Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SUGARFISH: Quality Sushi, "Everyday Luxury"

Emmanuele (Lele) Massimini and his friends were avid fans of Sushi Nozawa and made the trek from Santa Monica to Studio City every week for Chef Kazunori Nozawa's sushi. When Chef Nozawa mentioned his concept of bringing his high quality sushi at a cheaper price to them, the SUGARFISH team was born.

Photo courtesy of SUGARFISH

Chef Nozawa and his team wants to cater to people who appreciate good sushi. Even when inviting bloggers like myself to their new downtown location, Lele made sure he was personally there when we were, so he could sit with us and explain their whole philosophy. Just like at Sushi Nozawa, this place is for people who love sushi (but don't have unlimited disposable income).

There are three tiers of set menu at SUGARFISH: Trust Me/Lite, Trust Me, and The Nozawa, priced at $19.50, $28.50, and $35-28 (The Nozawa changes depending on which fish is best at the market that morning.)  There are also a few a la carte selections, in case you weren't full.

Chef Nozawa personally selects the fish every morning and the set menu may change depending on which fish is the best in the market that morning. There is no sushi bar which helps them keep the cost (and prices) low.They bring out each customer's sushi as they're ready instead of waiting for the whole table to ensure freshness, which also meant the restaurants had to stay relatively small.

 Small but sleek.

Each meal starts with edamame and tuna sashimi in ponzu sauce, followed by plates of nigiri which usually come 3x2 at a time. We had The Nozawa, which followed the edamame and tuna sashimi with 6x2-pc of nigiri sushi (which includes a daily special) and two hand rolls (toro and crab). With each plate of sushi, we became more and more impressed with the freshness of the fish and the sushi. They certainly take their sushi seriously.

You can expect albacore with house made ponzu, or salmon garnished with sesame seeds, creating a wonderful texture combination. The nigiri sushi is built using Nozawa's signature warm and loosely packed rice, which easily falls apart in your mouth to create a melt-in-your-mouth feel. Eat immediately so you do not waste the freshness of the fish. The special of the night was large scallops with yuzu ponzu.

The hand rolls at SUGARFISH are even more sensitive. They use a special seaweed that is crisp when you bite into it, but it gets soggy fast and must be eaten within 90 seconds (which also meant I didn't have time to take a photo. Luckily SUGARFISH offered their professional photos for me to use!)
 Toro handroll. Photo courtesy of SUGARFISH.

Although we were satisfied with The Nozawa menu, we also wanted to try two specials they had that night: albacore belly and uni. I love toro and hamachi belly but never really had albacore belly before and it did not disappoint.
Albacore Belly sushi

Why is it that we love fatty food that melts in our mouths so much?

Apparently the best uni in the world, at least according to Chef Nozawa, is from neighboring Catalina Island. Chef Nozawa always gets his uni from a particular diver, who doesn't go out to sea when it rains. Bottom line: if they have it when you're there, try it.

Let me do the easy math for you. With this quality of sushi, the cheapest nigiri you can find at other places are around $6 (that'd be salmon). The Nozawa is equivalent to more than 6 orders + 2 hand rolls, which would've been at least $48 not counting the tuna sashimi and the fact that toro hand roll, scallop, and halibut would've been more. At SUGARFISH, you would pay at most $38. If you know of a better deal in town with sushi this good, I'm all ears.

SUGARFISH (Downtown)
600 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 627-3000
SUGARFISH Downtown Los Angeles on Urbanspoon
Sugarfish in Los Angeles on Fooddigger



how interesting about the catalina diver! i thought lele told me everything!

Happy walker
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