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Why Tama sushi, not Ike, not Urasawa, not Matsuhisa, is best

d
deadorinjail May 18, 2006 02:59 PM

I use this board enough that I feel like I should share this, knowing full well that some will disagree. But hear me out. Most important, I'm such a regular, I'll always be able to get sushi bar reservations.

It all boils down to this: the best sushi equals access to the best fish. Period. Absolutely everything else is secondary. And there is very, very little top notch fish to go around, especially given the explosion of sushi bars over the last few years.

The LA fish market is controlled by a cartel of Koreans downtown. These guys are in no way stupid. They know that giving the best fish to new restaurants, if they don't do well, could mean they don't get paid back. Everything is done on credit, and if a place closes, they're out. So first off, they need to be sure you'll stick around to pay the bills. Now, places with huge bankrolls and establihed track records -- like Urasawa, Matsuhisa, Ike, Roku, et al -- pass the first test.

But second, and equally important, is the Asian "respect" factor. The longer you've been doing business with the Korean fish guys, the more a relationship develops. Not that different from supply and demand in other industries. The favored customers get the highest quality supplies, while those who aren't friends might get a little damaged merchandise thrown in.

Here's where Tama comes in. Katsu Michite, the pushing-70 owner of Tama, has been in the L.A. sushi business longer than anyone else, since the late 60's. There are apparently equally old Korean fish mongers running the show that he's known all this time. Not only has he always paid his bills through his various establishments, but there is a very serious respect factor going. Hell, ask your local sushi chef if he knows Katsu. They all do. He's kind of the local old master.

The easiest way to sum it up is what one of the assistant chefs told me: the old Korean fish mongers eat at Tama, virtually exclusively. There is some kind of quid pro quo that works in Katsu's favor.

Now, it's true, you've got to befriend the man to get the good stuff. Probably took me a dozen visits to become "favored." And it's also true that, thanks to a combination of $ and respect, there are other sushi restaurants that have equally stellar fish. But not at the insanely low prices that Tama has.

My wife and I usually split a $50 omakase, which is 10 pieces of whatever's good, a tuna cut roll, 4 or 5 bite-size random appetizers, a bowl of soup (changes every time). We add an order or two of extra sushi, whatever's good, and we're both full. Total, including a large can of Asahi (the large cans are the only ones actually imported from Japan; all other "Japanese" beers are actually made in Canada) is around $75. Total, including tip, is $90. It simply cannot be beat. And is never anything less than perfect. Once you're "in," and I'm sure this is true everywhere, you don't get served anything because they have to get rid of it (reread Kitchen Confidential to remember what I mean re: common ways to pawn off soon-to-go-bad fish).

OK, let's recap: I didn't say whatever your local favorite is isn't as good. It's that very, very few have as high quality. And those few that do, well they're all much more expensive. Which is why I say Tama simply cannot be beat. Period. Them's my two cents.

  1. d
    Diana Nov 12, 2007 05:05 AM

    Asanebo got the Michelin Star...Tama did not.

    Not that I totally am devoted to rating systems, but I find it telling, nonetheless. I am in total agreement with the guide on that one.

    1. t
      TailbackU Nov 3, 2007 05:06 PM

      i'm going to have to disagree with your post. I went to Tama last weekend to try Katsu's omakase with my gf..we both love sushi. Katsu and I started talking about fish markets and some of the other sushi chefs in the LA area, particularly, Nozawa. Katsu told me that Nozawa is usually one of the first one there to get first dibs on fish, and that he usually goes later in the day b/c he doesn't like waking up early. Even using your logic that the fish sellers treat the chefs that have been in business for a long time better than the new players in town, Nozawa has been serving up sushi just as long, if not longer than Katsu, AND he's the first one at the market grabbing the best stuff.

      Secondly, when we sat down and tole Katsu that we were doing the Omakase, he started cutting all the different fishes right away before making each cut fish into sushi. Some of the fish that he cut sat there on the cutting board for a good 20 minutes before he ever served it to us. Now i don't know if this is some weird technique, but i've never seen it done this way and I can't imagine that it's the best way to serve fresh fish. I felt like his technique was way below par compared to nozawa or Zo.

