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reasonably priced sushi to impress the out-of-towners

DanielleW May 12, 2010 08:14 AM

Hi everyone,
I know there are a million threads about sushi, but I just can't find what I am looking for. I have a friend visiting from out of town. I love her to death, but she is very snobby about LA (even though she has never been here). She expressed interest in going out to sushi on Saturday night. I really want to give her a great sushi experience, but I just can't seem to find anything within my price range that sounds good. I'd like to spend less then $100 pp. It can be for omakase or a la carte. I would like a nice atmosphere... I brought my mother-in-law to Bar Hayama last year, but I just wasn't that impressed with the quality of the sushi.

Any ideas? I am on the westside, but I would travel for the perfect place.


Bar Hayama
11300 Nebraska Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

  1. liu Sep 18, 2012 05:14 PM

    DanielleW --
    More than a year later, my curiosity remains. Where did you go?
    I'd like to hear the details.

    2 Replies
    1. re: liu
      DanielleW Sep 19, 2012 10:28 AM

      Alas, we didn't end up going to sushi. I just felt too overwhelmed by it. We went to Wilshire for dinner. They enjoyed it very much!

      1. re: DanielleW
        liu Sep 19, 2012 03:26 PM

        Thanks for reporting back, DanielleW. I am sorry that the sushi did not work out. There are some seriously good choices for sushi in this city; perhaps at your leisure, you can sample a few of them so that you will be well armed next time your friend comes to town.

        I am happy that your guests enjoyed Wilshire! That was a great idea!

    2. m
      mahilig_kumain Feb 26, 2012 07:17 AM

      On the way to the Getty Museum in Malibu,  we eyed a funky-looking restaurant sign for SUSHI at Froggy's Market Seafood Restaurant and vowed to go back for dinner.
      One would never guess that inside this roadside joint is a pleasant looking big dining room with tall ceilings, big glass windows, beautiful picnic-like tables and a stage that must be the scene of many cool music events.
      Determined to have sushi, our group of 7 proceeded to check out the sushi counter where we met Krysztof Janisz, the sushi guy. 
      The sushi menu was posted in the front but we decided that Krysztof should just surprise us with 3 platters of sushi.
      After a few minutes, our server came with bowls of non-greasy, garlicky edamame and lemony, mildly spicy shishito peppers.  
      There was nothing special about the appearance of our first platter of albacore tuna, halibut, yellowtail belly and salmon but with the first bite, I knew that this is what sushi is supposed to be. The perfectly cut and melt-in-your mouth pillows of fish sent me to fish dream heaven.  (I talked to  Krysztof and 
      found out that his fish comes fresh from his daily, early morning forays into the LA fish markets! Aha, the secret!)  The sushi rice, packed just right and not so tightly and expertly seasoned with his own rice vinegar brew, was the perfect canvas for the fish.
      Although sushi afficionados may want their sushi "pure," our experience with innovative sushi here was a testament to  Krysztof's playful and creative side. 
      The next two platters invited oohs and aahs from our table.  There was the Gus-Gus roll (spicy tuna wrapped with tuna, avocado and spicy mayo), and  the Barkley roll (a California roll with albacore tuna and avocado and a mild garlic ponzu sauce), and the baked scallop roll (a California roll topped with diced baked scallops), and the caterpillar roll (eel, shrimp tempura, real not imitation crabmeat and avocado with eel sauce), and the sweet and creamy salmon roll (fresh crab, cream cheese, shrimp tempura topped with seared salmon).
      There were also two more traditional hand rolls of spicy tuna and unagi.
      There is only one bad thing about the sushi at Froggy's and that is that it is far from the East coast where I live. I will definitely go back for more sushi the next time I'm in LA.  I hope that Krysztof will still be the sushi guy and if he isn't I may just have to see where he goes next.  It was that good!

