I'd heard of Sushi Nozawa in Studio City for many years, though I never had the chance to make it out there (mostly because I was scared Chef Nozawa was going to go ballistic on me). Perhaps my fears were unfounded, especially when I was invited to try the sushi at SugarFISH in Downtown. The third iteration of the casual sushi concept (the first one is in Marina Del Rey and the second was in Brentwood), SugarFISH Downtown is poised to be the hallmark location for the mini-chain.
Through my lunch with Lele, one of the partners of the operation who comes from a restaurant background, SugarFISH is possibly the most accessible the legendary sushi chef can be to the masses, where the quality of the master's handiwork isn't met with the diminutive output of the storefront in Studio City, nor the high price that normally goes with it.
Instead you can dine on sushi in 21st century manner: with a reliable waitstaff, table service, and admirable fish quality. Located only a short walk from the Financial District in Downtown, and a stone's throw from Bottega Louie and a burgeononing Historic Core, SugarFISH boasts a minimalist interior that looks larger than it really is. The feeling is absolutely urban without any of the pretention, with cars whizzing past along 7th Street and floor-to-ceiling windows revealing busy pedestrian traffic.
The meal starts with a small dish of tuna sashimi, which is sliced into large julienned pieces and tossed lightly with Nozawa's signature ponzu. The big-eye tuna (also called ahi) is impeccably fresh with the depth of the ponzu accentuating the fish. Next comes a lineup of nigiri-sushi starting with albacore, salmon, and snapper. In true Nozawa fashion the rice is warm and each piece of fish is laid out beautifully on a white porcelain platter. The balance between the seasoned rice and fish is nearly ideal. I'm almost in disbelief by how good the sushi is. Each fish shows its own unique character and silky texture.
Next comes halibut and yellowtail, decadent pieces that make me swoon. This is how sushi SHOULD be. We quickly get a toro hand roll, which features high-quality nori (seaweed laver) that demands instant consumption to preserve the characteristic crunch. Somehow I wish there could be a little bit more fish to rice ratio, but along with the lobster and crab handrolls which come subsequent to our custom meal, I'm not complaining. We also get a duo of the daily special - fresh scallop dabbed with a yuzu ponzu that's particular appropriate for the flavors. Finally, we end the meal with a bit of fatty tuna (center cut) that looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright motif - it's utter decadence and must-order if they have any available.
Of course no sushi meal feels complete without some uni, and SugarFISH's uni is as textbook as you could get - rich, luscious, briny, awesome.
I was told through the meal that SugarFISH is able to keep prices competitive because they train the kitchen staff to make sushi in a more expedited system. Nozawa still chooses all the fish for the restaurants, and each location goes through a rigorous system to ensure the quality is commensurate with an experience at Sushi Nozawa. I can't think of another sushi restaurant that comes close at this price point, for lunch or dinner. I'd estimate the cost between $30-40 per person, depending on which menu you get. I guess I have a go-to sushi spot that I can recommend to people. That was easy.
600 W 7th Street, Suite 150
( Corner of 7th & South Grand)
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213 627-3000
Mon-Sat 11:30 am - 10 pm
Sun 12 pm - 9 pm
Note: this meal was hosted.