      But having said all this, Tama does serve above average sushi but definitely not the best. . But obviously, you're entitled to your opinion, and that's why we're all here....sharing our opinions.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TailbackU
        f
        fdb Nov 12, 2007 09:54 AM

        He is too lazy to get up in the morning for the freshest seafood possible, AND he cuts up all the fish for omakase at the same time??? That says something about his work ethic.

      2. f
        fooddude37 Nov 3, 2007 02:38 PM

        Under ideal circumstances, yes, I see your point. I've been to Tama quite a few times since my first visit about 4-5 years ago. The last few times I've gone it was with a hardcore regular, much like yourself. I believe he goes once a week or so, and Tama has eaten at his house and also privately catered his birthday party.

        That said, on my last visit to Tama, I received a cut of Spanish mackerel whose bloodline was verging on dark brown and tasted like it looked. Which isn't to say very good at all. I think the sushi at Tama is good to very good. The sushi that I have received at Zo (where I haven't had to establish any sort of relationship with the chef, I've only been a few times) has been superlative every time, with every cut. I agree with you regarding cost factor. I think Tama is very good value.

        1. d
          dwg Nov 2, 2007 04:42 PM

          tama roXors. i was there last night, and it's my hands-down l.a. favorite. you can niggle all you want about this fish or that point, but it's my overall favorite. there's no arguing about that, just like there's no arguing someone else off of nozawa if it's his or her favorite. favorite is just an ineffable thing. and for my eff, it's tama uber alles. w00t.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dwg
            s
            Sgee Nov 2, 2007 08:47 PM

            I had a lunch earlier in the year, Tama wasn't there, the two assistants had filthy aprons, terribly cut and poor quality fish. Far cry from my visit in '03, no intention of visiting ever again.

          2. s
            S N Oct 17, 2006 07:53 AM

            i dont give a crap who buys the fish where as long as its fresh and free of disease.

            but, if i dont get good food at the first visit WHY COME BACK? i dont care if its iron sushi chef 50000000+1, i'm taking my bucks elsewhere.

            1. k
              kevin Aug 17, 2006 02:39 AM

              go to nozawa, usu. everyone gets treated the same there, and the omakase never really changeds, it's more of a prixe-fixe, so you'll get basically what the regulars are receiving.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kevin
                tenacity Aug 17, 2006 03:18 AM

                Thank you, kevin! Looks like Nozawa has a lot of fans, many of whom like to either dispel or propogate the "sushi nazi" story. I might just have to find out for myself.

              2. tenacity Aug 17, 2006 02:33 AM

                Based on the usual proposition that you get "the good stuff" once you have established yourself as a regular, what then does a visitor or newbie do?

                What would you recommend for someone (me, visiting town for a few days) who is NOT a regular but would like to eat great (or at least good?) sushi for about the $50 price range?

                I appreciate your responses....

                1. r
                  rameniac Aug 16, 2006 11:40 PM

                  yeechh... this flame-fanning thread is still alive. to throw in my two cents, i haven't been back to tama. but i've been going to kiriko and sushi zo for sure =)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rameniac
                    m
                    MeowMixx Aug 18, 2006 10:33 PM

                    It's been a whole month now but I'M GOING TO SUSHI ZO TONIGHT!!!! I can't wait! Yuzu drink, here I come......

                    1. re: MeowMixx
                      r
                      rameniac Aug 18, 2006 10:41 PM

                      haha wow you know? i'm gonna be there too... not sure what time, but look for the asian guy with yellow hair =).

                      1. re: rameniac
                        m
                        MeowMixx Aug 18, 2006 11:25 PM

                        I'll be there around 7:30. Maybe I'll see you! :)

                  2. d
                    deadorinjail Aug 16, 2006 09:29 PM

                    Wow, strange how these things come back. Anyway, yes, Tama sushi's Katsu is the same guy from Katsu on Hillhurst in Los Feliz/Silverlake. The other Katsu's and Katsu-Ya are unrelated. He changed the name to Tama (named after his wife) to distinguish himself from Katsu-Ya down the street.

                    1. k
                      kevin Aug 12, 2006 06:11 PM

                      same katsu, i think the one on sawtelle was more of a franco-japanese joint rather than a japanese sushi restaurant.

                      and the original katsu was on hillhurst in los feliz.

                      actually my first visit to a grander sushi bar was Katsu 3rd across from the Cedars Sinai on 3rd stree, natch.