      Froggy's Topanga Fish Markets
      1105 N Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga, CA 90290

      1. c
        crimsons Sep 28, 2011 08:20 PM

        Sugarfish is awful. The fish is obviously pre-sliced, and not in a good way. Rice completely falls apart. The entire kitchen staff is, shall we say, not remotely Asian. Great business idea though! Set menu, pre-made food and nothing that's cooked, all for top dollar.

        1. d
          degustateur May 13, 2010 03:09 PM

          Ok, DanielleW ...

          You want snob appeal.

          You want culture.

          You don’t want a strip mall.

          You want great sushi.

          I heartily recommend Hamamori.

          Hamamori is located upstairs, adjacent to the bridge, in the Crystal Court at South Coast Plaza. Superb sushi by James of Wasa Sushi fame. Everything is exceedingly fresh, masterfully prepared and presented in an elegant, upscale venue with a spectacular view. Exude confidence and go for the omakase – chef’s choice and, please, don’t squeal if you see something still moving on your plate – it’s that fresh (~_^). One of Orange County’s top four sushi bars, the others being, in rank order, Sushi Shibucho, Sushi Wasabi and Kasen. You certainly will not be disappointed. In fact, you will likely be impressed.

          Ask for James. Let him know whether you prefer traditional sushi or fusion.

          3333 Bear St., Suite 320
          Costa Mesa, CA, 92626
          (714) 850-0880

          1 Reply
          1. re: degustateur
            turbox3 Oct 2, 2011 08:31 AM

            Respectfully disagree on Hamamori.

            he place is more gimmickery than substance. Yes, hey serve large live santa barbara spot prawns, but the fish is not top notch. The more important measure though, is he lack of finesse in the fish cuts. The most important tell tale of a sushi place not being true to its roots: the presence of the california roll on the menu.

            Sushi Wasabi used to be the best choice in Orange County, but there are so many better ones now- Give Ohshima or Nana San (ankimo is the best in all of southern cal) a try.

            Sushi Wasabi
            14460 Newport Ave, Tustin, CA 92780

            11043 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

          2. wilafur May 13, 2010 11:34 AM

            head to the south bay and go to kanpachi or miura.

            1. peppermonkey May 13, 2010 09:04 AM

              kiyokawa has got to be the best bang for you buck. You can order a la carte, but the $80 omakase is the best sushi experience in LA outside of urasawa.

              3 Replies
              1. re: peppermonkey
                Emme May 16, 2010 09:00 PM

                i love kiyokawa. i think it would be an excellent choice, depending upon the ambience the OP is seeking. if her guest is "snobby about LA," i'm not sure if this means she does or doesn't want something with a bit of scene... or less so? either way, food-wise, kiyokawa is superb.

                1. re: peppermonkey
                  ns1 Oct 25, 2010 05:56 PM

                  is this the kiyokawa you guys are referring to?


                  265 S. Robertson Blvd.
                  Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                  1. re: ns1
                    Servorg Oct 25, 2010 06:14 PM

                    Is there another one by this name in LA?

                    Kiyokawa Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
                    265 S Robertson Blvd Ste 10, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                2. b
                  bulavinaka May 12, 2010 09:55 PM

                  Any word on Kiyokawa post-J. Gold review?

                  1. s
                    SarahM May 12, 2010 06:34 PM

                    I highly recommend Sugarfish (the Brentwood location is the best). It's part of Sushi Nozawa's empire and the menu follows his purist aesthetic very well. The fish is incredibly fresh and high quality, well prepared and the decor is modern and sleek - all for an incredibly reasonable price! I think it would be a perfect place to impress an out-of-towner! I have actually brought a few friends (local and visitors) there, and it never fails to impress.
                    If your friend is looking for the likes of rainbow rolls, cooked options or anything "fusion," this is not the place. No cream cheese in rolls here. Note they do not take reservations and are strict about only seating you once the whole party is present. I love getting dinner here, and finishing the night at Tavern (grab a seat at the bar!) with a cocktail/glass of wine and one of their outstanding desserts.

