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May 12, 2012 05:48 PM

Birthday Sushi

So....I will be in Los Angeles for my birthday in August. I'm coming from Chicago- where the "sushi" is more like rice rolls stuffed with mayo and cream cheese with tempura flakes and smothered in unagi sauce- and somewhere in there is a little bit of fish.
Last time I was in LA, I had omakase at Sushi Sushi in BH. I loved the nice clean pieces of fish with a little rice and just enough sauce that didn't taste like maple syrup with salt added. I could play it safe and return to Sushi Sushi, but I'd like to try some place different on this trip. In terms of price I'm okay with spending around $150 on myself. I will be staying near Culver City but will have a car so I'm open to driving around for a good place.
If I can tell you anything else that'll be of help just let me know.

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  1. ifit were me,
    i'd go to sushi zo in palms on national.
    if you don't order alcohol, you will come in under budget.
    they serve omakase only.
    time it so you can get a seat at the sushi bar.

    1. I would do Kiyokawa on Robertson or Kiriko on Sawtelle.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ciao Bob

        Does Kiyokawa have rolls/ individual sushi for those in the party that might not want to do the omakase?

      2. omakase only sounds wonderful. I'll probably be conservative about the alcohol because I plan on visiting a wine bar afterwards.
        Haven't heard of Kiyokawa I will look into that one as well.
        Any reason why I should try one of the aforementioned places over the others?
        Thank you both for your replies!

        10 Replies
        1. re: CupcakeCoquette

          not a direct answer, but:
          kiriko serves raw fish and a number of cooked dishes

          sushi-zo is basically sushi and sashimi only.
          if you need cooked stuff, this isn't the place for you.

          i recommended sushi zo because their sushi and sashimi is more appealing to me.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Yes. I also concur for straight sushi alone and no gussying up with cream cheese or truffle oil or eel sauce. Just go to Zo.

            You might be able to grab a beer there too and get out of there still for $150 per. But wIth a copious number of drinks, most likely not.

            1. re: kevin

              Zo isn't straight sushi. It's somewhere between Sasabune and Mori. A little more sauce and toppings to make it more "juicy" and "flavorful". And a blue crab handroll at the end--the hallmark of LA-style sushi.

              1. re: Porthos

                My bad. You are correct. It does spring from the Nozawa style of sushi where all sushi is pre-sauced with different variations of soy or ponzu.

                But maybe what I was thinking of is relative to the cream cheesed stuffed and eel sauce slathered "sushi" rolls, Zo is more primarily about the sushi itself.

                And yes come to think of it, if one doesn't want all their pieces saucy and Mori is still great since the changeover Mori would be the way to go.

                1. re: kevin

                  kevin, maybe you were thinking "straight sushi" as in the "no (or little?) cooked dishes" aspect of Zo, not as in the preparation of said sushi?

                  Slight tangent, I've only been to Echigo once a long time ago and I remember it being very "straight" (no sauce) sushi. Would Echigo be more like Mori than like Zo?

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    Zo is in the same style as Echigo. And these styles all spouted out of Nozawa's. And sometimes the acolytes beat out their masters.

                    As Zo was way better than Nozawa in my opinion while they were both in existence.

                2. re: Porthos

                  the food served at zo, to my palate, has nothing in common with the uniformly flavorless mush that was served to me at sasabune.
                  at zo, each type of fish served has it's own texture and flavor.
                  to me, this was not the case at sasabune.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Westsidegirl. I completely agree. The fish is far superior to Sasabune which is why I said somewhere between Sasabune and Mori. Much closer to Mori. However there is more sauce used and more ginger, chives, or grated daikon used on fish instead of just simply fish and soy sauce. Just look over kevineats report and count the number of pieces with those toppings. Those toppings and the blue crab handroll are a tipoff to which "style" Keizo serves.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      I noted on my last visit, about a month ago, that Zo uses more truffle salt than he used to. I find truffle oil abhorent on sushi (and almost anything else); the salt is not as bad (by a long shot) but still it annoys me. The waitress always asks if there is something that "you don' eat." I may have to tell them to hold the truffle salt next time.

            2. re: CupcakeCoquette

              You may want to have a better atmosphere than Zo offers, unless you're going JUST for the sushi.

            3. Cooked stuff isn't required at all. Zo sounds great. I've read the posts on here about the lack of warm fuzzy vibes there; frankly that's fine as long as I'm getting a good meal. Since I plan on going out afterwards for more birthday mischief, I can get atmosphere elsewhere. I really do appreciate the replies- I don't want to fly 1700 miles for California rolls I could have purchased at the grocery store so thanks for the leads/advice!!

