Last week, I received an invitation to try out SugarFISH’s newest location. Monday night found me wandering into Downtown LA, a place I usually avoid thanks to traffic. I brought my friend, D, along to keep me company.
SugarFISH first opened in Marina Del Rey mid-2008. Started by a group of sushi lovers in conjunction with Chef Kazunori Nozawa, better known as the “Sushi Nazi” of LA, SugarFISH’s goal is to bring Nozawa’s Tokyo omakase style of this delicacy to the masses at affordable prices. Given its quick expansion into Brentwood in 2009, DTLA now and a Santa Monica location scheduled to open in Jan 2011, SugarFISH is succeeding.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and seated in a booth. Shortly after, Emanuele “Lele” Massimini, the man in charge of restaurant management, sat down to dine with us and answer any questions we had about the menu and the restaurant. From the get-go, we could tell that Lele had a passion for quality sushi, for Chef Nozawa’s sushi.
He started us off with the Nozawa set. Priced between $35-38, this is the largest and most expensive of the three sets offered on the dinner menu. Enough to satisfy my hunger, this set consisted of
- Organic Edamame
- Tuna Sashimi (Big Eye)
- Albacore Sushi (2-pc)
- Salmon Sushi (2-pc)
- Snapper Sushi (2-pc)
- Yellowtail Sushi (2-pc)
- Halibut Sushi (2-pc)
- Toro Hand Roll
- Crab Hand Roll
- “Daily Special” (2-pc) (that night was unagi)
We were also treated to large scallop nigiri (a must, in my opinion), oyster sashimi, salmon egg nigiri, amaebi, Nozawa shrimp nigiri, halibut fin sashimi and uni. I’m not a fan of uni but I would order it here. Nori is added to provide a crunchy balance to the super soft uni. And the halibut fin sashimi was a new experience for me. It had a little bit of crunch, almost cartilage-like, something unexpected from a cut of fish. Soaked in yuzu ponzu, this was delicious.
Having never eaten Chef Nozawa’s sushi, I was surprised to find that the rice was warm. Lele explained that it was prepared in small batches every 20 minutes and seasoned with Nozawa’s house-made vinegar. What was even more surprising was how much better the nigiri tasted because of warm rice. And the vinegar…out of this world. Also, the rice was not densely packed but it didn’t fall apart on me like I was worried it would.
The fish…. I’ve had good fish before, or at least I thought I did till SugarFISH. What they serve is the same as what Nozawa dishes out in his Studio City restaurant but at half the price; the chef himself goes to the market daily and selects the fish. If it doesn’t meet his standards, well, you won’t be able to get it that day. Every piece melted in my mouth. I have to note that the albacore was NOT seared, a first for me. Lele told us that the kitchen did not have a stove or a fryer (no deep fried shrimp heads for you amaebi lovers).
Much of the nigiri was seasoned with house-made ponzu sauces (the yuzu ponzu is amazing) and Lele was adamant that those pieces not be dipped in soy sauce. All food at SugarFISH is prepared to Chef Nozawa’s specifications so you can expect some “suggestions” to come with your sushi. Already sauced pieces should be enjoyed as is. Hand rolls, made with high quality nori, should be consumed within 90 seconds of being delivered to the table else the nori become soggy from moisture.
SugarFISH really isn’t like any other sushi restaurant I’ve been to. There’s no bar to sit at, no chef to watch. The simple menu and pre-selected sets makes ordering easy. A 16% gratuity is automatically added to the bill so you don’t have to sit there and break out the calculator app on your iPhone. Everything about the dining experience at SugarFISH is geared towards making things simple and focusing the diner on the food. And what wonderful sushi it is at a price that won’t break your bank account. I don’t think you could find better sushi for the cost…
While some folks may be put off by being told how to eat their food, this is one case where you should listen. At least at SugarFISH, you won’t have to worry about being kicked out if you don’t follow the “rules”, but you’ll miss out on enlightenment via sushi. As Chef Nozawa says, “Don’t think, just eat”.
SugarFISH gets 5 NOMs from the cat.
SugarFISH Downtown Los Angeles
600 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Other locations in Marina Del Rey, Brentwood.
Coming soon to Santa Monica