                    Sushi Nozawa
                    11288 Ventura Blvd Ste C, Studio City, CA 91604

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: SarahM
                      westsidegal May 12, 2010 06:42 PM

                      respectfully disagree with the Sugarfish recommendation.

                      1. re: westsidegal
                        wienermobile May 12, 2010 08:39 PM

                        I don't like Sugarfish at all. They really make you feel rushed and it tastes like assembly line sushi.

                        1. re: wienermobile
                          cls May 12, 2010 08:57 PM

                          I think we need a little more information from the OP before a recommendation.

                          1. re: cls
                            westsidegal May 12, 2010 10:49 PM

                            in terms of sugarfish, all the information we need from the op was given when she said she wanted to impress out-of-towners.

                            the sushi served at sugarfish, is not at all impressive.

                            1. re: cls
                              DanielleW May 13, 2010 08:11 AM

                              What information would you like?

                              1. re: DanielleW
                                cls May 13, 2010 10:16 AM

                                There are several types of places being recommended. For example:

                                Nozawa, I personally don't like his style and the place is nothing to look at, however, I would recommend it for a sushi fan, who cares about food more than atmosphere, likes the 'in the know' type of place, but not the sushi snob, or someone who wants the best atmosphere.

                                Mori (not recommended yet, but I'll throw it in the mix,) a nice minimal room, much more traditional sushi and presentation. I would recommend it for someone who knows sushi yet is not looking for 'star quotient.'

                                Wa, some chefs from Matsuhisa who make Nobu inspired fusion. Can be good, not for a traditionalist, a decent room but has a nice feeling being upstairs and usually crowded, but not a high end feeling experience.

                                Sushi Gen, crowded with lines out the door. Very good traditional nigiri (simple presentation and ingredients, i.e. you're likely to get tuna, yellowtail, salmon.) Downtown and feels a bit hip because it's off the beaten path a bit. Not for an eater who considers fancy rolls their thing.

                                Asanebo, Michelin star, strip mall location, some very good fushion dishes and decent sushi, but it's hard to get a traditional sushi meal there.

                                Koi, Katsuya, Nobu, Matsuhisa, et al. Celebrity sightings more likely, hip rooms more likely, traditional sushi not likely. More style than substance.

                                So the question is, what do you mean your friend is "snobby about LA?" Does she think we don't have good sushi? Does she think we don't have authentic sushi? Does she think it's style over substance? Does she think the restaurants aren't "hip?" Is she a sushi traditionalist, a neophyte, a fancy roll type, a know it all who thinks spicy handrolls are as good as it gets? Someone turned off by shrimp heads?

                                There are practically limitless choices, but to steer you in the right direction I think we need more info.

                                129 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                11941 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                                Katsuya Hollywood
                                6300 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                                11357 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                Koi Restaurant
                                730 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                1. re: cls
                                  westsidegal May 13, 2010 05:02 PM

                                  re: mori
                                  i've never gotten out of there for less that $100/pp, the op's stated budget.

                                  1. re: cls
                                    beaubourne Sep 18, 2012 04:52 PM

                                    Koi, Katsuya, and Nobu, definitely represent the "more style than substance" notion, but other than celeb sightings, I wouldn't consider Matsuhisa one of those. The inside is minimal if not ugly.

                              2. re: wienermobile
                                SarahM May 15, 2010 09:59 PM

                                I'm interested in why the dislike for Sugarfish? Aside from feeling rushed (which I've never felt), do you feel the sushi is not fresh? While it may not be inventive or on the level of some places in town, it's pure and fresh in my book. But for a weeknight sushi spot (or someplace to impress out-of-towners who aren't sushi experts to begin with), it's a great spot with fresh, good quality product. And the interior design is nice too.
                                Interested in what opinions are on Sugarfish's product?

