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Sushi Nozawa Closing!

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Sushi Nozawa's last day will be February 29, 2012:

http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

http://losangeles.grubstreet.com/2012...

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  1. Wow! That's huge.

    1. That is big news. However, I'm surprised he's managed in that location for so long. He's such a curmudgeon-- I'd have thought that he would have had his fill years ago of the cell phone yakking, photo snapping, brown rice requesting, soy allergic hipsters and obnoxious entertainment execs. (Although it was, after all, his ultimate decision to open in Studio City.) I imagine he'd probably have been a great deal happier over the last couple of decades had he run a little shop somewhere in Gardena. Maybe that's what he'll do now, and open a Sugarfish in the old Nozawa location? Seems like a better fit for him.

      Mr Taster

      1. I discovered Nozawa back when he first opened in the mid-80s when I was still in high school and just getting over my fear of raw fish. It was a revelatory experience back then. I have only been a couple of times in the last 10-15 years or so, but sounds like it's time to get over there one more time.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Jack Flash

          Nozawa also was one of my gateway sushi places, though for me that was shortly after I arrived in LA in 1997.

          Although I have always enjoyed his warm rice sushi, I see no joy in what he does, or how he executes it. I've wondered if he gets any personal satisfaction out of the job. It has been observed many times before: the way he conveyor belts out the same "trust me" lineup to almost all of his patrons, and has been doing for as long as I've been going there (granted it's been a few years for me, though I doubt much has changed.)

          My understanding is that omakase is meant to take into account the tastes of the diner, paired with the best of what the sushi chef has available-- not the same damned thing to everyone who orders. (Although to be fair, Nozawa is hardly unique among LA sushi chefs in executing this "chef decides what's best for the patron" version of omakase.)

          Having said this, I am sad to see him go and will have to give him one last shot before he closes for good (or for now-- guys like him tend to have difficulty retiring permanently).

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            When he first started, he didn't have a helper/assistant behind the bar; it was just Nozawa. It was a much slower paced experience, too, with a lot more interaction. Although it was "trust me," he'd still give one an opportunity to reject something, ask for something else, etc. I really wish everyone could have experienced it back then. The place wasn't mobbed, either. I can remember going with my dad, and we wouldn't have to wait for a seat because the restaurant was only half-full. The experience has changed a lot over the years. But I still intend to go back once more for old time's sake.

            1. re: Jack Flash

              Same here. But I started going there (I think) when it was already quite busy in the late 90s, i think.

              i'll prolly get down there for one last time. but seeing as he's closed on the weekends it may be difficult.

              1. re: kevin

                Same here-- I "discovered" him shortly after my arrival in LA through the Zagat guide, and I remember lines out the door at lunch (this would probably have been around 1997-1998).

                Strange to think back so far, to BCE days (Before Chowhound Era)

                Mr Taster

        2. Damn. I've also been going there for years. At least until Zo and the other acolytes as well as sugarfish arrived on the scene.

          I think he introduced me to raw fish sushi along with Katsu Michite.

          In my opinion, zo, echigo, nishiya, et al were all heavily influenced and representative of nozawas style.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kevin

            you can definitely see the influence in sasabune and echigo from nozawa.

            still one of my favorite places for sushi. sad news indeed.

            i do remember being at sugarfish once when nozawa was there. he seemed happier and was interacting with customers pretty well. maybe the sugarfish model was more to his liking. either way, i'll miss it.

          2. i've never been to nozawa, and did not enjoy my experience at sugarfish downtown. while the sushi was good, i felt so rushed, more rushed than i've ever felt dining anywhere. i counted, and it took 58 seconds to get our check. i would have loved to have had more sake too that night but it was impossible with how rushed we were. if nozawa is anything like this, i guess it's just not for me. but if i'm truly missing out, let me know and i'll see about giving it a shot before it's gone.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Clyde

              Trust me...you are missing nothing. I used to go for lunch on a fairly regular basis around 92-93...it wasn't too crowded, and the food was good (but not mindblowing)...also, not too expensive...i don't think i ever spent over $30 at lunch. It was a good, local, quick place for lunch.

              I recall having dinner with some out of town friends there about 10 years ago...packed, waited in line for at least 30 minutes, and then rushed through our omakase at the bar in less than 45 minutes, more likely 30...at nearly 150/head. The presentation was sloppy, and while the quality of the fish was high, there is more to good sushi than just good fish.

              Virtually the same culinary experience (actually a little better, IMHO) can be had at Sasabune...again, I don't go often because of the the speed/assembly line environment. Sushi Zo has better sushi, but the awful location and surly attitude turned me off right away (and that's when it opened...now it's triple the price!).

              1. re: manku

                Speed/assembly line treatment is why I stopped going to Gen. I HATE that treatment, esp. when paying 150/head.

                1. re: ns1

                  As in Sushi Gen? Then get the sashimi deluxe platter and pay ~$16 for lunch (or ~$25 for dinner) and do special orders a la carte. You'll come in WAY below $150, and you can eat at your own pace.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    That's exactly what I do when I go to Gen.