                      1. PaulF Aug 7, 2006 07:15 PM

                        The first "great" sushi place I frequented was Cafe Katsu in Silverlake. I think that was the name, anyway. Since then, I've been to other "Katsus" -- there used to be one on Sawtelle near Olympic (I don't think it's still there.)

                        I'm assuming this is the same "Katsu." Am I right?

                        1. r
                          rameniac Aug 7, 2006 04:39 PM

                          hehe i remember this thread from 2 months ago. kiriko, sushi zo, and nozawa are all still tops over tama in terms of freshness if not quantity (although we gorged at kiriko last night and it was amazingly inexpensive - 4 omakase + assorted appetizers for $215!), and exist comfortably in that space between 'urasawa' and 'everything else' IMHO.

                          1. j
                            JacyFarrow Aug 7, 2006 04:22 PM

                            I would have to agree that Tama is one of the best sushi places I've ever experienced. There are of course so many variables that contribute to someone's ranking of a place--particularly a sushi place--as "the best." Things like loyalty, locality, what was ordered and at what time of year (seasonal), service (an omakase experience is world's apart from sitting in a dining room), your initial reaction to and from the chef, and so on. It also depends on what you're looking for. I've had phenomenal experiences at Tama. I've also had phenomenal experiences at Azami. I've enjoyed Asanebo, Sushi Gen, and Katsu-ya. And this week I"m going to Urasawa, but I expect a whole other kind of experience.
                            So I echo the hearty thumbs up for Tama. It works for me, too.
                            (P.S., it helps that Tama's chef called me a "sushi black belt." I blushed all the way down to my toes.)

                            1. TonyC Aug 7, 2006 02:13 PM

                              i had the chance to sit in front of Katsu-san 2 months ago and i still can not stop thinking about the meal.

                              back to LA this week. is there ANYTHING? remotely close to this price/performance ratio?

                              Nozawa?

                              1. t
                                TsuThis May 19, 2006 08:44 PM

                                You do know, of course, that if this were a user moderated board you'd be pointed up as "troll" ... "flamebait".
                                I do like your "passion", however.
                                So let's assume you've found an itamae.
                                What were you served?

                                Link: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

                                1. r
                                  rickmond May 18, 2006 09:39 PM

                                  gonna have to disagree with this. primarily because you make a lot of assumptions about the factors that make a sushi place "the best." the chef is the oldest, asian etiquette and business practices, etc. i would say this is kind of conjecture unless you yourself are an insider or run a sushi shop. and even then, it's all relative to what you know. some people like fresh wasabi and for them that matters. some like the greater variety of fish when its flown in from japan. and the whole cost/value arguement doesn't really work because for some (albeit relatively rich) people, urasawa is probably considered a steal. the omakase at a lot of places (10 pieces or so) is in that same $50 price range if not cheaper (i'm thinking of kiriko, for example)and the quality of the fish was pretty top notch. i would say that the only way you could definitively say a place is "the best" is if you actually tried 'em all and had had the best each restaurant had to offer. and when it comes to sushi in L.A., that's probably pretty difficult.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: rickmond
                                    p
                                    Porthos May 18, 2006 11:39 PM

                                    What did you think of Kiriko? J.Gold wrote a very favorable review and said of the 40-restaurants he reviewed, it was the only one he can't wait to go back to. How's the selection? Rice? Fresh wasabe or paste? Do you know when he gets his fish?

                                    I'm thinking that's my next spot for sushi in LA.

                                    1. re: Porthos
                                      r
                                      rickmond May 19, 2006 02:53 AM

                                      although i still have a soft spot for nozawa's fat cuts of toro, i'll quote my japanese s.o. who said she could find "no flaws at all" with kiriko. reasonably priced, a friendly sushi chef (and we only had the apprentice), and nigiri as fresh as it comes. (haven't been to urasawa yet so can't say about that one hehe) JG loves the smoked salmon at kiriko - the owner smokes it himself, but my most memorable was probably the kani hand roll, which was the most generous i've ever had. i swear it was the size of a baseball. total bill - around $80 for two people (and we had all the good stuff).

                                      1. re: rickmond
                                        p
                                        Porthos May 19, 2006 03:35 AM

                                        Tell me about the good stuff? What kind of fish are we talking about here? Any rare stuff? Fresh wasabi or paste?

                                        1. re: Porthos
                                          r
                                          rickmond May 19, 2006 04:51 AM

                                          don't know if the wasabi was grated but it was better than the run of the mill paste stuff at cheaper sushi joints. considering they smoke their own salmon, it wouldn't surprise me if they made their own wasabi every day. as for fish, hmm... i don't remember exactly (it was about a month ago) but there were one or two white fish that were pretty uncommon and the s.o. made note of - don't think it was engawa but i forgot the name. otherwise it was the usual varieties of bluefin, toro, etc. which is what i tend to crave anyway, in copious quantities. i remember they had a spicy scallop that was actually GOOD and mixed to order with prime grade scallop used for nigiri (most places do "spicy" stuff with the cheaper quality fish or shellfish and have it premixed). and then of course there was that crab roll...

                                          keep in mind that i've only been there once. who knows what they'd break out if we were regulars...

                                          1. re: rickmond
                                            j
                                            JudiAU May 19, 2006 06:17 PM

                                            You might consider trying the set omakase lunch the first time you go. $35 It includes miso, salad, nine types of sushi, and excellent homemade ice cream. I ate there Tuesday and enjoyed red snapper, blue fin tuna, medium toro, Spanish makerel, sweet shrimp followed by the fried head, house smoked salmon, seared toro, Japanese scallop and some other things I don't remember. I lost count and I think it was actually more than nine pieces. I also sampled a piece of the most delish octopus I have every tasted that Ken-san bought live and prepared himself. It finished with a large crab hand roll.

                                            He has fresh wasabi on occasion but I don't think he uses it on everything. The wasabi that is served is better than what many places use.

                                            Ken-san grew up near Tsukiji and still has a brother who works there. His bluefin tuna is really exceptional.

                                            Service tends to be slow so if you need it to be faster you might mention that at the beginning.

                                            I honestly think this lunch is a terrific bargain.

                                            He is also known for his sashimi.

                                            Three more weeks until salmon season!

                                          2. re: Porthos
                                            e
                                            epop Aug 11, 2006 01:56 AM

                                            I can't remember the wasabi (it was a year ago) but i believe it was fresh. Kiriko is a great place but I wasn't expecting a $100 lunch. I ate well, but still... Next time I plan to do it a bit differently. Great and friendly place, nothing special in the decor. But excellent fish.

                                        2. re: Porthos
                                          choctastic Aug 12, 2006 09:27 PM

                                          Kiriko is excellent and a great value for the $30 lunch omakase.

                                      2. p
                                        Porthos May 18, 2006 07:02 PM

                                        Intersting discussions but as a couple have pointed out, it would be hard to announce a place "best sushi" if a places uses wasabe paste and not fresh wasabe. I was under the understanding that Tama uses paste.

                                        Second, it's not just how good the maguro is. It's how many types of fish they have and how fresh each one is. True, if you just compare tuna, salmon, hamachi, maybe Tama has the best of those fish because of their fish relation.

                                        However, what about o-toro, kama toro, kinmedai, kurodai, kohada, gen saba, 5 grades of fatty hamachi, etc. Rarer fish that have to be flown in from Japan. Something has to be said about the depth of selection. Frankly, not many restaurants in LA have that kind of selection. Mori had kohada and needlefish but not much else out of the ordinary.

                                        I typically consume 20-pieces of nigiri for omakase and for me, a great sushi restaurant can give me 20 different types of fish and is not just limited to the maguro, sake, hamachi, bonito, mirugai, kanpachi, chu-toro, uni, whitefish repertoire.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Porthos
                                          d
                                          deadorinjail May 18, 2006 07:52 PM

                                          Yes, Tama uses paste. Better to cut costs down on something as frivolous as wasabi, don't you think? If you're using alot of wasabi or soy, I tend to think you're missing the point. Not that I don't prefer fresh wasabi...

                                          As far as variations, well, you have a quite legit argument... At Tama I have had various not-everyday stuff including all sorts of toro I didn't know existed, along with fatty hamachi and the like. Not too long ago he has some fresh, unopened urchin, both east and west coast, which I'd never seen before, unlike the stuff out of a box. Last night he had some really excellent needlefish. But there's no question, it's not quite as an adventurous menu as some, and hell, I'm not even sure what kinmedai or kurodai are. If I hadn't made it clear, I don't think one can establish "best," but "best for the $" is closer to possible.

