Guide to L.A.’s best sushi restaurants
When filtering the plethora of high-end sushi restaurants around L.A., many turn to this acclaimed, Michelin-starred establishment in the Valley for ultra-fresh seafood items like kanpachi sashimi and pearl oysters. Nevermind that it’s located in a strip mall—Asanebo is a mecca for exotic, inventive pieces: monkfish with grapefruit drizzle, perhaps, or steamed firefly squid. Chef Tatsuya Nakao (brother to Shunji Nakao, owner of Shunji Sushi) crafts a few beautiful omakase options, but if you can’t make that kind of commitment (monetary or otherwise), stop by for lunch and order individual pieces.
With a $38 omakase lunch omakase, a quality sushi meal at Echigo is somewhat attainable. Eight pieces of nigiri and a hand roll will fill you up mid-day, while a dinner visit, though more expensive, leaves diners just as fulfilled. If ordering à la carte, be sure to ask for the monkfish liver, a foie gras-like piece that almost melts in your mouth. The nondescript storefront and bare-bones interior belies the real craftmanship that takes place here, so walk right in, sit down at the sushi bar and don’t look back.
You won’t see a sign outside of Go’s Mart indicating its presence—rather, you’ll see the word “sushi” in large lettering, which is sort of an understatement. Yes, there is sushi inside this small Canoga Park strip mall, but it’s sushi topped with 24k gold leaf flakes and a sprinkling of truffle oil. Two tables and a 10-seat sushi bar are where diners come for outstanding cuts of fish from chef Go, who opened this place in 1997. Don’t ask what’s good—“Everything is good,” says Go—but you’d be wise to ask for toro. The plump tuna comes topped with the aforementioned gold flakes, and just the right amount of wasabi is tucked into Go’s exceptional rice. Japanese eel is slick with sweet unagi sauce and slivers of lemon rind on top, while a cut of meaty butterfish comes decorated with truffle oil and a hint of spice.
“No photos! No California rolls! No noodles!” There are a lot of signs posted around Hama telling you what not to do, but here’s what you should do: Get here early. Or at least be prepared for a wait. The tiny resturant in Little Tokyo has around 20 seats and fills up fast. Once you’re seated, dive in and start ordering (first-timers can always ask for a menu and mark down their picks). Eel and Santa Barbara uni are two excellent choices, while the blue crab hand roll avoids some common pitfalls (too much mayonaise, soggy seaweed) and is instead light, crisp and filling. It can be slightly intimidating for newbies here—the service isn’t exactly warm—but order with confidence, take your time and enjoy the chefs’ handiwork.
Known for its power-lunch prowess and celebrity pull, Hamasaku has maintained its popularity with a solid, steadfast sushi program on the Westside. A relatively recent renovation lightened up the once-dim space with warm wood panels and clean lines. The menu features a selection of skewers and small plates to start, but nigiri and sashimi are the real stars here. Omakase options range from $65–$85, and with chef Yoya Takahashi at the helm—with his daily-rotating menu—you’re in good hands. Barracuda, snapper, big eye tuna and more are usually all available, with a focus on composed plates in addition to cuts of fresh fish—and when we say composed, we mean uni balanced on the back of a whole crab, which looks as though it’s going for a stroll atop your plate. Get your phone cameras ready.
You’ll be shelling out plenty of dough at this celebrated sushi restaurant in West L.A., but with good reason: The omakase here is a 20-plus-piece experience that borders on sushi nirvana. Owner Mori Onodera no longer prepares the fish here, but the quality has not been compromised. You’ll find house-made tofu and soy sauce, along with beautiful cuts of toro, hamachi, sea pike and more. An ethereal scoop of tofu mousse often finishes off the meal, though fans of the more traditional tomago will find that at Mori, too.
You could say that the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table helped shine a spotlight on n/naka, but the Palms restaurant was already on the map, front and center. Chef and owner Niki Nakayama is a former protégé of the legendary Morihiro Onodera (once the chef and owner of Mori Sushi), though Nakayama focuses her talent on kaiseki, a classical style of Japanese cooking that dictates a specific progression of textures, temperatures, tastes and seasonal ingredients. You’ll find either a 13-course modern menu ($225) or a 13-course vegetarian menu ($200) at n/naka, and both can be paired with wine for $95. The menus change daily, but there is always something to delight in: a glass filled with sea urchin and lobster in a bath of chilled dashi, maybe, or a seared diver-harvested scallop cuddled next to a warm okra pod.
Trips to Koreatown for dinner may be mostly reserved for KBBQ, but consider Noshi Sushi the next time you find yourself hungry in this neighborhood. Chef Shogo Noshi opened a small, 30-seat restaurant in 1983, gained a considerable following and moved to his current location to accomodate a growing clientele. While traditional sushi is offered here, the occasional spider roll or California roll is also available. Don’t let that turn you off, though; buttery pieces of salmon, rich eel, plump scallop and more are just as good as the more expensive spots around town. Just remember to bring some bills or hit the ATM inside—Noshi only accepts cash.
As with most outstanding sushi restaurants in the Valley, Okumura can be found in a sizeable strip mall, tucked into a back corner near a Starbucks and a beauty salon. Chef Ryoto Ukumura previously worked at Sushi Zo, Koi and Katana before opening his namesake restaurant, where affordable sushi, sashimi and rolls are composed with the utmost care. Amberjack sushi is treated to a beautiful lime and salt crust, while creamy, custardy chawanmushi lies under tenderly placed uni and ikura. Hand rolls include a negitoro version, a mixture of fatty tuna and spring onion wrapped in a crisp seaweed wrap. For a more personalized experience, pick a spot at the welcoming sushi bar; otherwise, there’s plenty of group seating on the outskirts of the restaurant.
