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Never Done Omakase But I'm Ready to Try!

Hi friends,

I wanted to seek your opinions before I go for my first omakase experience. I turned 27 a few months ago and set 27 goals for myself to accomplish this year - trying omakase for the first time is one of them!

I love, love, love sushi and am fairly adventurous so I'm ready to go for it. The question is, where? I'd love to hear where your recommendations are for a newbie as well as anything else I'll need to know. What do I say to the sushi chef? How do I politely refuse something - eel, for example? What should I expect to pay - and if possible, could you let me know of places that run the gamut so I can choose which one works best for me?

Thanks in advance. I promise to keep yall posted!

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  1. With omakase, you start with budget and go from there.

    <$100, $100 - $200, $200-400, $400+

    pick one and the hounds will do the rest =P

    1. My go to place is Oshima in Orange. They seat approximately 12 people at the bar which is the only option for omakase. Once seated, the sushi chef gleam with happiness when you ask that you want omakase. They have a choice of 8 pcs, 10 pcs, 12 pcs, and up. Price fluctuates depending on what is served. Expect the 8 pcs to range from $40-50. The chefs will also ask you if there's anything that you don't like so that avoids your problem of refusing a particular dish.

      The last time I was there was a few months ago, 18 pcs, 2 large Sapporo = $115 + tax/tip. At that price, I had Otoro twice.

      1. Happy Birthday to you!
        Your post raises many questions that will point to good answers:
        -- what price you are willing to pay (as opposed to what you should "expect" to pay), as most places will adjust the quality and quantity to your budget)?
        -- are your interested in, and "fairly adventurous" about, just fish, or fish + other dishes?
        -- what is your preferred location?

        That said, here are some contenders (it is an LA-centric list, I do not know OC). You can look the places up and see if they have what you want, where you want it, and at a price you are willing to pay:
        Sushi Mori
        Sushi Zo
        Sushi Park
        Sushi Sushi

        As for what to say:
        --Hello, or Konichiwa
        --I like everything except xxxxx (may be more polite to tell one of the servers rather than chef unless he asks)
        --I want a bottle of your best sake.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Ciao Bob

          Pretty sure the OC recs will be shibucho and kasen.

          1. re: ns1

            Did OP ask for OC?

            Anyways not sure you want to send a first timer to the hostile Shibucho for omakase.

            In OC it is easily Kasen for quality and peaceful setting. It is pricy though.

            1. re: Porthos

              no he did not, merely responding to ciao bob's comment

              1. re: Porthos

                Shibucho is not hostile! It's a great place to have omakase. I recently visited and it was $50.

                1. re: spacemanspiffy

                  $50 omakase? May I ask how many items that was? I can't even hit < $50 ordering off the menu...

                  1. re: ns1

                    Yeah, I'd like to know too.

                    Though when I went roughly 9 or 10 years ago, it was $40 bucks, when it first opened but prices are now much higher than that even if we are just adding inflation into the proprietary mix.

                    So $50 would be very good, when Kiriko and Mori are at minimum, at a minium, staring from 100 bucks a fucking pop.

                    1. re: kevin

                      It's been $60-$65 the 10-12 times I've been.

                      Regarding the hostility, it's well documented on Yelp and even by supporters of the place here on CH. I'll leave it at that. It's not a place I would send a first timer for omakase.

                      Sure it's a good deal but you get what you pay for. The quality and selection isn't in the same class as Kiriko or Mori. But not half the quality which makes it a good QPR.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I remember when I went there back in '02 I believe for the second time, and they brought out my chowhound review from behind the counter, they were pleased with the review and pleased with customers in my opinion at the time.

                        Maybe they have a strong customer base so that they can turn away newbies perhaps or send them the way of the table instead of a prime, venerated seat at the bar.

                        But it's been a few years since I've been next time I'm in OC, I'lll give them a try again (though I do want to hit up Oshima too to see what they are doing with the Nozawa style of sushi).

            2. re: Ciao Bob

              be aware, that if you follow ciao bob's suggestion and say that you want a bottle of their best sake, you probably will be doubling the already expensive cost of the meal.

              1. re: westsidegal

                I would seriously avoid saying "I want a bottle of your best sake" cuz you won't be able to appreciate it anyway (referring to the OP)

                OTOKOYAMA is a very accessible sake offered by many sushi bars and doesn't break the bank.

                1. re: ns1

                  being a native of the flyover zone, i always ask for a beer. that's a lie.
                  more accurately, i ask for ANOTHER beer.

                2. re: westsidegal

                  Good point.
                  I think it was ciao bob's joke, not really his suggestion.

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    I got the joke. Good list too, Ciao Bob.

              2. I am curious to see how this turns out. I do hope you will report back. You suggested that you don't like eel. Do you like sea urchin? Maybe you'll find in the course of following the chef's choices that you may like some things you did not expect to enjoy. Or maybe the end result will be that you would prefer to simply choose your favorites and leave the omakase to others???