              3 Replies
              1. re: CupcakeCoquette

                Just FYI - the cooked stuff isn't mandatory at Kiriko, but is very good. Kiriko is very flexible when it comes to budget and food preferences.

                1. re: CupcakeCoquette

                  I know you said cooked stuff isn't required, but would you want to try cooked Japanese cuisine, like at n/naka or Shunji, along with sushi? The n/naka kaiseki (which I've not had the pleasure of trying) has a sushi course, and I don't know if you can add on additional pieces after the formal courses are done. Shunji no longer includes sushi in his omakase but always has a selection of fresh fish from which he can make sushi after his kaiseki-y omakase, or you could just do sushi there as we have done on a few occasions.

                  Surprised no one mentioned Mori omakase yet.

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    The n/naka kaiseki (which I've not had the pleasure of trying) has a sushi course, and I don't know if you can add on additional pieces after the formal courses are done.

                    Yes, you can.

                2. Sounds like you would enjoy Sushi Zo. Be forewarned that Zo's sushi is..small. You still get full by having more courses but it's worth mentioning, especially if you're used to sushi that's more substantially sized.

                  23 Replies
                  1. re: prawn

                    the size of each individual piece of sushi served at zo is deliberately calculated to be small enough so that a normal-sized person can fit the whole piece of sushi in their mouth in one bite.
                    (table etiquette in Japan, so i'm told, requires one to fit the whole piece in your mouth at once.)
                    when i was in Japan, i was never served a piece of sushi that was too big to plop in my mouth as a whole piece.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I've actually never bothered to ask why their sushi is so small, but I don't know about equating it to a normal person. Nearly everyone I've brought to Zo, and many people I've sat next to while there have all remarked how tiny their sizes are. I've not been served anything that small in Japan, although admittedly I've only been to Tokyo.

                      1. re: prawn

                        The one thing is with small pieces you get to have. Lot of variety, but in the other hand it gets very costly.

                        Because the price per piece is roughly the same as other high quality sushi bars that dole out bigger pieces.

                        1. re: kevin

                          since i don't count the number of pieces i eat, i can't agree nor refute.
                          what i can say, is that the cost for me to eat enough to feel full at Zo has always been less than the cost to fill me up at Kiriko or at Mori.
                          also, i have not noticed much difference between the three in terms of their fish:rice ratio.

                          of course, none of these places will work as a budget dinner. . . .

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Yeah, the 3 places wouldn't work at all for a budget dinner. All things being equal, I just wanted to let the op know about the size beforehand, so it's not a distraction when they're handed their first couple plates. Regardless, they can't really go wrong with Zo if their priority is just plain good fish. Keizo might come up short in other areas, but I've never found his fish to be lacking.

                      2. re: westsidegal

                        i would've believed that if the sizes hadn't progressively shrunk over the last couple of years. shrinking sushi, shrinking yuzu drink (now disappeared), rude/pretentious staff... no more zo for me

                        1. re: peppermonkey

                          1) although others on this board have reported dissatisfaction with the attitude at Zo, i, personally, have never experiencedanything resembling rudeness there.
                          maybe i'm just lucky?

                          2) the size of the individual pieces of sushi, are, to me, less important than
                          a) the total cost that it takes me to feel full. the cost at zo, is still lower for me than the cost at mori or kiriko.
                          b) the fish:rice ratio, which to me seems about equal between my top three sushi choices. (kiriko, mori, and zo.)

                          1. re: Hammer19

                            I agree with pmonkey. It's attitude or faux attitude (more evidence of Nozawa/Sasabune lineage?). He used to smile when he first started and would answer questions as to what type of fish was being served (I even mentioned it in my first Zo writeup). Somewhere along the way he became gruff and wouldn't deign to answer what type of fish was being served. Mori of Mori and Hiro of Urasawa can smile and be dedicated to sushi at the same time. Keizo being the less experienced and skilled of that trio need not be more gruff.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              gee, when i was there last time (last month), with no asking, he told us what kind of fish he was serving as he placed each piece in front of us (as he always has done).
                              i don't remember ever being given fish there with no accompanying explanation. . . .

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                I don't think there is a need to reconcile our different experiences and opinions. Regulars get different treatment and that is the same at any restaurant anywhere in the world. Westsidegal and Hammer19 get better treatment at Zo, JL gets a different level of omakase at Kiriko, and I get a different experience at Mori than most.

                                My last visit to Zo was just over a year ago and it was visit #6 since 2009 so I'm no regular and certainly have noticed a change in demeanor. I'd say hammer19 and westsidegal are in the minority though and that if you're a new customer don't expect a friendly Keizo.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  I agree with Portos on this one.