                                          That said, I'm dying to know where you go for such a variety, and what your recommendations are. You clearly know what you're talking about on a level I admittedly do not approach, but hope to someday.

                                          1. re: deadorinjail
                                            p
                                            Porthos May 18, 2006 08:23 PM

                                            It can be argued by many, including myself, that fresh wasabi is not frivolous but essential to fine sushi. The paste simply overwhelms.

                                            For sushi, I like Sushi Yasuda in NYC. Sounds frivolous, but I've been searching LA and SF for a while now and have been coming up a little short.

                                            Urasawa and Masa's are in a different class (given the lobster/foie gras shabu shabu bit and the price). Yasuda is just pure nigiri. Look up the website on Google and read about his philosophy on sushi.

                                            Your price/quality ratio argument is legitimate though. Sounds like Tama is a place you could go every weekend.

                                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                            1. re: Porthos
                                              r
                                              rickmond May 18, 2006 09:23 PM

                                              i agree - wasabi is not necessarily frivolous, and certainly not to me. it's all highly subjective. urasawa flies his fish in fresh from tsukiji fish market and many would argue that you get what you pay for.

                                              1. re: rickmond
                                                a
                                                Archer May 18, 2006 11:45 PM

                                                The point of the original post, which I for one appreciate, is the ratio of quality to affordability. You can't compare a special occasion place like Urusawa which at a minimum of $250 (not including sake, etc) most of us cannot afford even once a year to Tama, which offers delicious, reasonably-priced sushi which can be consumed on a regular basis. It's not a problem finding very expensive sushi restaurants which are excellent but exclusively frequented by the wealthy; the difficulty is being able to find great quality along w/ afforability, which Tama offers. It's one of my favorites too (and my very particular sushi-eating friends whom I've taken there have all appreciated the food as well)!

                                                1. re: Archer
                                                  r
                                                  rickmond May 19, 2006 05:05 AM

                                                  i admit i have yet to try Tama's omakase, but it doesn't seem particularly affordable compared to others. a lot of places, even good ones, seem to do omakase in that price range. this is not to knock Tama, i'm sure it's a fine restaurant and all this talk makes me want to check it out, but unless the fish there is truly that much better tasting/freshness/presentation-wise than anything else around, i'd hesitate to call it the definitive "best" in town.

                                                  1. re: Archer
                                                    p
                                                    Pablo May 19, 2006 12:22 PM

                                                    So basically you would rather go to Tama once a week for say six weeks, where as you could spend that same amount money on one night at Urasawa every six weeks instead?

                                                    1. re: Pablo
                                                      a
                                                      archer May 19, 2006 12:50 PM

                                                      Well yes. Considering that I have to eat every week (every day actually) rather than once every 6 weeks (it's not as if I'd spend no money on food while saving for this special dinner). Your math doesn't work anyway since it's much less (for me at least) than $50 to eat @ Tama (I too split the omakase). Most of us can and do need weekly dinners out away from kids, etc. Most of us cannot spend $250 + per person on them (closer to a minimum of $600 w/ tax, tip, drinks for a couple)--that is so far out of most families' budgets...hence, for many sushi lovers, the value/cost of a meal is a critical factor

                                                2. re: Porthos
                                                  t
                                                  The Hungry Traveler May 18, 2006 09:33 PM

                                                  Go to Mori. He trained with Yasuda in NY, and their styles are pretty similar.

                                                  1. re: The Hungry Traveler
                                                    p
                                                    Porthos May 18, 2006 09:51 PM

                                                    Actually, I talked to Yasuda about that. He did not train Mori. Mori worked "upstairs" and Yasuda worked "downstairs". Mori was a prep assistant. There was no direct training. This is from Yasuda himself.

                                                  2. re: Porthos
                                                    d
                                                    deadorinjail May 19, 2006 12:53 PM

                                                    But you have to pay extra. Even if you pay the extra, it's still much more affordable than anyplace I know of that offers fresh with every meal.

                                                    1. re: Porthos
                                                      e
                                                      epop Aug 7, 2006 05:18 PM

                                                      agreed. yasuda in nyc is great but have to say that here in LA there are many
                                                      special places as well, including some of those mentioned here. i'd be curious to know
                                                      why the omakase places here don't compare to Yasuda, in your opinion. Aside from their oyster varieties I think overall I've had better sashimi here.