                1 Reply
                1. re: mc michael

                  That is really excellent advice!
                  Like so many others, I learned so much about Japanese food, and that I really like things I thought I wouldn't like, from carefully chosen items presented by a great sushi chef.

                2. If you want recs in Glendale/Pasadena, I really like Nishi-ya (Glendale), Ichi and Kimagure (Pasadena). I found the chefs at all three to be very open to you saying no on something and open to questions about particular fish, etc.

                  Of course if you're on the westside, downtown or in the valley, many options there, some of which have already been recommended.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Thornton

                    YES, i was going to suggest Nishi-Ya. Not only is the Omakase excellent, but the atmosphere is so laid back. They encourage 'chef's choice' and will ask if there's anything you don't like. We were just there for the first time in ages a couple of weeks ago. I really love that place.
                    I really need to try Kimagure.... I'm adding that to my to-do list!

                    1. re: Clyde

                      I thought Nishi-ya was good, but for the same style Zo is in a different league of goodness.

                    2. re: Robert Thornton

                      Yes, Agree! Now that I've read more of the post... Kiriko is my favorite but I LOVE Kiyokawa!!! I go there for lunch usually. Kiriko is my special occasion place! You will not be disappointed at either one!!!

                      1. re: Clyde

                        what do you order at kiriko ? or do you go the omakase route ?

                        1. re: kevin

                          Always omakase. it's been different eveytime we've gone (maybe 4 times now?) and it's always amazing. it's a lot of $ so we don't go very often.

                    3. i always thought omakase here is just a set sushi meal using whatever the chef thinks is best?

                      for me the best value i've gotten was at kanpachi in gardena, i think it's only $35. then again the only ones i've had were kanpachi's, miura's, and urasawa (kind of a big jump, lol), usually i just order a la carte.

                      your sushi chef or server should speak english, so just say that you can't eat eel and that you want the omakase course. i guess if you don't want to sound that strange you could learn the proper pronunciation (oh-MAH-KAH-seh) but that's pretty much it.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kainzero

                        That's what the definition of "omakase" is, but there's more than a few "omakases" around town that are synonymous with "gimme all your money"

                        1. re: ns1

                          Very true. And there are a few places where “newbie trying omakase” is synonymous with “serve me all your crappy white fish”. With how much OP wants to spend, I vote for Sushi Kimagure.

                      2. If you want to get on the chef's good side, try everything he gives you even if you have per conceived notions. You might just be surprised. Oh and whatever you do, do not ask for rolls.

                        51 Replies
                        1. re: chezwhitey

                          Thanks to everyone for their responses so far. Here's what I left out in my OP:
                          - I live in West LA so would prefer something in LA, but I don't mind driving.
                          - I also don't drink alcohol - I just want to make sure it's not offensive if I only drink water or hot tea, correct?
                          - I DO want to try everything that I'm given, but out of curiosity, what would happen if I took a bite of something and didn't like it? I am horrified at the thought of offending the chef but wouldn't want to suffer through eating something that didn't appeal to me.
                          - I would prefer to keep costs around $100 or under for this first time. If all goes well, I will start saving for Urasawa! :)

                          A friend recommended Sushi Park. Does anyone know how much omakase costs there?

                          1. re: queen jord

                            In West LA I would recommend sushi masu.

                            Very accessible omakase, friendly chef, very cheap (probably $50-60 for a single diner + tax/tip)

                            WRT eating stuff you don't like...I would suck it up and eat the damn thing, but that's just me. And yes I have gotten stuff from omakase that I would not generally eat: clam, octopus, sardine, just to name a few.

                            1. re: ns1

                              I also think Masu is a good first step, it's low key and isn't going to hammer the wallet.

                              I wouldn't recommend Zo until you're comfortable with the concept because the pacing and abruptness can be jarring for someone new.

                              Kiriko is very friendly and a great choice but you're probably looking at closer to $130.

                              You might also want to try Asanebo in Studio City, they have set prices for omakase and they've earned a Michelin star in the past.

                              Don't worry about having just tea but do consider offering the chef(s) a tall beer if you're enjoying your meal.

                            2. re: queen jord

                              West LA= Mori. No brainer. Tell them you have a $100 limit. DO try the eel there. It is anago, like fine delicate white fish and unlike the oily unagi you may have tried or seen before.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Didn't think 100 would get you anywhere with mori.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  imho, $100 would be inadequate for an omakase meal at mori. it would have been adequate a decade ago, before wholesale fish prices skyrocketed to their current level.

                                  for a $100 omakase, would probably go with ns1's suggestion of sushi masu. after the OP learns the finer points of sushi, she can save up and progress to the more expensive places such as mori, sushi zo (my fave), and kiriko.

                                  to the OP:
                                  1)i don't think it's the best idea to leapfrog from a $100 to a $500 meal. i'd stop along the way at some of the $200 offerings and pause there to develop your palate so that you can really appreciate the $500 meal.
                                  2) there is no requirement that you order any alcoholic beverage when you order omakase.