                    I'm just saying I'm very turned off by the omakase experience at gen...my record there was 210/pp and I was not a happy camper.

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Yes I get the sashimi deluxe and then get some uni and amaebi too!

                  2. re: manku

                    Worth noting that your $30 in 1992 dollars is worth $46 today.

                    http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl...

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      I remember my bill being about 23 bucks without tax and tip in the summer of 1999.

                2. Just read this on Laist. Sad news indeed.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: Pedr0

                    Not sad at all. I went with my son last fathers day, over $200 and we were in and out of there in 30 minutes. Nozawa must be laughing all the way to the bank. He's rude, unfriendly, has ugly decor, cheap plastic plates, it's BS, the guys been fooling everybody for years. It was tolerable years ago when the price wasn't crazy but why bother when there is much better to be had somewhere else.

                    1. re: thebigjelly

                      It's not just Nozawa. Sushi in USA is a laughable racket. I can go home with some high grade tuna. Put it on top of some rice. Drizzle some rice vinegar on the rice. Eat it with some of that common fake wasabi and some thinly skiced fresh ginger and it is 85% as good as the best sushi USA places and that's good enough for me. What I usually make at home is sashimi with hot rice. All sashimi needs is some ginger, wasabi and Kikkoman soy sauce on the side. Some sauteed greens are good.

                      Sushi USA is mystique and drama as in ooh ahh look at the octopus and fish eggs on white rice how the heck did he ever do that?? I stopped being sucked in years ago. I have a Japanese buffet near me and they have Hispanic guys making the sushi. I hear Borneo, Egypt and Tasmania have some great sushi places these days. I have been to good sushi places and bad ones.

                      1. re: zzDan

                        Nozawa started bastardizing omakase by his Trust Me, I give you what I want and you give me all your money, and now more and more Japanese restaurants describe their set menus as omakase to take advantage of a duped American public.

                        1. re: cfylong

                          Nozawa permanently stunted the growth of traditional sushi in the LA market.

                          NYC has plenty of restaurants doing real omakase based on seasonal fish and the customer's tastes and preferences (eg raw scallop roe sac around April-May)

                          In his defense, it's what the typical LA consumer wants though...to them, it's not omakase without a blue crab handroll at the end of the meal.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            But those blue crab handrolls are so darn tasty. Interestingly enough there os a Sasabune in NY though too.

                            Are you a fan of Zo?

                            Or for LA just primarily Mori?

                            1. re: kevin

                              Unfortunately, a Sasabune did make it over to NYC a couple of years after I moved away. Unlike here, thankfully, it is outnumbered by more "legitimate" places (eg. Yasuda, 15 East, etc.)

                              Zo is a hybrid of Nozawa LA style sushi and more traditional sushi. His attitude is absurd so I don't go anymore. He used to be a nice guy. I even mentioned his mischevious half smile that I noticed on my first visit...maybe the heartless style of never changing LA omakase does that to a chef (see Nozawa, Sasabune, Zo).

                              I like Mori because he didn't succumb to the blue crab hand roll bit and the "meltingly tender" fish bit even though he knew that would make him more money. He stayed true to what he did from the beginning and I admire him for that. Maybe that's why he has always been a friendly guy because at the end of the day, he could be proud of what he did.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                I certainly don't know sushi like you do Porthos, but I will say this...I was a Zo-ealot -- and a prior to that a Nozaw-ealot -- for many, many years, as I learned what I little know about sushi.

                                I came to prefer sashimi to sushi here in the US because the rice in Japan really spoiled me. And I came to prefer salts and other dressings to sweet and overly dressed fish --as well as less common fish. So I had little interest in Zo/Sasabune/Nozowa lately.

                                Anyway, last week I went to Zo and it was truly delightful. He has two Japanese chefs with him now instead of doing everything himself or with one server back there. Things seems more cut to order, rather than pre-cut and the quality and fish selection was very high. He has always been nice to me (but taciturn). I really don't go to a sushi bar to chat with the chefs anyway -- I prefer my guest(s) or a book.

                                Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and very much enjoyed the meal.

                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                  I'm surprised you're not a Mori-zealot given your appreciation of sushi rice. I'd think the ponzu drenched hot rice at Nozawa would drive you crazy.

                                  Regarding Zo, I don't need a chatty chef, but I certainly
                                  don't like a hostile one either. All I ever ask is what fish I'm eating if I can't already tell.

                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                    How much was your meal at Zo when you went last week?

                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                      fwiw, i've NEVER seen any precut fish at zo. ( i do hear, though, that pre-cut fish is used at sasabune)
                                      also, i've never been treated with anything but complete respect and responsiveness at zo.
                                      if i want to be chatted up, i go to a bar or a gastropub.
                                      to me a sushi bar is all about the fish.

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        That's because you're one in a million westsidegal!

