Category Archives: Sushi restaurants

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Z Sushi, Alhambra

Toro sushi

I’ve been going to Z Sushi in Alhambra for almost ten years now, and it dawned on me that I rarely blog about it. It’s safe to say J and I dine at Z Sushi more than any other restaurant, with the bar at Drago Centro coming in a close second. My parents go to Z at least once a month, my sister has it on her list of “must visit” places when she comes home from Ireland to visit, and we’ve taken countless friends there who have also fallen in love with Z. Continue reading

SugarFISH, Downtown Los Angeles

As readers of this blog probably know by now, I love sushi. Being half-Japanese, it’s something I grew up eating, whether it was of the roll your own variety that my parents served for dinner when I was a kid, boxed sushi in an eikben (a boxed bento sold at train stations in Japan) or at one of the two or three regular sushi joints J and I frequent around Los Angeles. J is particularly fond of it and 90% of the time I ask him where he wants to go out to eat, he says, “sushi.”

So when I was invited to try the newly opened SugarFISH by Sushi Nozawa, we were both excited.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll let you know we were guests of the restaurant and therefore did not pay for our meal. Also in the interest of once again proving I’m a crappy photographer, I had to get images from the restaurant because the ones I took were all too dark to use. Like, Black As Night dark. Anyway, that’s why these photos are so beautiful- I figure if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you knew the minute you saw them that they were not mine….*sigh.*

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Chef Nozawa and his namesake sushi restaurant in Studio City, and you may have heard that he’s often been dubbed “Sushi Nazi” for his insistence that diners eat what he recommends, prepared in a manner he sees best brings out the quality of the fresh fish. I’d certainly heard of him, but for some reason never got out to Studio City to try his sushi. Also, I’d had a particularly bad experience with another sushi place that has its own “Sushi Nazi,” and although I won’t mention the name of the place here, I’ll say that I barely had one foot in the door before the hostess practically barked at me, “We don’t have spicy. We don’t have mayonnaise. We don’t do spider roll. We don’t have Dynamite.” Actually I sort of wish she had some dynamite because I would have tossed in it her direction (too harsh?). I mean, do I have a sign on my head that says I’m Ignorant??? I almost walked out had I not been so hungry, and although the sushi at that anonymous-Culver-City sushi spot was good, it hardly erased the attack we faced when we walked in. We crossed that place off the list and never went back.

Anyway, moving on to Chef Nozawa and SugarFISH- I’ll be honest in saying I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was wary that I’d face another dressing-down like I’d gotten by that Culver-City place (that is not related in ANY way to Chef Nozawa or any of his restaurants, just to clarify!). When J and I walked in, it was quite the opposite- we were warmly greeted by the hostess and the manager, who showed us to a table- there is a bar where you can eat sushi but no “sushi bar” at SugarFISH. All of the sushi is created in the semi-open kitchen. Since J and I always sit at the sushi bar of any sushi restaurant, it was something new, and the dimly lit restaurant was cozy and inviting.

SugarFISH founder Emanuele Massimini sat down with us and started telling us about the concept behind what has already become a small chain (in addition to downtown, they have locations in Brentwood and Marina del Rey). He spoke very passionately about how his personal love of Chef Nozawa’s food drove him to get into business with him- how he and his friend dined weekly for years at Sushi Nozawa and kept the restaurant at #1 on their list of worldwide favorite places to eat. Eventually this passion for and belief in Chef Nozawa’s food lead to Massimini spearheading the SugarFISH idea. Basically, the team wanted to bring the quality Chef Nozawa is known for to people who may not want to spend $100 per person, or for people who assume lower-priced sushi must not be very good. Sure, there are existing sushi chain restaurants out there, but SugarFISH differs from, say, Wokano because they are focusing on traditional, authentic sushi; keeping the menu relatively small and showcasing top quality fish. This goes in line with Chef Nozawa’s famous “trust me” mantra.

SugarFISH offers three ‘omakase’ (chef’s choice) menus, and we were encouraged to try The Nozawa, the largest of the bunch:

THE Nozawa
Organic Edamame
Tuna Sashimi (Big Eye)
Albacore Sushi (2-pc)
Salmon Sushi (2-pc)
Snapper Sushi (2-pc)
Yellowtail Sushi (2-pc)
Halibut Sushi (2-pc)
Toro Hand Roll
Crab Hand Roll
“Daily Special” (2-pc)

Needless to say they didn’t need to twist our arms, and we were immediately served the edamame, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say were some of the best I’d ever had. They were perfectly room temperature and well-seasoned, but there was no appearance of salt on the outside of the pods. Edamame is free in most sushi places but it’s really hit and miss. These were definitely a hit!