                                  related, but not on point: kiriko is offering a promotional lunch and a promotional dinner as part of restaurant week.
                                  this is not omakase.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    I haven't been since Mori left but the menu probably still says "Omakase $90". More than adequate if you don't get any of the cooked stuff at the beginning and get a sushi only omakase.

                                    Regarding price point, the $500 price point is excessive and doesn't even offer a better SUSHI experience. One can eat extravagantly in the $120-$140 omakase price range and get some rare Japanese stuff at that price point. Urasawa offers a memorable kaiseki meal. For sushi alone, it trails Mori. I've probably never crossed $200pp on omakase alone in LA even with hokkaido hairy crab flown in from Japan.

                                    Without alcohol it is even easier to keep costs down. Exilekiss was convinced Mori cost $300pp minimum but it's because every time he went, he got at least a couple bottles of ultra-rare, ultra-premium Japanese sake.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      i've never had sake at mori, just one beer, yet i've never gotten out of there for less than about $170 in the last year or so.

                                2. re: queen jord

                                  no need to worry about not drinking alcohol.

                                  1. re: queen jord

                                    Chiming in:

                                    OK it sounds like you want to step up your sushi game to the next level (a hearty round of applause). Wherever you decide to break your omakase cherry, TELL the chef you are trying omakase for the first time. You will get much more of a "free pass" in term of etiquette (i.e. eating only one bite of something you might not like and then passing on it). Remember your courses (I usually have pen & paper and jot down each course, even to this day, but this is of course my "type A" kicking in), so you can keep track of your preferences for your subsequent omakase meals.

                                    Enjoy your omakase at the sushi bar, NOT at a table away from the bar. The theatrics of preparation, the anticipation of the next dish, the banter with the chef... these are all the cool things I like to experience during my omakases.

                                    Another etiquette pointer - In an omakase, you should (out of politeness and general sense of adventure) at least try every item placed in front of you. Ask the chef for clarification if there is no clear explanation of what said item is - Learning about the food is part of the fun in the whole interaction. My sushi education continues with each omakase I try - there is always something to learn from a good shokunin (sushi chef).

                                    Alcohol is not requisite part of omakase. Don't listen to people who tell you to order "the finest sake" - they're just messin' with you. Actually many sushi-philes find that beer pairs much better with sushi than sake (I am of this school of thought). Drinking water or tea is fine.

                                    Don't ignore the role of sushi rice in the meal. Obviously the quality of the seafood is important at any sushi joint - that is a no-brainer. However, the rice can make or break a high-end sushi experience. Is it warm or cool? Packed or loose? Vinegared lightly or heavily?

                                    Now that the world's supply of wild-caught seafood is in serious peril, I say keep sushi snobby. Save up and only go to the more expensive places for your omakase. One great omakase at Mori will be worth more value to your palate/enjoyment/soul than 5 or 6 mediocre omakases at McRollStop. Most worthy omakases in this town will run over $100pp.

                                    Here are my recs:

                                    - Your best bet under $100 will be at Sushi Kimagure in Pasadena (which can be a shlep from West LA, and gas costs money, the last time I checked).

                                    - The nicest (gentlest, most forgiving) chefs are at Kiriko on Sawtelle, and the food is fantastic (omakase there is well over $100, though).

                                    - The highest end omakases in L.A. (and I don't recommend this for your first omakase) will probably be found at Mori or Urasawa (which is technically sushi kaiseki and not omakase, but I digress).

                                    - More "austere" (but considerable) chefs in this town include the infamous Zo, and Shige-san at Shibucho. I approach their sushi counters with a bit more trepidation.

                                    Good luck, and please report back!

                                    1. re: J.L.

                                      One can have an omakase at Kiriko for under $100, J.L. Just not you (or me nowadays)...

                                      1. re: chrishei

                                        i may not be able to have an omakase there for under $100 anymore, but i most definitely will be going there for restaurant week this time around.

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          I have always had fine meals at Kiriko but was served a very "iffy" - as in not fresh - red snapper as part of a sashimi quartet on Tuesday night this week. I politely (as in no one else could hear) told the chef -- when he asked if everything was OK, that the snapper was not the best. I was still charged for it.
                                          Everything else was great, except my pet peeve - non-crispy nori.

                                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                                            at this point, i have plans to go to kiriko twice during restaurant week.
                                            i really, really, hope that what you experienced was an isolated incident.

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              please report back in copious detail on your restaurant week experience or experiences. i believe i tried it once but it was nowhere near as good as an omakase meal at the sushi bar, or a la carte at the sushi bar.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                how could a $25 three-course meal possibly be as good as an omakase at the sushi bar?
                                                not in this world.

                                                you would need to find a restaurant owner who has a financial death wish.

                                              2. re: westsidegal

                                                Everything else was fine. One-off, I guess. They can't taste everything in advance.

                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                  Re Ciao Bob's "They can't taste everything in advance."

                                                  Oh, but I believe it is their job and responsibility to taste EVERYTHING! I think it is especially important and to be expected with raw fish.

                                                  1. re: liu

                                                    I agree. I have seen many a sushi chef cut a piece, put it on the back of his hand and taste it before serving. Really makes me feel confident in that chef.

