Say goodbye to mayonnaise-drenched California rolls and hello to authentic sushi in these Downtown LA (DTLA) restaurants! While there’s nothing wrong with California rolls – we love them when these are done right – we also think that it’s high time more people appreciate the freshness of raw fish.
There’s also the fact that Downtown Los Angeles is home to diverse sushi places, from the classic omasake restaurants to the experimental kaiseki places where fusion cuisine comes to fruition. Just go around Downtown, especially Little Tokyo, and you will likely find one or two sushi places that will meet your taste and budget. And, there are a few hidden boutique spot near the Arts District, LA Live, and the Staples Center.
Here are five that we think are always worth the visit, even if you have to splurge a few more dollars for the experience.
(521 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles 90014)
Chef Hiroyuki Naruke’s attention to detail can border on the obsessive but it’s something we appreciate because his omakase sushi is unparalleled! He works in such a way that it’s nearly hypnotic to watch him delicately – and precisely, if we may add – slice seafood, place it on seasoned rice, and top it with garnishes if any. He usually makes 15-plus courses, wide enough to satisfy the diners’ cravings but small enough that there’s little risk of becoming confused.
Keep in mind that Q Sushi has an exclusive air about it, and we’re not surprised since it’s a 26-seat restaurant with an intimate vibe. Diners are treated to classical violin music as soon as they walk in, a feeling of being ushered into another world where reverence for food is a must.
The sushi rice here isn’t seasoned with sugar, a common practice in many sushi restaurants. Instead, Chef Hiroyuki only uses red vinegar and salt to achieve a delicate balance.
We also like that the little details are given importance at Q! For example, wasabi has glaze on top and bite-sized sushi is complemented either by delicate soy or a hint of miso. Nothing’s too small to be overlooked at Q, a great spot for lunch during the weekdays.
View this post on Instagram
Congratulations to one of our very favorites, Q Sushi ? and Chef Hiroyuki Naruke for being awarded a coveted Michelin Star ⭐️ Truly one of the most memorable & delicious 20 piece omakase dinners we have ever had. ? #lafoodie #dtla #qsushi #michelinstar #sushi #omakase #delicious #yum #instafoodie #toro #fattytoro #wasabi #downtownla #chefhiro @michelinguide
Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa
(600 W 7th St., Los Angeles 90017)
Created by Sushi Nozawa Group, most notably by Kazunori and Tom Nozawa, Sugarfish continues Kazunori’s philosophy of serving only trendy traditional-style sushi with an exclusive focus on omakase (i.e., leave it to the chef). Diners usually choose from just four to seven traditional courses although there are several ala carte choices offered on most days.
We love that the rice is always warm, fluffy and loosely packed while the fish always has a creamy, soft and fresh mouth-feel. The nigiri, which is served in bite-sized portions, is enough to make you feel full after a while but not too full that you won’t enjoy the curated menu.
The secret behind Sugarfish’s success is in the quality of the fish, the star of every sushi served here. The fish is always prepared and served in ways that highlight its appearance, flavors, and textures so there are no unnecessary ingredients and garnishes.
The omakase-style is also useful in lessening the diners’ confusion about the best sushi to enjoy for the meal, as well as improves food quality. Many diners also say that the focus on omakase means there’s a wider diversity of fish consumed at Sugarfish than in other sushi places.
(334 S Main St, Los Angeles 90013)
$160 omakase! Yes, it’s among the most expensive sushi experiences in Los Angeles but when you’re paying for Michelin-level quality, then it is money worth spending. We highly suggest ordering the wild sockeye salmon, a creamy fish with a melt-in-your-mouth texture; ponzu-dressed oyster; and baby abalone.
The Sushi Zo menu features many classics but there are also surprises in it that frequent diners will find exciting. Plus, we love that its ingredients are sourced from many countries so it feels like you’ve toured the world through your tongue. We’ve tasted abalone from Monterey, oysters from Washington, and toro (i.e., the fatty part of the tuna’s belly) from Australia.