                                  1. re: Hammer19

                                    Personalities aside, ranking strictly on sushi--the quality of fish, the variety of fish, with bonus points awarded for rare stuff, and 50-60% weight to the rice, I personally rank it:

                                    1. Mori
                                    2. Urasawa
                                    3. Zo
                                    4. Kiriko

                                    Adding cooked items and overall dining experience to the equation (decor, presentation, progression of meal, itame):

                                    1. Urasawa
                                    2. Mori
                                    3. Kiriko (taking into consideration the live mantis prawn, shirako, ayu, and matsutake dobin mushi I've had here)
                                    4. Zo

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      The often controversial (on this board at least) Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo needs to be given proper credit in the "rare and unusual" category. I've eaten my way all over Japan, yet I have never eaten konowata until I plopped myself down as a solo omakase patron at the Sushi Gen sushi counter last year. That was a glorious meal.

                                      And of course, some of you might need a definition - konowata: A type of shiokara consisting of fermented sea cucumber innards.

                                      I can now check that one off the list...

                                      1. re: Hammer19

                                        Urasawa has been on my list for years and one day I will try it (I'm thinking that'll be my treat for birthday #30). However I've got a few more birthdays to trudge through first. So for now, Zo sounds great to me from a food standpoint- the only downside is my best friend will probably be in tow and she's not the sort to spend $120+ on herself for a meal or try things she's unsure of. Therefore Mori or Kiyokawa may be a better option if I'm not dining solo. We both really loved Sushi Sushi (just want to try some place new this time), however I did the omakase and she got a few rolls...and also I was footing the bill for both of our meals that time.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          generally speaking, it seems to me fundamentally unfair to make head-to-head comparisons between restaurants that compete at completely different price levels.
                                          (i.e. i won't get involved in ranking the $8 pizza at 800 degrees against the $20 pizzas served at other places, also, don't think it's fair to compare the meals served at kiriko, mori, and zo against a meal that can end up costing $500/pp out the door. . . . .)

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Unless the comparision is showing that the $500pp meal won't get you better sushi than a $120-$150 meal?

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              true there, porthos.
                                              should have said that.

                                2. re: Hammer19

                                  You assume too much. I was a regular at Zo d/t my other half loving it. I don't need to chit chat with him. Why would I want to? His charming personality? The only request I ever made was no amaebi, since I prefer my amaebi freshly dispatched, not mushy gruel. I would not care about portion size if it remained consistent. If you're gonna make it smaller, don't charge the same price. None of this fit your mouth size BS. I don't think my mouth has shrunk over the past 2 years. The menu never really changes save 1-2 items. There's no need to yell at people and kick them out when you don't want them to use a cell phone. A calm explanation is all that is necessary. After all this, we prefer to spend our money for better sushi elsewhere.

                                  1. re: peppermonkey

                                    1) i've been there when a customer started talking on his cell phone.
                                    there was NO yelling, just a polite request.

                                    2) since the wholesale price of fish has risen over the last few years almost across the board, it's entirely reasonable to expect sushi bars to raise their prices. if fact, virtually every sushi bar i eat at has raised their prices over the last few years.
                                    peppermonkey, what good sushi bars do you frequent that have NOT changed their prices over the last few years?

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      I agree in what you are saying and not debating the importance of lawyers and doctors. Just pointing out that all the dedicated sushi chefs that take the pride and integrity in serving us exceptional food work very hard and long hours... And I'm sure sacrifice much of their free time to do so. Most do it because they have a passion for their craft so they do not necessary see it as a sacrifice, but a necessity to accomplish their goals and luckily we get to benefit from their commitment.

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        I don't know if an itamae should have compensation commensurate with those professionals you list - that actually might be limiting to some. I do believe the market will decide if any given itamae or other chef is worth the prices they ask for their dishes. Based on that, no matter how one feels about Keizo-san, he's probably doing pretty well in the $$ department.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          I would agree with that, especially in the $$$$ dept.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            for a sushi restaurant, in particular, one not only has high capital risk, high labor costs, VERY costly and perishable inventory that comes at a very volatile
                                            price, and a fickle customer base.
                                            (what could possibly go wrong?)

                                            the fact that we are still discussing this restaurant shows that they are doing most things right while navigating a very perilous business. ..

                                            it's pretty easy to sit on the sidelines and discuss what you think keizo should earn by the fruit of his labor, intelligence, and the financial risk he took.

                                            in any case, if there are financial benefits that come his way as a result of all of this, imho, he entirely deserves every cent.