Last year’s acclaimed documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, told the story of Tokyo’s 85-year-old Jiro Ono, whom many consider the world’s greatest sushi chef. The flick was directed by David Gelb, a USC film school grad and New York City transplant. His love of raw fish was forged at the Valley hole-in-the-wall restaurants and Westside shrines that make up L.A.’s unparalleled sushi scene. We figured the guy who spent the better part of a year documenting the planet’s most exquisite nigiri creations might have a thing or two to tell us about our own rice ’n’ fish slingers. Here, Gelb gives us a tour of his top five L.A. sushi destinations.
[Originally posted on March 20, 2012]
“Since Sushi Nozawa closed, Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa has become one of my top spots. All four of their locations are excellent, and the rice is incredible. Nozawa still chooses the fish, so the quality is top-notch. It’s great value for your dollar as well. It’s pretty amazing that they are able to keep quality so high, considering how many people they serve per day in all four locations.” Multiple locations.
2. Sushi Karen
“This is an excellent example of California-style sushi. I seldom eat elaborate cut rolls, but the crunchy roll and lobster rolls are excellent. Sushi Karen is the antithesis of serious restaurants like Sukiyabashi Jiro and Sushi Nozawa. Here the customer is king: Eat and drink whatever you want, and expect a very reasonable bill. It’s great for birthday parties—the menu has something for everyone, so you can even take friends with sushi phobia.” 10762 Washington Blvd., Culver City.
3. Hirozen Gourmet
“Go to the sushi bar and ask for the omakase, and enjoy a symphony of flavors. It will cost around $100 but is worth every penny. Interesting, exotic fish, much of it flown in from Japan. The chef’s skills are exquisite. The sushi looks stunningly beautiful.” 8385 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
4. Noshi Sushi
“This place is an amazing value if you order the right things, but order at your own risk, as the quality can be unpredictable. Yellowtail belly, albacore, and engawa are typically excellent, though they often run out of them during the second half of dinner service. The main reason I recommend this place is the uni—it’s the good stuff from Santa Barbara at an unbeatable price. Economically, it’s a delicious, guilt-free sushi meal. Oh, but it’s cash only.” 4430 Beverly Blvd., L.A.
5. Saito Sushi
“Located next to Tang’s Donuts, in his small restaurant Chef Saito makes arguably the best anago (sea eel) sushi in the United States. It melts in your mouth, and the subtle taste of the eel is amplified by perfectly tart rice and a bit of salt. So often eel is just drowned in sauce—it’s great to taste the pure eel flavor. Be sure to order the butterfish as soon as you sit down, as it takes a while to cook. The red snapper sushi is dressed with salt and shiso and incredibly refreshing. The albacore sashimi salad is great for a group. For the adventurous, I highly recommend the ankimo sashimi.” 4339 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake.