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Sushi-imbecile desperately seeking help

hyacinthgirl Jun 15, 2009 12:15 PM

Hello everyone,
Embarrassed to admit it, but here it is: I don't eat sushi.
My boyfriend does. Loves it, it's his favorite thing.
As it's his birthday, I was planning to take him to Sushi Zo, as I'd seen it batted around this board so much. However, the most recent post about Sushi Zo made it seem like an expensive, miserable, unfriendly place.

So here are my questions:
1. Is Sushi Zo only Omakase? I saw a reference to having to have the omakase, so I wanted to check
2. Is there any moderately priced sushi place that is also westside that people would recommend over sushi zo? I went with some friends to the Hump a few years back and they were mostly disappointed... I could spend about $100 just on him (since I'll pretty much just be having a glass of sake or a bowl of miso or otherwise going "along for the ride")

Thank you for your help. I'm completely out of my element here!

  1. e
    epop Jun 16, 2009 12:09 PM

    Mori has superb sushi and cooked food. Sushi Zo, btw, is still an amazing place.

    1. m
      Mateo R Jun 16, 2009 11:49 AM

      Hide on Sawtelle for a sushi Feast, and several non sushi items for you. not fancy, cash only. probably a wait for a table.

      1. s
        sky21 Jun 16, 2009 10:16 AM

        the quality of the sushi at haru sushi and roll cafe (on the north side of san vicente just east of la cienega) is excellent. they don't have a huge variety because they're small and they go to the fish market downtown every morning and only get what's best that day. on the cooked side, i love their miso cod. the green tea ice cream with a drizzle of brown sugar syrup and a dusting of soy powder is quite something else.

        it's a humble place that serves organic products and blends their own lower sodium soy sauce and makes their own great, gingery miso. they have beer and wine. the waitress/co-owner harumi is charming. if you tell her what you said in your post (you're doing it for your bf and aren't a big sushi eater), i think she'll treat you even better because she'll understand and appreciate your intentions/"sacrifice." her fiance/co-owner is one of the sushi chefs and it was his dream to have a sushi place of his own and she busts her behind in order to make it work out.

        the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially for the amazing quality you get. if you're so inclined, this would be the perfect place to venture into the sushi world (great quality, affordable and helpful staff who are very accommodating).

        it's nothing fancy so if you want that kind of a place for his b-day, i'd go somewhere else. but, if it's really just about the sushi and each other's company, i'd give haru a try.

        hope you two have a wonderful dinner.

        Haru Sushi & Roll Cafe
        480 S San Vicente Blvd
        Los Angeles, CA 90048
        (323) 782-0547

        1. j
          JudiAU Jun 15, 2009 07:04 PM

          You might consider going to Kiriko. They will be happy to serve him omakase to his heart's desire and assuming you eat other Japanese foods you can have a good meal as well.

          1. t
            travelingmansoul Jun 15, 2009 06:46 PM

            Kiriko has great sushi but also has items for non-sushites also...great plates

            Bar Hayama is similar but quality of sushi I think is better at kiriko though i've always enjoyed it there so recommend it also. The owner is one of the few sake masters in the US - the selection is incredible!

            I've yet to try to Sushi Zo but one day....

            1. martiniman Jun 15, 2009 05:38 PM

              DO NOT GO TO SUSHO ZO. It's only omakase and it will cost you like $200 a person. Plus when I went, it was a "miss". Why not go to Kiwami in Studio City? I think that's around $100 a person and I'm sure they have other stuff you can order. But if you really want to impress your boyfriend, go Mori. You could probably do that for about $100 a person if you don't go too crazy. Their cooked fish dishes are also very good.

              6 Replies
              1. re: martiniman
                westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 06:52 PM

                i have never been to mori and gotten out of there for under $100/pp.
                i would not consider walking into mori with a firm budget. Mori has always cost me more than sushi zo.

                1. re: westsidegal
                  martiniman Jun 15, 2009 10:17 PM

                  I never said it would be under, but "around". They have set menus you can order. Last time I was there (a year ago), they had an omakase choice for like $85. You can also order stuff a la carte. So assuming she doesn't get omakase and they get an ok 300ml sake, they could probably dine there for about $200 or less including tax, tip, etc. Really depends on portions and sake.

                  When you go to Suzhi Zo, you are basically at their mercy. They will feed you and charge you whatever they want. Which in my case came out to $200 per person. The sushi was extremely inconsistent there too. Read Exilekiss' review.