                                1. re: SarahM
                                  westsidegal May 15, 2010 10:15 PM

                                  i can't speak for weinermobile, but for myself,
                                  the fish is not high quality
                                  the fish tastes like it has been presliced
                                  (there is a reason that even lousy neighborhood sushi bars make the sushi to order in front of you. you can even watch prepackaged grocery store sushi being made.)
                                  the fish is not trimmed properly
                                  the fish is drowning in bad sauce
                                  the sauces used are not appropriate for the type of fish upon which they are hosed.
                                  the requirements/encouragement to take any of their mediocre 'trust me' packages is not acceptabe ( and you can trust ME, none of those packages in any way resemble a decent omakase).
                                  if the out-of-towner has more than a passing knowledge of sushi, SUGARFISH will NOT impress.
                                  the sugarfish in the marina sells sushi that is just a cut above that sold in the RALPH'S supermarket in the same shopping center. their sushi is substantially inferior to the other three neighborhood sushi bars that are minutes away: irori, kaya sushi, and kifune--so why would anyone choose this place?
                                  as far as brentwood goes, there are several well reviewed sushi bars near that one too (remember that the sawtelle area is moments away from brentwood). so, again, why would one select a place that serves inferior product, and practically forces you to take a package deal (full of rice), when minutes away you can get something much better?

                                  as for it's being 'pure,' what do you mean by that? fish, by it's nature is not 'pure.' do you mean that the fish is not rotten? the fish at sugarfish is no more or less 'pure' than the fish sold at ralph's market in the seafood section.

                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                    ipsedixit May 15, 2010 10:23 PM

                                    Sugarfish is to sushi as CPK is to pizza.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      wienermobile May 16, 2010 08:31 AM

                                      Supermarket sushi at three times the price.

                                      1. re: wienermobile
                                        wienermobile May 16, 2010 08:35 AM

                                        Also the supermarket has a larger selection.

                                    2. re: westsidegal
                                      cls May 16, 2010 11:23 AM

                                      Could also be a description of Nozawa.

                            2. Mr Taster May 12, 2010 04:55 PM

                              Sushi Gen. If you order one of the sashimi specials, a few appetizers and a few a la carte sushi rolls, 2 people can eat very well for less that $50, including tip (but not drinks). However, you must sit at the tables to get the specials-- everything at the bar is ala carte.

                              422 East 2nd Street
                              Los Angeles, CA 90012-4209
                              (213) 617-0552‎

                              Mr Taster

                              1. m
                                Mateo R May 12, 2010 04:34 PM

                                Sushi Masu on Westwood

                                Sushi Masu
                                1911 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Mateo R
                                  westsidegal May 12, 2010 05:10 PM

                                  respectfully disagree with the sushi masu recommendation.
                                  imho, it's ok if i happen to be in the neighborhood. . .

                                2. b
                                  BabyBao May 12, 2010 04:19 PM

                                  Echigo has good sushi, but it's in a strip mall, and the ambiance isn't very impressive.

                                  What baout Hamasaku? It is about $20 per roll, so you could make it out of there for less than $100 per person.

                                  12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                  8360 Melrose Ave Ste 100, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: BabyBao
                                    mollyomormon May 12, 2010 04:40 PM

                                    It all kind of depends on what the friend is snobby about. If the friend is snobby about LA's supposed lack of culture and its focus on celebrity, then Hamasaku, with it's $20 rolls named after celebrities is probably going to be a huge turn-off. If, on the other hand, the friend is snobby about strip malls, then Echigo would be a terrible choice.

                                    12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                    8360 Melrose Ave Ste 100, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                    1. re: mollyomormon
                                      DanielleW May 13, 2010 08:10 AM

                                      That's exactly it. That's what she doesn't like about LA!

                                      1. re: mollyomormon
                                        daftpunkxl May 17, 2010 04:46 PM

                                        Molly--aren't they both in strip malls?

                                        And I heard that Michael Ovitz owns Hamasaku, which would begin to explain the idiotic names of the rolls.