                                                    I too have had a less than pristine piece at Kiriko which is why I never ranked it as high as Mori. Not outright fishy, but just not pristine or the highest quality if we were to split hairs and be overly critical.

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      Re: "I have seen many a sushi chef cut a piece, put it on the back of his hand and taste it before serving."

                                                      Porthos, while part of that might be that he is hungry!!!, I do appreciate this tasting. I have seen it many times. Raw fish can change from minute to minute, and I want to know that for "my minute" it is good!

                                                      There is no excuse to serve any raw fish that has not been tasted. Even "one off" is not acceptable.

                                                      1. re: liu

                                                        Of course, I have seen them taste and test the fish, frequently. But I still don't see how they can taste "everything" they serve (and still serve it). There are very few sushi bars that I have been to frequently (i.e. more than 30 times) where I have not been served an over-ripe piece once in a while. I tell them, politely, and they usually don't charge for it that piece.
                                                        --Maybe the same would happen at Mori or Urasawa if I went to either as frequently
                                                        --Maybe it is because I am not Japanese and they think they can "get one past" a white guy?

                                                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                          It's more likely because many of the fish that are served in sushi restaurant are "aged" for flavor enhancement by the sushi chef. The very freshest fish is very often not the best or most desirable state for what the chef is trying for.

                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                            And at Urasawa, it's just money at that point. What's the difference between a $445 dollar meal and a $440 one ? Not much at that price point, unless there are more than a few missteps, i.e. crappy fish along the way.

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              It's just that people keep harping on "the freshest fish" or they are disdainful of going on a Monday because the fish won't be at its peak in terms of freshness. Many of the fish being served are aged for days at a time by the sushi chef. Let's not get hung up on "fresh" as the be all-end all for sushi.

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                See my just posted mini-review on shibucho.

                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                  I agree that "fresh fish" in sushi is often a misunderstanding.

                                                                  However, the aging of the fish needs to be done in a controlled fashion. Yasuda was the first to put this on his website over10 years ago.


                                                                  Not all sushi chefs are skilled enough to age in this controlled fashion. Not all chefs invest this kind of time and effort. Some sushi joints do sell fish that are off their peak. That's why people complain about getting a slightly fishy cut here or there.

                                                                  Also, not all fish are meant to be aged.

                                                                  Thus the traditional thinking that Tues-Friday are the best nights for sushi. The fact that many sushi restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays also attests to the fact that Mondays are traditionally no good for sushi.

                                                                  Not to mention, most sushi places get their fish Tuesday and Friday. If a shipment of something rare comes in, it's often gone by the end of Tuesday night and Friday night service due to gluttons like myself who will eat the entire lot of buri belly if given the opportunity.

                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                    "hat's why people complain about getting a slightly fishy cut here or there."

                                                                    Or they simply don't understand or appreciate the art of aging the fish to achieve a flavor profile that the sushi chef is striving to hit.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      That's assuming the chef is skilled enough to achieve that profile. There are very few top notch sushi chefs that marinate fish, age fish, and prepare rice well enough for you to assume that. Those sushi chefs haven't served me an off piece in all my visits (eg. never had an off piece at Yasuda or Mori in over 10-12 visits a piece). The less skilled ones have.

                                                                      Fishy is fishy. A fishy piece of aji isn't because I can't appreciate aji. It's because it's not a pristine sweet piece of aji at its prime. Well marinated kohada or saba isn't fishy either. Just meaty and delicious. If it's fishy, the chef screwed up.

                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                        I can assure you, Servorg, the only art on display with the red snapper I had at Kiriko was the fine art of not tossing something you can sell.

                                                                      2. re: Porthos

                                                                        I have to attest to the fact that the last time I went to Mori a few months back, even with the new chef, that buri belly was dynamite,

                                                                        In fact, I now think pound for pound my visit to Mori was the best traditional sushi, perfectly sauced, and not too much, perfectly sized pieces, of any joint I've been to in the past year and a half (though some of the pieces at Shunji's was quite exceptional, and some can and should use Shunji's not just as an almost kaiseki type experience but also as a bona-fied sushi bar).

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          and some can and should use Shunji's not just as an almost kaiseki type experience but also as a bona-fied sushi bar

                                                                          I do.

                                                    2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                      It's very possible.

                                                      I also had a couple pieces from a 100 buck omakase, if I remember correctly, that were not that great, but that was prolly about 5% or less of the meal.

                                                2. re: J.L.

                                                  But I do love Shibucho for damn sure.

                                                  Since you let the cat out of the fucking bag, I would also say that Shibucho makes an exceptional eggplant parm to rival made, but luckily his sushi still skews traditional, but sometimes the pricing there can get seriously dangerous.

                                                  I would also recommend goes mart, you might be able to get out of their with a tea or soda for $100 per, if you don't include sashimi and don't go heavy on the toro.

                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                    <Since you let the cat out of the fucking bag..>>

                                                    you crack me up!!!