The Big Eye tuna sashimi was served thinly sliced and stacked in house made ponzu sauce. Incredibly fresh and light, we both enjoyed this dish immensely, and I have to say it really got me excited for the rest of the meal.

After that the parade of nigiri started- the salmon nigiri had a sprinkling of beautifully toasted sesame seeds which were the perfect foil to the fatty salmon. WOWZA. I’d love to describe each single piece of nigiri we had but honestly I was more focused on just eating and enjoying it than taking mental notes. Here’s your mental note: it was all awesome. It was. Every piece was the perfect size- one bite, with the rice being slightly warm and lightly compressed so you’re not filling up on rice but instead tasting the freshness of the fish. Some of the fish comes dribbled with ponzu (a house made chili ponzu was my favorite) while others require a light dip in house made soy sauce.

When the toro hand roll arrived, we were encouraged to eat it quickly so the nori (seaweed) would stay nice and crisp. We did the same with the blue crab hand roll- the flavor of the crab was so pronounced and the nori crackled nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t fill the nori from end to end- each time I took a bite, it pushed the filling slightly back into the extra space so there wasn’t any loss of the good stuff.

The ‘daily special’ was lobster, so we had another beautifully crafted hand roll, and capped off the meal with an order of creamy uni (sea urchin).

Not only was everything exceptionally well-prepared, but the prices are really keeping in line with SugarFISH’s mission to bring excellent sushi to people at a much lower price. The Nozawa course is priced at $35-$38- with the higher price being charged if the day’s special is something that costs more. SO you’re getting sashimi, and 12 pieces of nigiri + 2 hand rolls and their delicious edamame for under $40. Pretty incredible.

I know I’m practically gushing and I’ll take a risk by pointing out something else that is pretty awesome about SugarFISH- they include the nutritional information on the back of the menu. Now before you say “I don’t wanna know that stuff” I’ll assure you, there’s nothing to fear. The Nozawa dinner course (which we had- the uni was extra) clocks in at 850 calories- not bad at all when you consider that’s probably the amount you’d get in half of an appetizer at many restaurants these days (scary!). The slightly smaller “Trust Me” course has 695 calories while the “Trust Me Lite” has a mere 390!

We really enjoyed our experience at SugarFISH, and will definitely be going back whenever we get a hankering for sushi but don’t want to make a big night out of it. I still love to sit leisurely at a sushi bar, chat with the chef while drinking sake, but that’s usually a weekend kind of outing. I think having an option like SugarFISH is great for those who demand top quality sushi but don’t want to spend a Saturday night’s worth of money on a Tuesday night. Make sense?!

SugarFISH Downtown
600 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213 627-3000

SugarFISH Brentwood
11640 W. San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: 310 820-4477

SugarFISH Marina del Rey
4722 1/4 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Phone: 310 306-6300

SugarFISH Santa Monica (January 2011)
1345 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Urasawa, Beverly Hills

Last Saturday, my family and I made our much-anticipated maiden voyage to Urasawa. My sister was generous enough to take us all there to celebrate our birthdays, anniversary and other milestones, and we had a wonderful time. I can’t really put into words the kind of service and food we experienced; it was all delicate, profound and will be put into the “once in a lifetime” category.

I’ll try my best to remember everything we ate; some of the sushi is lost on me now that a few days have passed but here is my photo essay of our wonderful Urasawa meal! Enjoy:

Beautfiul display behind counter

First course- hairy crab salad with crysthansamum petals

Lightly seared toro with ponzu
and edible gold leaf

Assortment of lightly stewed vegetables & seafood

Assorted sashimi on ice block…check out that toro…wow!

Baked dish made of yamaimo (mountain potato) with various treasures hidden uni, ginko nuts, shrimp. Most surprising dish of the night- had the exact texture of rice but was made of this very healthy potato.

See the uni inside?

Tempura of cod sperm sack served with dashi dipping sauce

Chef Hiro Urasawa starts to work on a huge slab of Kobe beef…..

…perfectly marbled with fat

Toro seared on a hot stone

The leftover meat from the hairy crab used in the first course, cooked in it’s own shell with a nice slice of uni. This was sublime…

Beef slowly braised in sweet soy….this was one of my favorites. So tender….!

The raw ingredients for shabu shabu, including a large slice of foie gras.

See huge slab of foie gras….

Cooked for about a minute in the hot broth, the foie gras was rich, tender yet extremely refreshing. My father and J, neither of whom are big foie fans, loved this dish.

Sushi course:



Kohada- much less “pickeled” than versions I’ve had before, you could really taste the fish instead of the vinegar.

Lighly grilled shiitake mushroom. This was absolutely meaty and delicious.

