of the night. Nothing special but it had the fresh, clean, ocean taste to it that I love.

Yellowtail. Todai style.
Skipjack followed. Again, average.
Crab Hand Roll - Good. Seaweed was stale.

Ebi - Here we go. I tend to not order Ebi very often as I go to the Boiling Crab to get cooked shrimp and its not a favorite at my sushi bar. Regardless I ate it. Awful and regretful.

This culminated the omakase circuit. Not fully satisfied, I thought I would ask for one order of uni and one order of amaebi and call it a night.

The uni was clearly not A grade. Closer to C but I'll give them the benfit of the doubt and call it B grade. It was runny and, although it tasted great, the texture and coolness that typically hits your pallette was missing.

Now for the kicker. Awaiting the amaebi, I am given Ebi. I try to explain that there may have been a problem but busboy #2 quickly explains that Ebi is "much better and has better texture" than amaebi. SAY WHAT? Maybe for you busboy #2 but not for me. Honestly, a simple, "we don't have amaebi tonight," would have sufficed but please don't try and convince me that over the last 25 years of my life I have been completely stupid in preferring the bubble-gum texture, sweet taset, and awesome fried head of amaebi over the bland, rubber texture, plain ebi.

Well, I guess, overall, that this night alone based on the food would not have had me ranting at such lengths. However, the enormous attitude and vibe that the place was giving off was toxic. It's dirty, average and over-flowing with anger. Paying MORE than Sushi ZO put the nail in the coffin for me. Not going back. There is just too much great food in LA for restaurants to have an attitude. Didn't anyone tell these people that they were in the "service" industry? Keizo-san I look forward to seeing you soon my friend!

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  1. Never liked Nozawa. For me, mediocre sushi and piss poor attitude don't mix well. Next time you're in the neighborhood, drop by Asanebo. Better service, mind blowing sashimi and sushi.

    1. Nozawa jumped the shark long ago......

      There are many better places in SFV. Sushi Iki in Tarzana is excellent, although a bit pricey. Asanebo very good. Across the street, Tama also very good and less $$. Probably a dozen other places I would pick before Nozawa.

      1. You're not alone. I went to Nozawa about 6 years ago and wasn't impressed then. I felt that the omakase was really a cover for assembly-line sushi preparation. I never understood the hype.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tdo

          He might be cruising on reputation at this point, but 20 years ago Nozawa totally rocked. Yes, he's been there for over 20 years now.

          Oh, and there were no busboys back then, either. Just Nozawa-san and a woman I always assumed was his wife.

        2. Sounds awful, thanks for taking one for the team

          1. you're a hero for saving me from trying this place.
            i was pretty sure it would have been a bust after once trying their marina del rey joint, sugarfish.

            5 Replies
            1. re: westsidegal

              I've been eating at Nozawa since the mid-eighties. The last time I was there was probably six months ago and it was as delicious as ever. Soft toro sounds good to me. And his uni is typically divine. Unless something has changed drastically in the last six months I would say go visit Nozawa for yourself rather than taking this person's word for it. I've eaten sushi for over thirty years in the US and Japan and Nozawa's has consistently been among the best I've had. What he won't do is kiss up to customers, nor will he tolerate what he feels is rude or bad behavior in his place of business. He insists on good etiquette. And all of that is okay with me. I urge you to try it before deciding.

              1. re: NeNePie

                I was just was there with a few friends. It was incredibly mediocre. No drama at all, but he seemed very, I don't know, tired. I like warm sushi rice, but the rice we were served was simply too warm. It was like eating a piece of fish on an amorphous blob of rice goo. That, plus the lake of ponzu sauce he seemed to drench everything with made the sushi next to impossible to eat. I felt like I should have asked for a spoon.

                1. re: creamfinger

                  agree--seemed like decent but not great fish prepared very badly to me

                  1. re: creamfinger

                    at his joint in marina del rey, sugarfish, they also use a fire hose to apply sauce. the fish quality was not very good, maybe that's what they were trying to cover up. still, i'd rather deal with mediocre fish without a lake of sauce than deal with mediocre fish in an ocean of sauce.

                2. Thank you! I have been talking about the brine for years and no one will listen. My guess is mirin, salt and water, but a sush chef friend of mine claims MSG (he may have professional jealousy though.)
                  I actually like Nozawa but in a fast food sushi sort of way. There is no way I would call it quality sushi. Since the prices have risen along with the hype and attitude I have steered clear. It's the "Nozawa has the freshest fish" comments that I particularly object to.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cls

                    I think the days of the "Nozawa has the freshest fish" comments are long gone. Although I'm certain the reputation for quality was well earned at one time, now Nozawa is like a hit TV series that stays on the air one season too long.

                    1. re: creamfinger

                      Not so sure about that, I just responded to the Nozawa "freshest fish" followed by the ubiquitous" he goes to he fish mart every day" a couple of weeks ago.

                      1. re: cls

                        Maybe I should clarify. I was not attempting to suggest that Nozawa's fish is not fresh. I simply don't feel that Nozawa's fish is superior in any way to many of the other Sushi bars on Ventura Blvd. Perhaps at one time it was. Now it is not.

                  2. I am surprised no one has mentioned the plastic dinnerware. Not only is the sushi mediocre, but the whole experience is the antithesis of a quality Japanese restaurant with attention to detail. There is a wonderful Japanese word shibui, which refers to an aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. They might as well rename Nowaza *Anti-Shibui.* At least everyone would then be fairly forewarned. Once was enough for me.