Shunji almost looks like it could belong in the Shire—with its circular frame and low ceiling, Bilbo Baggins would feel right at home. Not so Shire-like is the fantastic sushi inside this Pico Boulevard restaurant, including the well-curated omakase available at lunch and dinner. But first, ask about the fried oysters, which will convert even the oyster averse among us with its soft, pillowy exterior shielding a juicy helping of mollusk inside. The omakase specials might have you trying scallop and salmon, blue fin tuna and mackerel, flying fish and more. Chef Shunji Nakao—"the Richard Gere of the sushi world"— knows exactly how much wasabi to hide in each scoop of rice, and when your plate has been picked clean, a steaming cup of green tea helps ease your way into the outside world.
With locations all over town—Brentwood, Hollywood, Studio City and Downtown, to name a few—Kazunori Nozawa's mini-empire favors straightforward, no-nonsense sushi over the usual "Dragon" and "Rainbow" rolls. The emphasis is on trust here, as exemplified by Nozawa's trademark omakase-style menus, of which there are three: Trust Me, Trust Me/Lite and the Nozawa. Each menu features the best fish of the day, accompanied by perfectly warm rice and some of the best house-made ponzu sauce in L.A. You can order à la carte, though you'd be in the minority. Better to just trust Nozawa's instinct, and give yourself over to top-notch sushi at one of the city's more affordable price points.
Phillip Frankland Lee’s 17-course sushi speakeasy is worth seeking out. Fans of the Scratch Bar chef were so into his latest concept, in fact, that the no-reservations restaurant finally caved and eventually made them available. Enter through Woodley Proper, and you’ll be led to a 1930s-Japan-inspired room where you’ll be able to try some of Lee’s creative takes on nigiri and the sushi-bar experience: sweet-corn-brushed yellowtail; yam with salmon roe and mushroom dashi; sushi rice topped with roasted bone marrow. The eight-seat counter gets you as close as sushi bars come—and the optional cocktail pairings are not to be missed.
Nestled in Downtown's Little Tokyo neighborhood since 1980, Sushi Gen has turned into a cult favorite for L.A.'s sushi aficionados. The main draw: a $19.50 lunch special. Glut your taste buds on fresh halibut, fatty tuna, sea urchin and oysters at this top-notch sushi spot, and be sure to order the scallop—a favorite among regulars. The only downside is the popularity of this place: Lines can be massive, and you may feel a tad rushed by the staff who are eyeballing the hungry diners on your heels—but one bite of the decadent monkfish liver and we can almost guarantee all ills will be forgotten.
“NO TAKEOUT. NO TRENDY SUSHI. NO SALAD. NO VEGGIES. NO CALIFORNIA ROLL. NO SPICY TUNA ROLL. NO TERIYAKI, TEMPURA.” Sushi Park seems like the curmudgeon of the L.A. sushi scene, but go ahead and trust what they do serve, which is some of the freshest fish in L.A. Located on the second floor of a nondescript plaza on Sunset Strip, Sushi Park is where Angelenos in the know (and the occasional Hollywood celeb) get their sushi fix. Grab a seat at the sushi bar for so-fresh-you-can-taste-the-Pacific omakase. The chef will take you through multiple courses of nigiri, sashimi—sorry, no rolls here—and small plates for a hefty price. Note the limited opening hours for lunch and dinner (Saturday seats evening diners only).
Hear the name Tsujita and you’ll probably think of the popular ramen spot on Sawtelle. But Sushi Tsujita, another Sawtelle triumph, warrants just as much attention. Chef Shigeru Kato leads the way here, offering omakase and a la carte sushi in an elegant setting. An omakase meal ranges from $120 to $200, and includes upwards of 11 courses. Pair your pieces of snapper, tuna, mackerel and more with beer, wine or sake.
This tiny Toluca Lake sushi restaurant has been flying under the radar for quite some time now, but we’re not sure why because the sushi here is among the city’s best. Start with some white-truffle edamame, then work your way through top-quality fish, expertly made rice and impeccable service, whether you’re having nigiri or rolls. Be sure to order the lime roll, a study of pure balance, or the seared scallop with uni—a lesson in texture.
Servers are prone to overdo it when it comes to proper sushi-eating “etiquette,” but all is forgiven once chef and co-owner Keizo Seki’s artfully prepared squid noodles, bluefin tuna, sweet shrimp and golden eye mackerel have made their way into your mouth. With locations in both Culver City and Downtown, Sushi Zo only serves omakase, with fresh fish delivered that same morning. You’ll find squid marinated in truffle oil, monkfish liver, sweet shrimp, black sesame tofu, and more as the meal continues to march on, with every course as rich, tantalizing and expertly prepared as the last one.
Urasawa belongs squarely at the top of L.A.’s sushi catalogue, though it’ll cost you a pretty penny to dine here. Flown in daily, the fish is prepared by chef Hiroyuki Urasawa (who studied under the great Masa Takayama) and one assistant. Meals stretch to 25 artfully prepared courses; the experience is incredible—and incredibly expensive (prices vary, but expect to spend around $400-$500 per person). Edible gold flakes, foie gras, wagyu beef—this is high-end sushi at its finest. Booking is imperative (there are no walk-ins), and an early-evening slot is best.