Sayori (half beak)

Aji- Spanish mackeral

Awabi (abalone)- I’ve never been a fan of abalone but this was very good.

Uni (sea urchin). The best I’ve ever had, hands down. No bitterness, just sweet and creamy. Wow.

Maguro (tuna)

Ama ebi (sweet shrimp)- we watched Urasawa-san cut open big, fat Santa Barbara spot prawns to create this. Again, the best I’ve ever had.

Giant clam- slightly crunchy and sweet

The housemade “gari” or pickled ginger was sweet and spicy with a softer texture than most.

Real, fresh wasabi root

Unfortunately, this one escapes me!

Saba- mackeral

This one is lost on me now as well…

Unagi, sweet and tender

Astuyaki tamago- his version was almost cake-like..I could have eaten a few more of these!!


Box containing assorted fruit- the stewed apple was my favorite

Sesame pudding topped with a sweet bean paste and matcha (green tea)

The sesame pudding was super smooth, slightly nutty and just sweet enough.

Toasted rice tea finishes out the amazing meal

The thing that surprised me the most, I have to admit, was the cheerful disposition of the chef, Hiro Urasawa. I guess I assumed that he would be a very serious and disciplined type, and although he certainly is when it comes to his food, he was good natured and joked a lot. He made everyone feel so comfortable and made sure to call each person by name.

Everything about the experience was perfect, and I highly recommend one visit if you ever get the chance. It is, as most people know, very expensive, so it certainly isn’t a place to go often but everyone should experience this at least once in their lives. The food, service and watching Urasawa-san at work is absolutely worth every penny.


218 Rodeo Drive Los Angeles CA 90210

Sushi Ike, Hollywood

I love sushi. In fact, I think sushi is my favorite food on the planet. The older I get, the more I grow to love it, crave it, need it on a weekly basis. Luckily it’s healthy and there is a lot of variety so it never gets old. Unluckily, it isn’t cheap so it’s quite an expensive habit to have. Fortunately there are a few reasonably priced yet high-quality sushi places in town so I don’t always have to fork over a kidney to get my nigiri fix.

Amuse bouche

One of those places is Sushi Ike in Hollywood, about a mile or so from my office. I’d always heard about how fresh and reasonable it was but never got around to trying it until a couple of weeks ago. We had one of our cars in the shop so J picked me up from work and we wanted to wait the traffic out so I thought it was the perfect change to try Sushi Ike. By the way, it’s pronounced “Ee-ke,” not “Ike” like in “Mike & Ikes.”


We pulled into the unassuming strip mall on the corner of Gower and Sunset and were lucky enough to be the 3rd couple there (after another 20 minutes, the place was PACKED!). We sat down at the small sushi counter, were given wet towels and ordered two iced green teas while the sushi chef gave us a small amuse bouche of fried salmon marinated in rice vinegar- YUM. My mom makes a similar dish with iwashi so it reminded me of her.


Our sushi chef (not Ike-san, who was working the middle of the counter and all smiles) was nice but very serious, not really chatting with us and focusing on making each nigiri perfect with the smallest amount of rice possible (which is a good thing- too much rice just fills you up). We started with a well-marbled piece of salmon, which was delicious. We then had halibut brushed with yuzu and lemon, scallop with shiso leaf and very fresh aji with ponzu and ginger.

Hotate with shiso

We saw that most people had been ordering the sliced octopus, so we got one as well. The chef took out a pre-boiled tentacle and tossed it on a grill for about 5 minutes. After slicing into nice thin strips, he drizzled it with lemon and salt and presented to us. One bite of this and I knew we were hooked. It was as tender as a baby’s butt. Ok, well I’ve never eaten a baby’s butt but you know what I mean- if you blindfolded any octopus-hater and had them take a bite of this, they’d be converted. It was as soft and tender as dark meat chicken but still had the subtle taste of both sea and grill. I asked Ike-san how on earth they got it to such a texture, and he revealed that they boil the raw octopus in green tea and adzuki beans. Apparently something in the beans is the key to tenderness. Maybe I should give a bag to a particularly tough and chewy coworker who could try a little tenderness as well.

The magical fire…

Grilled tako

We ordered a “una-kyu” which is Japanese slang for a unagi cucumber roll. Once again, the chef tossed the unagi on the same grill- no toaster oven here- and it made for a slightly charred and utterly delicious eel which matched so well with the cool, crunchy cucumber. We finished off with the anago, which was also made on the grill and unlike any anago I’d had before. It was slightly crisp yet melting on the inside and brushed with the slightest coating of sweet sauce.


I’m glad we discovered such a fresh and simple sushi place close to work. You won’t get any fancy rolls at this place- just good, fresh fish and the best grilled octopus I’ve ever had.


Sushi Ike
6051 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA