Opened in 1981, Sushi Gen is a Little Tokyo institution from chef Toshiaki Toyoshima. Every day, right before 11 a.m., a line forms out the door with people waiting to get in for the famed sashimi lunch special, one of the best dining values in L.A. After looking around at all of the tables, most people order the sashimi lunch special. The wait staff pretty much assumes you’ll order that special, which costs only $19.50 and comes with miso soup, a warm tofu dish, a big bowl of rice, and a large sashimi plate. Fish selection varies each day, but normally includes tuna, yellowtail, spicy tuna or toro, octopus, a mountain of kelp, and cooked fish. Tip: You can only get the lunch special at a table, not at the sushi bar.
Echigo is a hidden gem in a Westside strip mall that consistently delivers high quality sushi, but for much less compared to higher end sushi restaurants. Chef-Owner Toshi Kataoka opened Echigo in 2002. Prior to opening the restaurant, he worked at Sushi Spot in Tarzana for 10 years, which influenced his warm rice sushi style. Lunch is a great way to experience Echigo - it’s only $15 and includes five pieces of sushi and one blue crab roll. If you're still hungry, you can always order more. A must-order supplement is the monkfish liver, which chef Kataoka poaches in sake and tops with miso sauce, resulting in a texture that's like foie gras, not chalky like other places.
Ken Namba opened Kiriko on Sawtelle Avenue in 1999, after traveling to South America and Southeast Asia in the ’90s. Namba wanted to do something original, traditional and also modern - similar to sushi they prepare in Downtown Tokyo, which inspired him to open Kiriko. Lunch is a great time to visit and the Deluxe Jou Sushi Moriwase (meaning “assortment”) is highly recommended. For $24, expect seven pieces of sushi, one cut roll (spicy or regular tuna), miso soup and salad. Lunch items include the usual suspects like tuna and yellowtail, but there’s also the house-smoked salmon, which Namba smokes in a wok over low heat for five hours. Interesting factoid: Kiriko has the largest selection of silver fish in the country.
SUGARFISH is an ingenious concept that now spans ten locations across L.A. Kazunori Nozawa, the man behind the now-closed Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, revolutionized the sushi world with his “Trust Me” omakase-style menu. Fast forward to 2007, when he teamed on the first SUGARFISH in Marina Del Rey, bringing the Sushi Nozawa-style sushi to the masses while maintaining high quality at lower prices. There is no sushi bar, and chefs make all of the sushi in the kitchen. The Trust Me menu, which costs $27, works out to be the best value, because you get the tuna sashimi salad for "free" and the meal comes with an edamame starter, tuna sashimi in a ponzu sauce, six pieces of sushi and two hand rolls (toro and blue crab).
Named for the SUGARFISH founder, KazuNori opened in Downtown L.A. in August 2014 and since expanded to Westwood and Santa Monica. The first restaurant of its kind, the original KazuNori features a 22-seat bar and no tables. There's a single-page menu of freshly-made hand rolls - crispy nori (seaweed) is wrapped around warm rice and ingredients like salmon, bay scallop, lobster and of course Nozawa’s signature blue crab. Hand rolls and sashimi can be ordered a la carte while to-go combos feature cut rolls and sashimi. The best options are the set menus, ranging from the 3-Hand Roll for $11 to the 6-Hand Roll for $23.
Sushi Sushi is one of the most underrated sushi restaurants in L.A., discreetly located on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, just south of Urth Caffé. Sushi Sushi is very traditional and focused on preserving Japanese authenticity with its edomae-style sushi. The best time to visit is during lunch. Try the Premium Sushi Combo ($29), which comes with eight pieces of chef's choice sushi, aka “the good stuff.” Think uni, salmon roe, toro, scallop, one cut roll, and miso soup.
This is one of the best omakase values in L.A. Chef Taku studied under Kazunori Nozawa (of Sushi Nozawa) for years before opening up Sushi Spot in 1989 in Tarzana. The sushi is warm rice style and the omakase menu - which costs only $35 - is the recommendation here. The price is the same for lunch and dinner and comes with an appetizer, usually albacore sashimi and 14 pieces of sushi, potentially including stuffed squid with crab, and the biggest blue crab handroll. This is one sushi meal where you won’t leave hungry.
Shunji is a “fancy pants” sushi restaurant on the Westside opened by original Matsuhisa sushi chef Shunji Nakao in 2012. Don’t let the building throw you off, you want to eat there. Shunji Nakao’s omakase menu for dinner starts at $120, which can be steep for some. Sushi fans rejoiced when Shunji opened for lunch service in October 2013, offering the same Shunji experience for a fraction of the cost. There are three lunch menu specials - the middle option is a $40-menu that includes 12 pieces of chef’s choice sushi (sea robin, butterfish, seared medium toro, to name a few), one hand roll, and miso soup.
Q opened in fall 2013 in Downtown L.A. and is owned by the Los Angeles law firm of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan. It may seem odd that a bunch of lawyers decided to open up a sushi restaurant, but because they wanted a neighborhood spot walking distance from their office, they decided to go for it and hired sushi chef Hiroyuki “Hiro” Naruke from Japan to open the restaurant. Q is on the more expensive side, with dinner omakase starting at $165 for 20 courses. But now you can experience Q during lunch for a fraction of the dinner price. The $75, 10-course lunch might include baby squid with miso; fluke from Korea brushed with soy sauce; kohada (gizzard shad); and Santa Barbara uni. The focus is on the high quality sushi and ingredients. The soy sauce and other sauces are all made in-house, along with the pickled ginger. Make sure you have super clean hands while eating here - chef Hiro encourages you to use your fingers instead of chopsticks.
This is the speakeasy of sushi restaurants. Similar to how The Varnish operates in the back of Cole’s, Nozawa Bar - from the same team behind SUGARFISH - is tucked in the back of the Beverly Hills location. Service is available by reservation only, with one seating at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and two seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. You must arrive on time as they will not start the dinner unless everyone is present. The bar seats less than 15 people and is one of the most intimate dining experiences in L.A. Dinner costs $150 per person and includes 18-20 pieces of the more adventurous fish, plus dessert. It’s one of the more expensive sushi dinners, but it’s also one of the best values, considering the caliber of sushi, experience and quantity. You won’t leave hungry or disappointed.
Nozomi is located in a strip mall in Torrance and they’re known for their $16.80 lunch special: uni, ikura (salmon egg) and snow crab “don.” You definitely get your fill of uni if you’re an uni lover. They also have one of the better dinner omakase values - approximately $38, depending on the day and fish selection. It comes with 10 pieces of chef’s choice sushi, plus a negitoro cut roll. Each piece is served individually when it’s ready, and may include uni, seabream, toro, amberjack, and giant clam.
This sushi haven is located just off Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. You wouldn’t expect to find an authentic sushi experience on this stretch of the South Bay, which makes Sushi Chitose one of the best finds on this list. Sushi Chitose opened in 2010 and draws Redondo Beach regulars. The dinner omakase is $45 and includes 2 oysters, 14 pieces of edomae-style sushi such as engawa (halibut fin), shima aji (premium mackerel), red snapper with shiso and yuzu pepper, and ice cream for dessert.