                                                3. re: queen jord

                                                  To be honest, saving up for Urasawa would probably result in an unforgettable experience. But do so after more experience. Otherwise its similar to a person drinking a $20 bottle of wine vs. $20,000 bottle. Waste.

                                                  Generally speaking, if you can stomach raw fish, you'll do fine at omakase at most sushi places.

                                                  This is not Japan, if you cannot finish something, just leave it alone after trying it. Sushi however can be swallowed in a bite. You can let the chef know you've never done this before, they will understand.

                                                  1. re: andrew_eats

                                                    i kinda disagree with the experience thing, i feel that urasawa (and most high-end japanese food) is not terribly complicated in flavor, there are not many subtleties that you need to learn how to appreciate.

                                                    1. re: kainzero

                                                      The person who began this thread is inexperienced in course style Japanese dining. I'm just stating it would be useful to have better understanding of this style of eating before spending so much cash. Like kids who eat spaghetti and tomato sauce before jumping into bolognese. Urasawa is actually more similar to a Kaiseki in the early part of the meal.

                                                    2. re: andrew_eats

                                                      i completely agree with you, andrew_eats.
                                                      it took me about 6 months of sushi eating before i could reliably tell the difference between ok sushi and really good sushi.

                                                      i was extremely blessed, though, in that the sushi bar that i started in had a sushi chef who kindly took me in hand and gave me comparative examples both of the various types of fish and the various quality levels of said fish.
                                                      he patiently taught my palate.

                                                      to me, sushi IS complicated in flavor and has many subtleties and it takes some time and exposure to appreciate them.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        what was the name of the sushi bar where the sushi chef showed you the rope of the myriad varietals of fish ?

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          that sushi bar has long since disappeared.
                                                          this took place over 20 years ago.

                                                          1. re: westsidegal


                                                            what was the name ?

                                                            i'm curious if i had also tried it before too, and if you can remember back was it the type of sushi bar that could go head to head with the ones you might frequent today, i.e. zo, mori, etc., or rather somewhat go head to head ?

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              the really good stuff that the owner, the owner's wife, and i were eating was in the same league as kiriko et al, but there were far fewer varieties at any given time. they would rotate through the various types of fish rather than have a full selection of the good stuff available at all times.

                                                              fwiw, i also paid more than the customers who were eating the "regular" fish.
                                                              also, there was always a wider selection of the "regular" fish available at any given time.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                What was it called and where was it located?

                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                  can't remember the name.
                                                                  pretty sure the name had the word "sushi" in it.
                                                                  it was located on sepulveda.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      sorry, i don't remember.
                                                                      in the intervening time i moved back to connecticut and then to new york and lost many of my los angeles name and place memories.

                                                                      it's same reason that i can't seem to remember the name that irori used to have, although i do remember that when that sushi bar started they had a different name. . . . .

                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                        Was it close to where you lived at the time? Or was it by your work? How did you discover it?

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          in those days, i had no kid, and had no aversion to driving.

                                                                          i moved from canoga park to the marina to playa del rey.
                                                                          my jobs moved from encino to miracle mile to mid-wilshire to newport beach before i moved to connecticut. every single one of my jobs, in those days, involved driving around the los angeles basin.

                                                                          it all seems like a blur, punctuated by specific events, specific meals, specific dishes, specific friends, specific boyfriends, and specific cars.

                                                                          at that time i wasn't even computer literate, so i wasn't connected to the internet.

                                                                          so i'm sure that i must have passed it as i drove around town and probably was intrigued by the word "sushi" in the name.
                                                                          the only japanese restaurant that i had ever tried before that particular sushi bar was in san francisco, and the san francisco restaurant served no sushi, just many cooked dishes. that restaurant was on Geary blvd, but i don't remember the name of that one either.

                                                                          none of my friends wanted to eat raw fish, so i was alone in this exploration.

                                                              1. re: linus

                                                                believe it or not, linus, they did have sushi then.
                                                                have to admit, though, it was hard to keep those pesky dinosaurs from trying to filch the sushi.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  Oh. The days when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

                                                                  Those were the days. :)

                                                  2. i've done mori for just under 100$ before...granted, this was years ago and we weren't too hungry so it was a "light dinner." most likely it'll be inadequate as westsidegal stated, unless you are normally a light eater.

                                                    i say no to sushi park. tho my one experience was many years ago, i recall the rice being very sub-par and the fish being decent but not justifying the cost of the meal. the guys were korean, fwiw.

                                                    1. I think Kiriko and Kiyokawa are the most beginner-friendly, based on flexibility and approach.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: chrishei

                                                        kiyokawa is also very reasonable since they have set price omakase.

                                                        1. re: ns1

                                                          too bad they are so slow. great otherwise

                                                      2. My husband and went to our first omakase at Kiriko a couple of years back for my birthday. It was about $150 for the two of us (might be a little more now). We felt welcomed and it was surprisingly easy and laid back--I was very nervous about it before hand. We decided not to give any "dislikes" and wound up changing our minds on some things (and not on others but being glad we tried).