                                        8360 Melrose Ave Ste 100, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                    2. d
                                      degustateur May 12, 2010 03:11 PM

                                      Greetings, DanielleW!

                                      My suggestions, in alpha order. I have enjoyed over 100 visits at each of them through the years since their openings. These establishments are neither fancy nor trendy, but their sushi speaks for itself:

                                      Sushi Nozawa
                                      11288 Ventura Boulevard
                                      Studio City, CA 91604
                                      (818) 508-7017
                                      LA’s own, original “Sushi Nazi”. Itamae Kazunori Nozawa commands a very traditional sushi bar ands serves up some of the freshest and finest sushi to be found anywhere. No reservations. Be prepared for a brief wait. Sit at the bar and enjoy the omakase-only offerings. Trust him, he will do you right. Whatever you do, DON’T ask for a California Roll unless you relish being used for entertainment purposes. Nozawa may first stike you as being standoffish, even rude. Trust me, he is one heck of a nice guy with an unwavering concern for affording his patrons the best there is. Service is Tokyo style meaning that you’ll be served one item after another in rapid succession until you signal that you’ve had enough – as fast as 30 minutes for a full round.

                                      Sushi Shibucho
                                      590 W. 19th Street
                                      Costa Mesa, CA 92627
                                      (714) 642-2677
                                      My favorite “go to” sushi bar. Outstanding omakase although a la carte selection is offered. Shibutani-san is a bone fide pioneer of sushi in California (Note: not California sushi) and a genuine grand master. All fish is prepared using traditional methods. Naga (Glenn), his son, spent over 5 years apprenticing in Japan before dad allowed him into the shop. Naga is now the legal owner but there is no question as to who’s the boss and where the leadership and direction comes from. Mama oversees the back kitchen, plates the soups and takes care of the guests making sure your sake or beer dos/t run dry. I cannot praise them enough – think I’ll go there tonight. Worth a trip from anywhere. Very relaxed service.

                                      Sushi Wasabi
                                      14460 Newport Avenue, Suite E
                                      Tustin, CA 92780
                                      (714) 505-3496
                                      Omakase only. No California roll! Excellent traditional, straightforward sushi served by Katsu-san, a true master and graduate of the Nozawa/Nobi (Sasabune) school. They meet almost daily at International Fish Market at about 5:00 AM to select the day’s catch. Fish quality and freshness are top-notch. Katsu handpicks his Kumamoto oysters one at a time. Portion sizes are relatively small allowing one to enjoy the full battery of the day’s offerings. The Texas Blue Crab Hand Roll is the star of the show. It’s usually my craving for a couple of them that prompts my return visits. Well worth the drive from LA. Relaxed, yet focused service.

                                      Sushi Nozawa
                                      11288 Ventura Blvd Ste C, Studio City, CA 91604

                                      Sushi Shibucho
                                      590 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                                      Sushi Wasabi
                                      14460 Newport Ave, Tustin, CA 92780

                                      1. a
                                        alex1989 May 12, 2010 03:04 PM

                                        Wa on la cienega and holloway in west hollywood

                                        1. westsidegal May 12, 2010 12:30 PM

                                          i believe k-zo in culver city would fit the bill.
                                          very pretty restaurant. (much prettier than echigo)

                                          good sushi and they serve many other menu items as well.
                                          won't break the bank.
                                          be sure to make reservations.


                                          1. c
                                            clertzman May 12, 2010 10:58 AM

                                            How about Takao on San Vicente & Darlington? Recently tried it and am in love. Service is great, just need to make sure and make reservations, as it's a fairly small place. Nagao (San Vicente & 26th) is also good. Have also hear amazing things about Hamasaku on Santa Monica right before Sepulveda.

                                            13050 San Vicente Blvd Ste 110, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                            11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                            11043 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: clertzman
                                              daftpunkxl May 17, 2010 04:45 PM

                                              +1 on Takao, but you have to be careful with their special fish. They can get really expensive. That said, they're always amazing. This is my favorite a la carte sushi bar.

