Here’s where to find the best sushi in L.A.
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, and the experience is incredible—and incredibly expensive (prices vary, but expect to spend around $500 per person). Edible gold flakes, foie gras, wagyu beef, truffled sesame ice cream: This is high-end sushi at its finest. Booking is imperative (there are no walk-ins), and an early-evening slot is best.
“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: 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, which will set you back around $200. It's steep for the no-frills setting, but the chef will take you through multiple courses of nigiri, sashimi—sorry, no rolls here—and small plates you'll still be thinking about weeks later.
Phillip Frankland Lee’s 17-course sushi speakeasy is worth seeking out—and we do mean seeking. Head up the escalators of the Encino strip mall that’s also home to the chef’s tasting-menu restaurant, Scratch Bar, and his gastropub, Woodley Proper. Ring a small doorbell to the right of Woodley’s entrance, and you’ll be ushered into an intimate bar for a welcome cocktail, then led through a hidden hallway and past kitchen storage rooms to a 1930s-Japan-inspired den. It’s here 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 tiny counter gets you as close as sushi bars come, with service that’s equal parts congenial and theatrical. After your $125 omakase, you’ll also get the chance to order aà la carte specials from the daily chalkboard list—and truly, how can you say no to an Alaskan crab hand roll for dessert?
Hiroyuki Naruke’s omakase experience is on another level from the second you enter Q’s doors. Classical music drifts through the refined space, a formal and tasteful dining room that’s home to a handful of tables and the real showstopper, a 10-seat sushi bar where chef Naruke quietly steals the spotlight. It’s hard to say which is more of a treat: the expertly cut fish sourced from around the world, or chef’s artful precision of a one-man show. Q focuses on Naruke’s Edomae sushi, a style that highlights vinegar-seasoned rice and high-quality, fresh cuts of fish, and at Q’s dinner omakase—at $200 per person—you’ll also receive a smattering of Japanese small plates, such as torched toro with shishito relish. Of course, if you’re not up for the dinner splurge, Q offers two lunch tracks—one for $75, and another for $125—whichever option you pick, day or night, just be sure to make a reservation.
You won’t see a sign outside of Go’s Mart indicating its presence—rather, you’ll see the word “sushi” in large green 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 gets 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 could come decorated with truffle oil and a hint of spice.
Chef and co-owner Keizo Seki and his team of etiquette-minded assistants artfully prepare squid noodles, bluefin tuna, sweet shrimp and golden eye mackerel in an omakase that’s hellbent on nailing the perfect balance of rice and fish. It’s one of Seki’s tenets, and this dedication is just one of the factors that landed NYC’s location a Michelin star. Here in L.A., with locations in Culver City and Downtown, Sushi Zo serves omakase (at around $200) with fresh fish delivered that same morning: You’ll find squid marinated in truffle oil, plus monkfish liver, black sesame tofu and more as the meal marches on, with every course as rich, tantalizing and expertly prepared as the last one.
Known for its power-lunch prowess and celebrity pull, Hamasaku has maintained its popularity with a solid, steadfast sushi program on the Westside and a modern, warm-wood interior. The menu features a selection of à la carte skewers and small plates, but nigiri and sashimi are the real stars here. Omakase options range from $65 to $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, sustainably raised and caught 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 omakases here range from a simple 16-piece nigiri experience to a 20-plus course adventure that borders on sushi nirvana. Owner Mori Onodera no longer prepares the fish here—you can find him at one of the city's best Japanese restaurants, Inn Ann— but the quality has not been compromised. You’ll find house-made tofu and soy sauce; miso soup studded with fresh, in-shell clames; and beautiful cuts of toro, hamachi, sea pike and more. An ethereal scoop of tofu mousse often finishes the meal, though fans of the more traditional tomago will find that at Mori, too.
When the craving strikes for a meal at a high-end sushi restaurant, it’s hard to ignore the call of the Valley’s chief establishment for ultra-fresh seafood. Never mind that it’s located in a strip mall—Asanebo is a mecca for exotic, inventive pieces: pearl oysters, 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 rolls and nigiri.
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 bivalve-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, Marina del Rey, Hollywood, Studio City, Beverly Hills, Pasadena 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 four: Trust Me, Trust Me/Lite, Nozawa, and the Don't Think Just Eat, ranging from $19 to $52—a steal by sushi standards. 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.
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 sashimi 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.
With a $40 omakase weekday lunch, a quality sushi meal at Echigo is attainable at a fraction of the usual course-upon-course cost. 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.
This tiny Toluca Lake sushi restaurant has been flying under the radar for some time now, but we’re not sure why because the sushi here is among the city’s best. Start with some truffle edamame or maybe some crab legs in Japanese hollandaise, 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. If you’re partial to specific fish or cuts, Sushi Yuzu even offers sampler platters for salmon, toro, yellowtail and more, where you’ll try one piece of fish from different varieties or sourced from different regions.
Trips to Koreatown for dinner may be mostly reserved for KBBQ, but consider Noshi Sushi the next time you find yourself hungry in the 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. But if that’s got you down, just remember there’s free parking out back, and free miso soup inside.
Hear the name Tsujita and you’ll probably think of the popular ramen joint on Sawtelle—but sister spot Sushi Tsujita, another Sawtelle triumph, warrants just as much attention. Offering omakase and à la carte sushi in an elegant setting, the chef’s-choice meal ranges from $120 to $200, and includes upwards of 11 courses—unless you’re stopping by for lunch, when it’s only $80. In fact, if you get there early enough, you can order one of the hyper-rare bara-chirashi-sushi boxes—they only make 15 of these each day, and only at lunch—where only $18 nets you a collection of nigiri like salmon, white fish, ikura, shrimp and octopus.
Those with a long enough memory and a penchant for dancing might remember the Mrs. Fish that—let’s face it—was more of a loud club. But in its current, refined incarnation, you’re more likely to sip whiskey highballs and nosh on inventive house rolls all while surrounded by contemporary Japanese art. There are multiple lounges and a main dining room, but we love the sushi counter, where you can watch the magic happen. The menu is an endless à la carte mix-and-match of Japanese small plates and larger options like uni pasta, but the real star is the sushi. Specifically the house rolls: They’re decadence on a plate, where wagyu beef tataki wraps around Maine lobster, and gold flake sits on little rounds of salmon with ikura. And, considering these opulent house rolls are all priced around $16, it’s not much for decadence, we say.
Sugarfish fans who like to get hands-on, this one’s for you. Brought to us by the same Kazunori Nozawa, this casual sushi spot specializes in hand rolls and speedy service. Simply walk in, take a seat at the U-shaped sushi bar, and pick your meal—you’re choosing three to six hand rolls—or opt for a limited menu of sashimi or a range of à la carte hand rolls. Or, hey, a mix of it all. After all, these hand rolls and the sashimi are so good, why not get a little of everything? Just beware: This spot is no-reservations, and fills up fast.
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 Ryota 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.
“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, because this tiny resturant in Little Tokyo has around 20 seats and fills up fast. Once you’re seated, dive in and start ordering. 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, always keep an eye on the specials boars, take your time and enjoy the chefs’ handiwork.