                                                        1. Sushi Iki in Tarzana is my goto spot for omakase. Chef Eddie serves up the freshest fish.

                                                          His live uni and scallop are sublime.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: wakko11

                                                            How much is an omakase here, i heard he's found of live sashimi and it gets really really really really expensive for a joint that is not a heavy hitter in the same vein as a mori or urasawa ???

                                                          2. If you're going to to omakase, remember to specifically ask for really strange and rare items. Typically, shop owners will give first timers to their restaurant a more tame omakase. Regulars are treated to rarities, of which I've had shark heart, fish sperm, beef brains... you get the idea.


                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: andrew_eats

                                                              I do not recommend this for a first time omakase, esp. for a newbie.

                                                              1. re: ns1

                                                                That's a good point... But what an impact the meal would have! You'd never forget it. Better leave shocked, wowed, and even frightened, than to leave unimpressed.

                                                              2. re: andrew_eats

                                                                I'm sure that a generous serving of konowata (pickled sea cucumber innards) nigiri is exactly what's needed for our intrepid newbie to attempt a second omakase, post haste...

                                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                                  sea cucumber innards,

                                                                  That's exactly what I had to the beginning of a long, omakase meal at shunji's.

                                                                  but the dish over there that was still too much for me is the conch in it's shell.

                                                                  And the lobster three fucking ways is beyond believable, the lobster tartare is deliciously flecked with black and white truffles.

                                                              3. Although it gets basically no love around here, I would suggest you go to Sushi Central and here is why:

                                                                The chef, Dino, is very friendly. He really tries to make you have an enjoyable experience. When I first went in there and ordered Omakase he asked about my preferences and restrictions before he began and explained every dish he set down. He really doesn't mind if you say you don't like a certain thing. It really felt personalized and guided.

                                                                I am no Sushi expert (obviously) but I was very impressed with the amount of fish that they had that I'd never heard of (Gizzard Shad, Ono, Slapjack among others)
                                                                Mostly it will just be nigiri, but certain dishes (live scallop, abalone, sweet shrimp) do come with a cooked portion.

                                                                It is in West LA (corner of Palms and Overland)

                                                                Some downsides:
                                                                They don't serve Bluefin tuna, which means no otoro. This is for philosophical reasons (saying that bluefin will soon be fished to extinction), but I know for some people this will be a deal breaker.
                                                                The atmosphere is really not much. It is brightly lit and just formica tables.

                                                                I highly recommend this place as a good, easy introduction.
                                                                If you do go, I would say you have to sit at the bar and just explain your situation that you want to try omakase but you've never done it before and they will take it from there.
                                                                I usually walk away stuffed, paying around $80.

                                                                Where ever you choose to go I hope you have a great experience. Omakase can be really fun and I hope you go to a place that lives up to that promise. Listening to the advice of the people here I don't think you can go wrong.
                                                                Good luck!

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Butter Fight

                                                                  Butter Fight,
                                                                  the fact that Sushi Central eschews bluefin will CAUSE me to give them a shot.
                                                                  thank you for mentioning this.

                                                                  will go there right after restaurant week.
                                                                  (their proximity to scoops doesn't hurt either.)

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                    I agree about the bluefin. I wish more places were conscious of it.
                                                                    If you do go and don't get the omakase, then I definitely think you should get the uni (the best I've had, creamy and sweet with a little brine), the ono (lightly touched with a creme brule torch before being served) and whatever is on special, but especially the amaebi.

                                                                    Also, I didn't mention this to OP because (she?) said that (she?) doesn't drink, but they are BYOB which also makes it easier on the wallet.

                                                                    1. re: Butter Fight

                                                                      BYOB too?
                                                                      no bluefin?
                                                                      near scoops?

                                                                      my dream!

                                                                      1. re: Butter Fight

                                                                        but $80 per person ? for some reason, whenver i pass by it looks like more of a joint that would be $40 per person at most.

                                                                        yeah, i'm not sure why no one mentions it on these boards.

                                                                        And it's somewhat close to zo, so if zo is packed you can get a seat here, though i haven't tried central yet either.

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          kevin, there's a good reason you would think that. From the outside and the name it looks like it is well within Sushi MAC, deep fried california roll territory but I think that in this instance there is much more than meets the eye.
                                                                          Depending on when I go and how many of the live dishes I end up getting it could push the price up past 80 and into 90 or 100 after tip, but I also tip very generously there.
                                                                          I highly doubt it is close to Zo or Mori (I've never been to either) but I think that Sushi Central is worth checking out and certainly better than most of the sushi places that litter our fair city.
                                                                          I would really like to know what you think if you do check it out.

                                                                  2. No one's mentioned Sushi Hiko (near National & Sawtelle). Their omakase may be within the OP's price range, and I like the food there.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                                      That is the successor to the throne of Nozawa, it has way less variety than Zo and much thicker cuts.

                                                                      But JL, isn't hikko in the same school of over-saucing as zo ???