                                              11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                            2. OmChef May 12, 2010 08:40 AM

                                              Echigo on Santa Monica Blvd near Bundy is excellent and a great value! And Echigo's sushi chef is one of Sasabune's (pricey) original sushi chefs.....Located on the upper level of a drab strip mall, but the restaurant itself is nice enough. Sit at the sushi bar and avoid the windows that look out on a Smart and Final and a tacky bar across the street.

                                              12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: OmChef
                                                westsidegal May 12, 2010 01:03 PM

                                                irrc, in order to be permitted to sit at the bar at echigo, one must order omakase.
                                                is this correct?

                                                if i'm correct, and if you want to order a la carte, plan to be looking out at Smart and Final and the tacky bar across the street.

                                                1. re: westsidegal
                                                  froggyhumi May 12, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                  If I'm thinking of the right place, the omakase is fairly inexpensive -- I think somewhere around 50-55pp so well within the budget

                                                  1. re: froggyhumi
                                                    westsidegal May 12, 2010 03:31 PM

                                                    good to know,
                                                    although i'd probably never order omakase at echigo,
                                                    i so love their monkfish liver sushi that if i make the drive there i'd need to order a la carte to be sure to get SEVERAL orders of it.

                                                  2. re: westsidegal
                                                    wilafur May 13, 2010 11:12 AM

                                                    i don't think so. when i was at echigo late last year, a lady sat at the bar and ordered ala carte.

                                                    1. re: wilafur
                                                      westsidegal May 13, 2010 03:27 PM

                                                      in that case, i'm gonna sit at the bar and order three or four servings of monkfish liver and be happy.

                                                    2. re: westsidegal
                                                      daftpunkxl May 17, 2010 04:43 PM

                                                      Agree with froggy, the omakase isn't very expensive, though in line with more expensive places. you just get fewer orders in the base menu.

                                                      And that "tacky" bar is sadly closed (Del's Saloon, RIP).

                                                      1. re: daftpunkxl
                                                        OmChef May 17, 2010 08:57 PM

                                                        the context of ref to Del's being "tacky" or any disrespect to Smart and Final, and that entire little strip of Santa Monica Blvd possibly being an unapealing view for someone 'snobby about L.A.'....
                                                        Del's Saloon, one of the best dive bars in L.A but now closed-may it rest in peace, was referred to as tacky because the out of town guest was described as "..she is very snobby about LA..", making echigo's location likely unappealing for the guest, and the nature of a great dive bar is to be at least a little tacky.......I am in DTLA, I live and work around some of the greatest "tacky" spots in So Cal. We also have plenty of dive bars (little Joy, the historic Hank's..etc ), and some pretty fab sushi-Katsuya, Hama and Sushi Gen, but for someone described as "snobby about L.A.", the westside seemed to be safer and more fitting of the inquiry.

                                                        re: Bar Hayama, my most delicious experiences at Hayama have been at the sushi bar, low on ambiance but very entertaining sushi chefs...

                                                        Bar Hayama
                                                        11300 Nebraska Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                        Del's Saloon
                                                        12238 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                    3. re: OmChef
                                                      mollyomormon May 12, 2010 04:07 PM

                                                      Hey! That tacky bar is Del's you're talking about and it was one of the best dive bars on the westside until it closed down earlier this year. RIP Del's. But I agree that Echigo is great and you'd have no problem getting out of there for under $100 per. Like westsidegal, I absolutely love their monkfish liver and I also think their blue crab handroll is one of the best. It has pretty much zero atmosphere, though, so whether it would work for your friend is hard to say. Is she snobby about strip malls?

                                                      12217 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 201, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                      1. re: mollyomormon
                                                        westsidegal May 12, 2010 10:53 PM

                                                        the reason i even tried echigo and their fabulous monkfish liver in the first place was YOUR recommendation!

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