                                                    2. re: deadorinjail
                                                      s
                                                      sushifreak May 18, 2006 10:29 PM

                                                      Urasawa uses fresh wasabi root and makes his own soy sauce and gari. That's something special! If Tama doesn't do that, you are missing the point!

                                                  3. c
                                                    CulverJack May 18, 2006 06:09 PM

                                                    Nice post. I like your logic and how you played it into your thesis.

                                                    It once again plays out (twice, one time for the sushi chef and his suppliers, and once for the customer and the chef) it's not always what you know, but often who you know, that wins out.

                                                    I also like Katsu's cooked food at Tama, which makes it doubly attractive to me. Well presented and thought out on the entire plate, not just an entree.

                                                    1. p
                                                      Pablo May 18, 2006 03:55 PM

                                                      Sorry Hiroyuki Urasawa does NOT get his fish from LA. So please leave Urasawa out of this subpar group of restaurants.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Pablo
                                                        m
                                                        MPKen May 18, 2006 04:29 PM

                                                        That's what I was thinking. Urasawa get's almost all his suff from Japan, so I've read. I doubt that LA's fish mongers get better stuff than Japan's fish mongers.

                                                        1. re: Pablo
                                                          k
                                                          koji May 18, 2006 05:40 PM

                                                          I'm pretty sure that it's not an either/or proposition.

                                                          There are fish that you can't get in Japanese waters that are popular there just as there are fish you can't get in American waters that are popular here.

                                                          My mom's cousing owns a huge commercial fishing boat that supplies seafood for Japan and the US and most of the time he's in the Pacific but nowhere near either country.

                                                          The fish they catch is shipped to Japan and the US. The source is the same - and while I'm not sure of any selection process done at the point of catch - I doubt the quality is all that different.

                                                          I really don't think the location of the catch makes all that big a difference.

                                                          1. re: koji
                                                            s
                                                            Schweinhexen May 18, 2006 06:07 PM

                                                            Koji, I believe you are absolutely right. I have been to Japan, and to be honest with you I expected really amazing fish. What I found out is that alot of the fish is just brought to Japan just as LA, and personally some of the tuna out here simply outclasses those found in Japanese markets. The attitude that since the restaurant uses fish from "Japan" equals quality is incomprehensible.

                                                            1. re: Schweinhexen
                                                              The Chowhound Team May 18, 2006 06:41 PM

                                                              We've deleted a number of off topic and a few quite nasty replies from this thread. While specific discussion of specific restaurants is on topic for the LA board, general discussion of fishing practices, or whether the USA or Japan gets or hosts better fish is not. If you wish to continue this tangent on the quality of fish, please do so over on the General Topics board.

                                                              Link: http://chowhound.com/boards/general/g...

                                                          2. re: Pablo
                                                            choctastic Aug 12, 2006 09:24 PM

                                                            No he gets fish from Japan but also gets some things at the L.A. market. For instance, his sea urchin is always from Santa Barbara as it takes too long to get the Japanese version to here and the Santa Barbara uni is also excellent in its own way.

                                                            1. re: choctastic
                                                              k
                                                              keithlca Aug 16, 2006 09:22 PM

                                                              All Grade A, the best uni, sea urchins from Santa Barbara are shipped to Japan. It is nearly impossible to get them here. I must say you do get better uni in Japan even though it is from Santa Barbara.

                                                          3. k
                                                            koji May 18, 2006 03:35 PM

                                                            I consider myself lucky.

                                                            I'm not a regular at any one sushi place, but I've been to some of the better ones around town (R23, Sasabune, Gen, etc.).

                                                            This last Valentine's Day, I called to make a reservation at the bar at Tama and used my Japanese middle name. We got two seats smack in the middle of the bar right in front of Katsu. It was my GF and my first time there and the regular to our side was surprised w/ our choice seating.

                                                            My ace in the hole is that my attractive Japanese speaking, Japanese girlfriend speaks fluently and is good at buttering up sushi chefs. We did the $50 omakase (each!) and it was really really fantastic, but too much. I loved it and I love the idea of splitting the $50 omakase.

                                                            As much as I enjoyed sasabune, I have to say this was one of the best all around sushi experiences I've had, including in Japan. And the fact that it was on V-Day, which could have been a nightmare, made it that much better.

                                                            Great post - and good information.