                                                                      also, i seriously hate the fucking sesame seeds that the chef showers over the chopped baby tuna in ponzu, if he just left it out it would be a few notches better, it's kind of like added a spicey spauce to a great piece of tuna (which is why spicey tuna rolls usually and probably incorporate bad cuts of tuna, and mask it with spicey sauce and copious amounts of mayo, double vile if you happen to ask me).

                                                                      one good thing about hikko's omakase is that he doesn't offer anything weird at all with the omakase unless you specifically ask for it.

                                                                      Yeah, and you can give them a specific price range, even of $50, if you want and they will comply, the chef may be stern, and perhaps taciturn and pithy but he is definitely not a dick.

                                                                      1. re: J.L.

                                                                        it looks like no one has mentioned Sasabune so far for their omakase.


                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          "it looks like no one has mentioned Sasabune so far for their omakase."

                                                                          There's a reason for that.

                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                            I felt that Hiko's sushi wasn't oversauced on my prior visits... This the the OP's first omakase experience - plenty of time for him/her to try "variety" on subsequent omakases in the future. Hiko offers decent akami, saba, ika, (your typical sushi hit parade) - this will likely suffice as a nice intro into omakase for the OP.

                                                                            I effin' hate those effin' sesame seeds, too! (insert 2 more F-bombs here)!!!

                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              ok kevin, i'll mention it:

                                                                              imho, DON'T waste your money at Sasabune.

                                                                          2. Can you get out of sushi central for under 50 bucks ???

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              I think if you give them a price point they will be happy to oblige. When I spend what I spend I leave there stuffed, so you could definitely spend less and be satisfied. I don't know if you will be getting a lot of the good stuff like the uni or the amaebi, but I'm sure it is doable.

                                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                                as i'm sure you know, you can get out of any "non-omakase" and "non AYCE" sushi bar for under $50.
                                                                                the issues are: what assortment of sushi will you get, what is the quality of said sushi, and how much of it will you be eating.

                                                                                if i have an entire meal of kanpyo and natto it is easy to get out of 90% of the sushi bars in town for under $50.
                                                                                if i have two pieces of toro, it is also easy to get out of 90% of the sushi bars in town for under $50.

                                                                                if you want the ultimate quantity/price ratio, imho, you'd be best going to midori and having their AYCE deal. you'd get out under $50 INCLUDING tax, tip, and a beverage or two.

                                                                              2. (I'm gone for a month--strike that, wow, two months--and the website looks totally different. Dig the mobile version too!)

                                                                                I know the topic has been well covered by all the regulars, and Kiriko has already come up multiple times, but if you can get there for lunch, it is absolutely the best way to try your first omakase with their prix fixe lunch omakase ($40/$50, sushi-only or sushi/sashimi, respectively) because you won't break the bank but you get the same personal attention from the itamae and the great pacing of having the pieces served to you individually so you can enjoy the fish individually.

                                                                                Obligatory links to my reviews of my prix fixe lunch omakase experiences there:


                                                                                Link to my review of my full omakase experience there, to contrast with the admittedly abbreviated prix fixe version(s):


                                                                                (Still at lunch, which kept the cost down, but some would argue, and I would likely agree but I haven't had the full omakase at dinner, that you don't get the full experience at lunch even if you order the "full" omakase at lunch.)

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                                                  may i add, the point during the meal when the omakase dishes stop and the "additional charge" dishes start may be subtle.
                                                                                  they will ask an innocuous, indirect, question such as, "have you had enough?" or "would you like more?."

                                                                                  be sure to ask directly about whether or not any additional food will be included in the omakase price or not.

                                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                    Japanese culture and business practices are all about the subtle, nuanced and indirect approach. It would be considered very rude to tell the diner directly "You've now eaten your money's worth" - so it doesn't surprise me in the least that Kiriko conducts their omakase in this manner.

                                                                                    In any case at least you have some idea what you will be spending, unlike the situation in other places where you eat and then you get the bill to see what the charges are.

                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                      the only reason i mentioned it is that this will be the FIRST time the OP has an omakase meal and would like to help her avoid being caught flat-footed with an unexpectedly high tab.

                                                                                      no one is born knowing these things.
                                                                                      someone has to take the time to give you the heads up.

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                        I know I've read that same warning from you in other posts in the past, and I just wanted the OP to understand that this isn't some nefarious business practice on the part of the chef at Kiriko, trying to trick you into spending more than you wanted to.

                                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                                          i wish someone had posted this information for me so that I wouldn't have had to learn the hard way-- by suffering the finanical consequences of not knowing the ropes.

                                                                                          never said that it was nefarious, but the result, for me, was an unexpected financial blow that, at the time, i could ill afford.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            That's happened to me before.

                                                                                            But there are a few places in town that charge you a lot more as a newbie before charging you much less once you have become a regular.

                                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                                              i normally have a "regular rotation" of retaurants that i go to all the time.
                                                                                              none of my regular restaurants give me lower prices or larger servings.

