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Sushi in L.A.: Round and Round We Go
Help yourself to the conveyor belt history of the city’s sushi scene
San Francisco transplant Gentaro Isoy-gaya opens the city’s first Sushi-ya, at 116 Weller Street in what is today Little Tokyo.
The U.S. government orders the internment of about 110,000 Japanese American citizens on the West Coast. Most Japanese-owned businesses, including sushi restaurants, are forced to close.
Calrose, a new medium-grain rice, is distributed to growers in California’s Central Valley, providing access to good sushi rice for the first time.
The Holiday Bowl bowling alley opens in the Crenshaw District, then a densely Japanese-populated area. Later it will serve as a neighborhood sushi hub.
With the Mikado Inn, the Valley gets something it’s never had: a Japanese restaurant. Decades later Ventura Boulevard will boast a “Sushi Row.”
Kawafuku debuts the first modern American sushi bar, in Little Tokyo.
Ichiro Mashita invents the California roll (see page 98) at Tokyo Kaikan on 1st Street.
Tokyo Kaikan’s owners launch International Marine Products downtown, still the U.S.’s finest wholesale fish market.
Osho bows next door to the 20th Century Fox lot near Century City. When Yul Brynner becomes a regular, Hollywood discovers sushi.
California Beach opens in Hermosa Beach. With help from “rock and roll sushi” pioneer Toshi Sugiura, it becomes the epicenter of the drunken, cocaine-fueled celebrity sushi scene.
Masaru “Katsu” Michite debuts the ultra-swank Katsu on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, inspiring a generation of sushi chefs. Food critic Ruth Reichl gives it a rave review in the Los Angeles Times.
Sushi is served as an appetizer at a reception hosted by President Ronald Reagan at the Century Plaza Hotel for the Japanese prime minister.
Nobu Matsuhisa opens his fusion hot spot Matsuhisa on La Cienega. Seven years later Robert De Niro urges him to expand to New York, sparking the Nobu empire.
Michael Cardenas, former Matsuhisa GM, teams with nightclub owners on 3rd Street’s Sushi Roku, starting the “sushi lounge” trend.
Toshi Sugiura opens the California Sushi Academy, the nation’s first sushi school, in Venice. A year later Katsuya Uechi helps launch the Sushi Institute of America downtown.
SBE joins forces with Katsuya Uechi on the luxe Katsuya by Starck in Brentwood, nearly 20 years after he opened his small Studio City sushi bar. There are now seven nationwide.
Kazunori Nozawa takes the “trust me,” or omakase, style of eating made popular at the 21-year-old Sushi Nozawa to the mainstream with Sugarfish in Marina del Rey. Today the operation is a growing minichain.
The new Walgreens flagship at the Sunset + Vine complex features a fully staffed sushi bar.
The Nobu Hotel opens at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas (see page 108), taking the Nobu brand far beyond sushi and turning it into a lifestyle aesthetic.
Photographs by Adrea Bricoo
This feature originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Los Angeles magazine