                                                            1. a
                                                              arkestra May 18, 2006 03:30 PM

                                                              i'm not going to get into the debate about the best sushi establishments, i would just note that while high quality fish is very important, there is much more that goes into preparing great sushi. among other things -- rice (not as simple to prepare well as one would think), wasabi and soy sauce. also, as a now deceased chef once told me -- you can have 2 sushi chefs behind the same counter, both using the same fish, rice, wasabi, etc., but one produces much better sushi than the other. how you slice the fish, the size of the sushi and proportionality between rice and fish are all very important.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: arkestra
                                                                v
                                                                victor ward May 18, 2006 04:22 PM

                                                                thank you for pointing this out...

                                                                1. re: victor ward
                                                                  d
                                                                  deadorinjail May 18, 2006 04:50 PM

                                                                  While I maintain the best fish is most important, there's no question you're correct -- all factors come into play. But Katsu's the ginsu friggin' master. Cut sushi for 40+ years and I imagine you tend to get pretty good at the exact angles and how to prepare the rice.

                                                                  And once again, I'm not saying he's better than someone you like. There's more than a few masters out there. I just doubt you can find higher quality for lower cost.

                                                                  1. re: deadorinjail
                                                                    a
                                                                    Adsvino May 18, 2006 05:33 PM

                                                                    Where the heck IS Tama sushi?

                                                                    1. re: Adsvino
                                                                      d
                                                                      deadorinjail May 18, 2006 05:35 PM

                                                                      Tama Sushi
                                                                      (818) 760-4585
                                                                      (818) 760-4363
                                                                      11920 Ventura Blvd
                                                                      Studio City, CA 91604

                                                                      1. re: deadorinjail
                                                                        k
                                                                        kevin May 19, 2006 12:36 AM

                                                                        See I don't quite agree with the assessment. But a little bit of explanation is necessary.

                                                                        I think at times the sushi at Tama is good, and when his restaurant was actually called Katsu and when he manned the more personal 6-seat sushi bar, which he only served omakase, it would have probably been the closet thing in town to ginza sushi ko (urasawa had not replaced ginza at the time and tama was stilled called restaurant katsu).

                                                                        But the last couple times that i tried the cheaper omakase after the changeover to tama, the quality was just not necessarily there, it wasn't the freshest of fish either (for that now I still prefer Nozawa, but this will open up a whole other can of worms). And I don't want to put Katsu down, he is one of the nicest if not the nicest, friendliest sushi chef in town. But he does not always seem to get the prime stuff (more often than not at a similar price point, nozawa does).

                                                                        "And then if you're talking about Nishimura and Mori those are both considerably more expensive than both Nozawa and Tama.

                                                                        And the jury is still out on what i consider the best sushi place in town since i have not been back to a lot of these joints as in the past but for what it's worth here are some of my favorites (and i still have not been to urasawa, which is way out of my price range at leas for now):

                                                                        Sushi Nozawa in studio City.
                                                                        kiriko on sawtelle.
                                                                        nishimura on melrose.
                                                                        azami on melrose.
                                                                        shibucho on beverly.

                                                                        1. re: kevin
                                                                          t
                                                                          Tom May 19, 2006 01:39 AM

                                                                          Katsu gets the same fish as Nozawa. I asked him if Nozawa got better fish the last time I was there. He smiled and pointed at the yellowtail in front of him and said, "See this? I got it this morning. Nozawa took the other half."

                                                                    2. re: deadorinjail
                                                                      d
                                                                      Diana Nov 2, 2007 04:51 PM

                                                                      I can. I have.

                                                                2. n
                                                                  NM May 18, 2006 03:16 PM

                                                                  Great post.

                                                                  But, as you yourself state, it's an unwritten rule that -- fairly or not -- customers only start getting the really great fish once they've ingratiated themselves with the sushi chef. This takes multiple visits, an enormous amount of money, etc. Because of this, it seems that people tend to latch onto a sushi restaurant they really enjoy, and keep coming back to it. They value the relationships they've developed, enjoy their insider status, and usually become fanatical in their devotion to that one particular establishment over all others.

                                                                  Hence the difficulty of ever establishing a consensus of a clear best in the city.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: NM
                                                                    d
                                                                    deadorinjail May 18, 2006 04:36 PM

                                                                    Absolutely agreed.

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