There are a few things I consider myself to be an expert on. Bloomingdales sales. Southwest Airlines. Whether or not a room is appropriately cold. The best costumes for small naughty French bulldogs. But none of those compare to my REAL expertise when it comes to sushi restaurants in the San Fernando Valley 🙂
Sushi is BY FAR my favorite food. I could eat it every single day but on average I would estimate I limit it to three times a week. Some might say I likely have mercury poisoning. To those I say, WHAT A WAY TO GO.
Anyway – I get asked a lot where I recommend for sushi in LA. So I put together this short list. AKA this NOVEL because once I got started, I just couldn’t stop!
The Little Izakaya: This is the Valley outpost of the original Izakaya on 3rd Street in the city, which incorporates all of the best dishes from the original Katsuya in the valley. Got that? HAHAHA. I’m laughing out loud. Basically all you need to know is you can get their amazing spicy tuna crispy rice here. In all seriousness I frequent this location because it’s down the street from our favorite movie theater and sushi + a movie is a real good date night for the Raffs. I also appreciate that you can order nigiri by the single piece instead of it coming two to an order – which comes in handy when I can’t leave without one more piece of my favorite thing here, salmon sushi topped with black caviar and onion puree. Other favorites you should not miss: baked crab handrolls, jumbo scallop sushi with lemon and salt, the spicy tuna roll with creamy rock shrimp, garlic pumpkin, the Robert roll (with spicy tuna, crab, shrimp, and avocado), and albacore sashimi with crispy onion.
Iroha: This is the place I like to go to for a “nicer” sushi atmosphere – meaning, they have a really pretty patio with twinkling lights, which is loads better than most of the other places on this list, who accent their fish with florescent lighting 🙂 I did have to boycott Iroha one time after an unfortunate incident when a patron THREW A THIRTEEN FOOT PYTHON INSIDE THE RESTAURANT AFTER AN ARGUMENT WITH A WAITER, and I was too scared to return for a few months, but I’m pleased to say no snakes have been inside the restaurant since and I can happily return. Iroha is known for their spicy tuna burgers where the bun is made out of crispy rice – SO GOOD! But if you order that, make that the only thing you order because it is massive. Another important distinction is that Iroha happens to make my VERY FAVORITE SUSHI ROLL in the valley – the Sasha roll. It has creamy salmon, green onion, red onion, smelt eggs, and avocado, and no I will not share it with you. Other tasty things to order: the North West (spicy scallop wrapped in salmon), Pink Panther roll (shrimp tempura and avocado topped with albacore in ponzu sauce), crispy rice with ANYTHING (salmon, tuna, scallop, shrimp, you name it), sautéed asparagus with 5 kinds of mushrooms, yellowtail carpaccio with pink peppercorns, or frankly any sashimi whatsoever.
Shibuya: If you have several hours to kill waiting for a seat to open up in a desolate Calabasas parking lot while Kim and Kanye ALSO wait on a bench next to you, Shibuya is the place for you! No, but really. Shibuya has – I want to say – 5 tables and 12 seats at the bar. For a popular restaurant that is INSANE. On a typical Friday or Saturday night you could be quoted an hour and a half long wait which is absolute insanity BUT the food is soooooo worth it. Do not miss their pepper tuna nigiri, stuffed squid appetizer, Shibuya roll, giant spicy shrimp on a rice cake, or the warm seabass handroll. Mmmmm. I’d go get some now but I’m not in the mood to be judged by half the population of Calabasas High School because I’m not wearing a Gucci croptop.
Kushiyu: Fun fact: this is where Rami and I went on our first date! So whenever we come here I have warm fuzzy feelings because I think about how much I love him. LOLZ and also because I am super excited for delicious sushi. In addition to having amazing sushi, Kushiyu is also known for their kushiyaki – meat, fish, and veggies cooked on skewers on a little grill right in the middle of their restaurant. Kushiyu is also my favorite place to go for sushi by myself – I like to sit at the bar and talk to the sushi chefs because they’re all super friendly here. My favorite things to order: salmon sashimi with diced vegetables, “half and half” (half spicy tuna/half crab salad on a rice cake with avocado), ikipirikara (spicy grilled baby octopus), Chilean sea bass skewers, ground chicken/shrimp skewers, and the “Asian” roll (shrimp tempura with avocado and spicy tuna). Tip #1: you can walk in at lunchtime and there won’t be a wait but definitely make a reservation at dinnertime. Tip #2: act normally when you are seated next to Dave Grohl. Because you definitely will be seated next to Dave Grohl, that dude comes here like every day.
Sugarfish: If you come visit LA from out of town and you don’t go to Sugarfish, did you really even ever visit at all? Because Sugarfish is SO LA. I wish I didn’t like it as much as I do because it is a little soulless, a little manufactured, a little conveyer belt-y, but it’s freaking delicious and reliable and sometimes that’s just what a gal needs. I don’t need to tell you what to order because their menu does it for you – pick one of their 3 set menus (depending on how hungry you are), and go for it. Fun fact: Sugarfish is known for their warm, loosely packed rice under their nigiri so no need to dunk your sushi in soy sauce (and I say this as a true lover of soy sauce). Pro tip: add a scallop handroll to your order, IT IS DELICIOUS.
Sushi/Bar: OK, this one’s a splurge with a capital S, but SO WORTH IT, I promise. Sushi/Bar is an eight-seat sushi counter HIDDEN INSIDE A BAR. It’s like a speakeasy, with raw fish! The way this works is you buy a “ticket” in advance for $10, which reserves your spot at the counter (and then gets deducted from your bill – $110 per person with an optional wine or cocktail pairing for extra). There’s no ordering here – it’s a 17-course omakase meal (meaning “chef’s choice), and the coolest part is you aren’t eating traditional sushi. You’re eating things like yellowtail with sourdough breadcrumbs and lemon pudding, bluefin toro with bruleed brown sugar pineapple, escolar with jackfruit… it’s actually insane. Definitely a fantastic choice for a special occasion.
As you can see, I don’t live in the city anymore so my sushi-going is mostly limited to the val these days and these are the best of the best. That being said, I can vouch for excellent sushi at The Izakaya on 3rd Street, KazuNori, Hide on Sawtelle, Nozawa Bar, and Sushi Park.
Want any other restaurant recommendations for LA? Email me! I love steering people in the right direction. Life’s too short to eat bad food 🙂
All photos by me except #1, which is by @infatuation.