                  1. re: martiniman
                    hyacinthgirl Jun 16, 2009 01:20 PM

                    I'm fascinated by this whole omakase thing. Is there any other style of restaurant where they just feed you what you want and hand you a bill at the end? I might have to explore this further in another board.
                    Thank's so much for the warning on Zo!

                    1. re: hyacinthgirl
                      J.L. Jun 16, 2009 05:58 PM

                      Omakase is simply where the diner puts his/her trust in the Chef, and lets the itamae (AKA sushi chef) create a multi-course meal using whatever the chef feels is great and fresh that night. To order this, simply say "Omakase kudosai" to your chef before ordering anything else.

                      Omakase is what many Hounds do at a sushi place. It is usually better-experienced at the sushi bar, and not the table (though many places will allow you to order omakase at the table also).

                      1. re: hyacinthgirl
                        martiniman Jun 16, 2009 10:25 PM

                        I'll add that at some places, they'll put a price on the menu for their omakase so you know how much it will cost you. Other places, such as Sushi Zo, do not.....so you may end up pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by the bill depending on how much you think the experience was worth it.

                        1. re: martiniman
                          Servorg Jun 17, 2009 06:36 AM

                          Omakase lunch yesterday at Mori ran $110 pp + tip. That is $10 pp less than my last omakase lunch at Zo (and I found the quality of both lunches to on par as far as the fish and the rice). We were in about 1:15 PM and there were only two other people at the sushi bar when we got there and no one at the tables and when we left there was just a lone diner at one of the tables. Slow business day for Mori-san.

                2. J.L. Jun 15, 2009 05:32 PM

                  You sound like a very sweet GF, being prepared to not eat at the sushi bar so that your BF could enjoy himself...

                  Keeping this in mind, I think both of you will be happy at Kiriko (on Sawtelle) - the quality is high, and there is other stuff on the menu you may feel more comfortable with.

                  PLUS, if you tell Ken-san and his highly competent and friendly staff beforehand that you're a sushi novice and "tagging along", they will do everything in their power to treat you & your BF right. Usually I spend around $120 per person (with alcohol & tip figured in). I've never had a bad (or even mediocre) meal at Kiriko.

                  I used to go to Zo every 3 months or so, but recently Zo has fallen out of my favor, both in quality & attitude. The Hump is still great, but HIGHLY variable in terms of price.

                  Bon chance!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: J.L.
                    westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 10:14 PM

                    ~$120 per person is about what i've ended up spending at kiriko as well.

                    1. re: J.L.
                      hyacinthgirl Jun 16, 2009 01:18 PM

                      Thank you so much! I'm comfortable with that price range. I have to say, in one day, I've learned more about a sushi than a non-sushi eater has any right to know! : )

                      1. re: J.L.
                        hyacinthgirl Jul 6, 2009 01:03 PM

                        Just wanted to say thank you again, I did end up taking him to Kiriko.
                        It was a great recommendation. He really enjoyed the sushi and even now has it down as his second favorite sushi place that he's tried in this city (his favorite being Sushi Spot in Tarzana.) I've compiled a list of other places for him to try, so we'll see how long that holds.
                        Kiriko was great for me as well, as I had a lovely chicken and watercress salad. We also each had some drinks and it was still exceptionally reasonable. $75 total for the two of us (before tip- though notably, only one of us was eating sushi)
                        I'd recommend it to others, a lovely place!

                      2. Michelly Jun 15, 2009 03:19 PM

                        Our favorite places are Kaya Sushi -there's one in Marina del Rey on Washington and one in El Segundo. They have LOTS of non-sushi items ( if I'm not in a sushi mood, I'll order the sol dot bi bim bop, and their miso has more flavor than the average place). We llive in Westchester, so our closest place is Kabuki on the second floor of the Howard Hughes Promenade.
                        And I agree with Westsidegal; do at least order a bowl of miso if you sit down. It's light and usually inexpensive ($1.50 - 4.00), so you don't have to feel like you're taking up space.
                        By the way, have you tried any of the sushi that are not raw fish - unagi, which is cooked eel, and the egg sushi? Also check out the rolls available, as more and more places are catering to the vegetarian crowd, as these might appeal to you as well.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Michelly
                          hyacinthgirl Jun 15, 2009 03:26 PM

                          Please understand, if there's something there for me to order, I will do so! If there's nothing to eat, I'd drink sake or something. I am not in the business of taking up space and not ordering.
                          Additionally, if I were not eating, I would not sit at the sushi bar taking up that valuable real estate. Instead, I would sit at a table. As it's rare that they'd have a table smaller than a table for 2 anyway.
                          And having lived (and socialized) in LA for sometime, I have been to Many sushi restaurants and have always found something I could order. Vegetarian rolls are actually usually very yummy.