                                                                                              that said, on occasion i am comped a drink, or a dessert, or an appetizer for the table, or a 4 oz. container of hot sauce to take home;
                                                                                              also, my favorite seat may be saved for me, even in first-come-first-served type of restaurants
                                                                                              also, if there is a wait, in most restaurants, all the regulars are usually treated in some sort of preferential fashion (sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly).

                                                                                              still, this is not a consistent lowering of the prices.

                                                                                              related to this discussion, once i had a restaurant owner tell me this:
                                                                                              "my regulars are the most important asset that this restaurant has. because of that, i NEVER rent out the restaurant as a whole for a special party. i don't want any of the regulars to even consider changing their behavior pattern and trying any of the other restaurants out there. i do everything in my power to NEVER turn away a regular."

                                                                                2. Does anyone know if Hama on 2nd Street downtown does omakase? That was the first place I ever had sushi in my life and I was taken there by a woman who owned one of the stores in Japanese Village Plaza and we had omakase, but I've never tried to do that on my own since I have gone back. It was amazing (it lasted 3+ hours) and one of the best meals of my life and I was really glad I had that as my first experience of sushi. I just am not sure if it was something the restaurant did because they knew the store owner I was with. Would that all subsequent sushi nights were as memorable.

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: ScaryKlown

                                                                                    Yeah, you can ask for omakase. I'm sure anywhere would oblige.

                                                                                    But I guess you have to keep in mind that it's possible the owner of the nearby store was also a regular, etc. so it helped to get a better meal.

                                                                                    Long story, not so short, anywhere that's a decent sushi place will do omakase it's just a matter of where is usually better. For instance, even a roll factory may do an omakase, but they might not have the best, or freshest fish, because a lot of the rolls are covered in different kinds of sauce, etc.

                                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                                      Actually, I asked the chef at Ninjin (my go-to place for moderately-priced sushi that's still fresh and good) if he does omakase, and he said no, which I actually respect. He may realize that he doesn't have the breadth of fish to provide a competent omakase experience. So not every decent sushi place does it. ;-)

                                                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                                                        Ahaha hmmm I'm not sure I could request omakase at a roll factory with a straight face.

                                                                                        1. re: ScaryKlown

                                                                                          "...I'm not sure I could request omakase at a roll factory with a straight face."

                                                                                          At a roll factory you just have to say "fauxmakase" and they will make it happen... ;-D>

                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                            Yeah, buddy.

                                                                                            "Faux-makase" sounds dope.

                                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                                              Sasabune has successfully peddled their "trust me" never changing fauxmakase for quite some time now.

                                                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                so has sugarfish in all it's iterations

                                                                                      2. re: ScaryKlown

                                                                                        Yeah I've been to Hama in the last year and got omakase.

                                                                                        It wasn't amazing, but it was good and very cheap for the quantity received.

                                                                                        Here's my previous review:

                                                                                        Dropped by Hama over the labor day weekend and was pleasantly surprised. The joint is patronized by real sushi eaters and USC students who have no idea what is going on - I think the guys next to us were disgusted by the uni hand roll and amaebi heads. We out-lasted all of our neighbors at the bar - sometimes, the seats changed twice during our tenure. I think we sat at the bar for an hour and 45 minutes. The menu is small and accessible; everything seemed of excellent quality (esp. for the price)

                                                                                        We did some damage:
                                                                                        - albacore sashimi
                                                                                        - monk fish liver appetizer
                                                                                        - salmon sashimi
                                                                                        - salmon belly sashimi
                                                                                        - 1 order amaebi
                                                                                        - 2 orders oysters
                                                                                        - 50/50 kanpachi/red snapper sashimi
                                                                                        - 2 uni handrolls
                                                                                        - 1 spicy tuna handroll
                                                                                        - 1 order tamago
                                                                                        - 2 large asahi's

                                                                                        Total damage was $108 after tax. As someone else mentioned, 10% discount if paying by cash (they will give you a post-it note with cash price at the end, the discount is not mentioned anywhere). We paid in cash so we dropped $120 out the door, which I thought was an outrageously awesome price for all that food. We left stuffed to our gills.

                                                                                        1. re: ns1

                                                                                          Wow, that sounds great and does seem like a good deal. I'll be a (former) USC student who DOES know what is going on. ;)

                                                                                          1. re: ScaryKlown

                                                                                            HAHAHA self ownage post:

                                                                                            I just realized that the above post was totally not omakase. We actually ordered all of that.

                                                                                            Sorry ;)

                                                                                            1. re: ns1

                                                                                              Weirdly, once in a while, it's a better deal to order on your own if price is concerned.

                                                                                      3. You may want to consider, a lot of 'omakase' restaurants are quite predictable. They don't give you surprises, just common things you find at all sushi restaurants. Not really impressive for a 'chef's choice' dinner event. So indeed save up some money for a higher caliber place, which typically seek out more interesting ingredients. Hopefully, it will be a place where they try to acquire rare imports, and justify the chef's choosing from a variety of selection, not just common standby items. You already know tuna and salmon; perhaps barracuda, needle, and red sea urchin fish would be more exciting.