Keep in mind that Sushi Zo exclusively serves an omakase menu but it’s a dining experience in itself so let the chefs do their work. Besides, the chefs treat each dish as a work of art so much so that it feels like a shame to actually dig in and destroy it.
Sushi Zo’s décor isn’t exactly fine dining but, again, you’re here for the stellar sushi. Bring your family and friends and see what the fuss is all about on social media!
Hama Sushi – Little Tokyo
(347 E 2nd St, Los Angeles 90012)
Plastered on the door of Hama Sushi is a handwritten sign stating that it’s sushi only place – tempura, noodles, and teriyaki aren’t available here. While it may be unconventional, it’s a tactic that works!
The best raw fish outside of Tokyo can be found here so the sushi-only policy makes perfect sense. Even if you aren’t into raw fish sushi before, you will agree that Hama Sushi makes them so delicious you’re not looking back.
We suggest eating at the horseshoe-shaped bar – there may be a half-hour wait because it’s that popular – and watching the chef at work. You will notice that the place isn’t fussy or fancy but you’re here for the equally straightforward but delicious food.
While waiting for your order, you can enjoy the refreshingly light appetizers, usually a salad of pickled cucumbers, seaweed, and sesame seeds. The menu features dishes like monkfish liver, nigiri, kanpanchi, sashimi platters, albacore belly, and yellowtail sushi, among others.
Many of the fish, such as the red snapper, are served with little garnishing – a brush of salt and a squeeze of lemon is enough to bring out their distinctive flavor. Orange slices can be ordered for dessert and it’s a choice that makes sense since the citrusy flavor cleanses the palate.
Sushi Gen Restaurant
(422 E 2nd St, Los Angeles 90012)
Ask sushi aficionados in Los Angeles about the sushi place they have grown up, so to speak, with and they will likely say Sushi Gen Restaurant! Yes, it’s been around for more than 30 years and it has become such a sushi institution that foodies from around the country have flocked to it. Proof: Come on any given day or night and see the lines snaking down the block as soon as service starts.
Sushi Gen Restaurant offers a diverse range of fish, from trout, tuna, and yellowtail to eel, squid, and scallops. Be sure to sit at the bar, especially if you want to see the chefs at work because it’s the best place to choose from a stellar selection of ebi and toro.
The best dish to order here is the sashimi special, which costs about $17 at lunch and $23 at dinner. Your platter will come with generous cuts of yellowtail, tuna, salmon, squid, toro, and three varieties of chopped fish, as well as a bowl of miso soup, broiled fish, soft tofu, and cucumber salad. But you have to order it inside the dining room, not at the bar.
Indeed, we love the City of Los Angeles not only because it’s the entertainment capital of the country but also because it’s such a great place to be a sushi aficionado!
View this post on Instagram
DTLA's essential. Love this place so much for an authentic comfort feel and freshest sashimi platter. ???? ?sushi gen little tokyo ?38 #eeeeeats #infatuationla #discoverla #dinela #dtla #eater #sushi #sashimi #sushigen #toro #tuna #yellowtail #fattytuna #fish #raw #abc7eyewitness #foodie #sushilover #rawfish #bluefintuna
Los Angeles (Southern California) is a Foodie’s paradise and a great nightlife destination (esp. Wilshire, Olvera Street, Spring Street, Pershing Square, Grand Central Market, Fashion District, Union Station) There is an endless list of amazing eateries, that contain cuisine from virtually all backgrounds. If you want to experience some of the best cooking in the world, and or impress your date it won’t be hard, just visit any of these great LA metro cities like Beverly Hills, Hollywood, West LA, Chinatown, and Downtown LA.
Plus, there are plenty of great pop-up spots around Los Angeles. Pop-up restaurants, also called supper clubs, are temporary restaurants. These restaurants often operate from a private home, former factory or similar space, and during festivals.
You might like these 7 Best “All You Can Eat” Sushi Spots in Los Angeles