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          hoping that is a compliment.
                                          thank you

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Of course it is! The only one to get friendly treatment from Keizo? One in a million indeed! :)

                              2. re: cfylong

                                Nozawa....good bad or evil the man made his mark as he got people to "trust me". America's sushi mania wasn't cool enough so it lead to omikase mania at least in some major cities. You were uber hip if you could discuss omikase at different places. I had some tuna sushi at a Chinese joint two days ago...it was OK. I always like the wasabi and pink pickled ginger. We have a lot of Thai/Sushi places here. 90% of the time this is Thai owner branching out into sushi

                                1. re: cfylong

                                  I'm not quite a fan of Nozawa. The faded plastic plates and assembly-line sushi of the last decade or two has been unaesthetic at the least. But you can't accuse his Trust Me sign of bastardizing the omakase concept. I can assure you that when I first saw the sign, back in 1986 or 1987, there was no popular omakase concept to pervert.

                                  1. re: condiment

                                    Maybe that's proof that he bastardized the concept from the beginning? I wasn't there in 1986. Back then did he ask for your likes and dislikes and then tailor the meal to the customer and seasons or was it the never changing omakase from the start?

                          2. The good news: this will raise the average quality of Studio City sushi.
                            The bad news: he'll still be out there buying funky-quality fish.

                            Longing for Katsu.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: farmertomato

                              Where is Katsu-san these days? They completely went underground after the BH locale shuttered? What a shame. So much better than the Nozawa experience.

                              1. re: TonyC

                                Yes, I wonder if Katsu decided to retire. I believe he had some health issues, and the Beverly Hills fiasco might have bummed him out enough to call it quits. I hope that's not true--he was truly the best sushi chef in LA.

                            2. I was told by a Sugar Fish employee, that its being re-branded as a Sugar Fish and that Nozowa will frequent it as he lives nearby.

                              PS: IMO Sugar Fish is much better than the Katsuya (at least the Katsuya in Brentwood)

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: BSW6490

                                "I was told by a Sugar Fish employee, that its being re-branded as a Sugar Fish and that Nozowa will frequent it as he lives nearby."

                                Translation:
                                He will be there to pick up his residuals.

                                1. re: zzDan

                                  Does not surprise me, I checked out Sugarfish in Marina Del Ray for the first time last nite. 9:15pm on a weekday and it was still packed to the gills with people waiting for tables.

                                  He will retire comfortably....

                                  1. re: Sgee

                                    He made his million(s) feeding America's sushi mania. If he didn't do it someone else would have...In fact they are doing it. There is no limit to American's appetite for raw fish on top of vinegar rice and lets not leave out the awesome accompanying drama of Japanese (and Korean) sushi senseis stoically at work making tuna rolls and tidbits just for little 'ol you

                                    1. re: zzDan

                                      My family is very sad to see Nozawa close. He taught our children how to love sushi.
                                      They now will try anything, anywhere. He and his wife have always been very polite to us.
                                      But I guess he wasn't very "polite" to the Starbuck Latte slurping woman who was talking loudly on her cell phone, that he threw out, one of the times we were there for dinner.
                                      I wanted to cheer.
                                      Brought him and Mrs. Nozawa a dozen eggs from our chickens the other day. A small token of thanks for twenty some odd years of high quality sushi. Glad they will be able to retire comfortably, they work hard.

                                      1. re: mendogurl

                                        Most long lived restaurants hit the wall after 20-25 years unless younger family members take it over, Chef Chang's in Boston is a fine example. I ate there countless times after work and it was always consistent quality. I am a East Coast guy so I only ate at Nozawa on visits, he could only have lasted so long by putting out a consistent product and consistent hi-vibes atmosphere because 50% of sushi restaurant is atmosphere whereas I am happy to eat fantastic unique Chinese food is a dive type place.

                                        1. re: mendogurl

                                          I agree. I was always treated so graciously by him and Mrs N. I was unfailingly polite and so were they.
                                          I only got to see him throw someone out once...and it was fearsome, he was actually -- and aggressively -- waving his knife at the offensive, would-be patron, screaming "Get Out. Very Rude. Get Out!"
                                          It was a quiet night, no line. I was at the middle of the sushi bar with a friend, two seats open on either side of us. A threesome came in and a man in the group failed to stop at the door and wait to be greeted. Instead, he walked up to us, quite nicely, and asked us if we would move to one side or the other. Nozowa went berserk. "VERY RUDE. CUSTOMER ENJOY. I CONTROL SUSHI BAR, NOT YOU. GET OUT. VERY RUDE. GET OUT!" -- all the while brandishing his knife above his (own) head.
                                          The guy tried to apologize but to no avail. He and his friends left, hurling expletives back at the angry chef. I cannot swear to it, but I seem to recall that we were offered a beer or sake to appease the "rudeness" we had been subjected to. Truth-be-told, at any other restaurant I would not have thought twice about the guy asking us to move, but at Nozawa, I knew he was way out of line, as polite as he was. From what I know of Japanese culture there is a deep formality, ritual propriety, that trumps politeness.

                                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                                            Great story, Bob. Sounds like a sketch from SNL!

                                2. Never understood the appeal.