                          I was simply saying, I'm not familiar with the places that serve Only fish, though I know they exist. And if the quality were much higher there than at a place with a more varied menu, I would be interested in knowing that.

                          And thank you for the Kaya recommendation, it's very close to us! : )

                        2. c
                          caldad02 Jun 15, 2009 01:06 PM

                          I highly recommend Kiyokawa located at 265 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. www.kiyokawa-restaurant.com. Sushi Chef/Owner Satoshi can easily design an Omakasi to meet your budget and can provide a myriad of exciting dishes to meet your non-Sushi requirements.

                          For a fun evening that will make your loved one very happy and not break the bank Kiyokawa is the place.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: caldad02
                            hyacinthgirl Jun 15, 2009 01:28 PM

                            Thank you for that recommendation. The link doesn't work unfortunately, but other reviews I just read were equally as glowing.

                            Can you all kindly help educate me, how does Omakase work? It sounds to me like it's not neccesarily the same as a prix fixe, where you know going in it's $75/person, or whatever. Do you give them a budget when you sit down? Do you call in advance and advise? Am I completely off base here? Thank you!!

                            1. re: hyacinthgirl
                              westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 06:50 PM

                              actually there was a poor review of kiyoka a couple of days ago. . .

                          2. c
                            Clyde Jun 15, 2009 12:48 PM

                            K-Zo is a good idea. Also, what about Bar Hayama on Sawtelle? Lots of items on the menu that aren't sushi. I had a great experience there, especially with their great sakes! I was actually at Sushi Zo this weekend and it was amazing and service was friendly - not one complaint about the evening. the food was incredible, but on weekends it is Omakase only.

                            1. westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 12:41 PM

                              another piece of info regarding the hump: the final bill is sort of like a wild card--it could end up costing SEVERAL hundred dollars per person.

                              sushi zo is OUT for a number of reasons in addition to the one you cited.

                              if i i were in your shoes i would go to k-zo in culver city. they are reasonably priced, the room is pretty, there will be many non-sushi items that you could eat, and, most importantly, the fish is good. i would ask if they would let you reserve the sort of 'private' booth that is divided from the rest of the room by bead curtains.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: westsidegal
                                hyacinthgirl Jun 15, 2009 01:23 PM

                                Thank you so much for the recommendation, I'll look it up!

                                To clarify though, while it's great that a place has non-sushi items, I really don't mind not eating if the sushi is highly superior than what one would get at a restaurant that has a broader menu. Assuming the restaurant will let me sit there without eating... It would be a Tues or a Wed though, so I wouldn't be taking up space on a prime night.

                                1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                  westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 02:57 PM

                                  realistically, and REASONABLY, no restaurant is going to be really pleased with you sitting there and not eating. some will hide their displeasure more than others.
                                  also, i would absolutely not take up a space at a sushi bar if you are not going to eat.

                                  (if you are intent on doing that, please DON'T follow the suggestion i made above about reserving the private booth. )

                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                    hyacinthgirl Jun 15, 2009 03:01 PM

                                    Oh by no means am I intent on doing that! And I certainly understand that no restaurant wants a gawker at the table. And in my ideal world, I would of course prefer to go to a place where I could eat a full meal as well.

                                    I'm simply saying that, as I don't know sushi, if the fish is of a much higher quality at a place where there is nothing for me to eat, I would do it as this dinner is really just about the boyfriend getting the best sushi I can afford to buy him. If it were the case that a place that Only served sushi/sashimi were much better than a place that had other options, I would reserve a very early or very late table on an off night and tag along. (and tip well!)

                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                      westsidegal Jun 15, 2009 03:10 PM

                                      truly, i would re-recommend that you both go to k-zo and that , while your boyfriend eats the raw fish, you eat a few of their fine non-sushi items.
                                      i fear that you could possibly be setting yourselves up for an uncomfortable experience by trying to game the situation.

                                2. re: westsidegal
                                  c
                                  cls Jun 16, 2009 11:36 AM

                                  How about something like Hachi in West LA with a sushi bar and a robata / sake bar?

                                  -----
                                  Hachi Sushi & Robata
                                  12009 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

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