Sushi is practically a religion in Los Angeles, where fresh-fish devotees worship at an array of sushi "temples." It's a staple for celebs and the cognoscenti alike. The city's proximity to the Pacific Rim assures access not only to the freshest and most exotic catches, but also to a steady stream of Japanese talent. The cult of the sushi chef is huge in LA, meaning that the most popular spots employ chefs who either trained in Japan or with highly regarded masters in the U.S. So you'll find plenty of purists on this list who don't mess around with trendy rolls. Some emphasize a kaiseki-style approach to multiple sushi courses, while others present omakase service. Adventurous eaters won't be disappointed in any of these five picks. Among them, you'll find everything from a no-frills spot in a strip mall to one of the most expensive restaurants on posh Rodeo Drive.
Set on Beverly Hills's Rodeo Drive, this celebrated sushi spot is undoubtedly a splurge. Chef Hiro Urasawa trained under famed sushi master Masa Takayama, and on any given night his elaborate kaiseki menu might include kobe-beef sashimi, Kagoshima beef shabu-shabu, toro topped with caviar, and sashimi draped over an ice sculpture.
This local chainlet is helmed by renowned sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa, who scours the fish market each morning for the best catch. He cleaves to a traditional philosophy and eschews fussy rolls. The omakase-style service includes sauce-soaked tuna sashimi and the blue crab hand roll, stuffed with warm rice.
Ensconced in a chili bowl-shaped space (it was a former chili restaurant), this superb sushi bar doles out an exquisite omakase. The selection varies depending on what's fresh at the fish market, but expect exotic species like needlefish and kohada. Fresh sesame tofu and outstanding sakes round out the experience.
Chef Niki Nakamaya stands out for her artful approach to kaiseki. She grows her own organic vegetables, and the dishes take your taste buds on a seasonal journey. The ever-changing menu might include blue crab with zucchini blossom and carrot sorbet or miso-marinated trout with asparagus, roasted tomato, and beet chip.
This strip-mall sushi spot may have spartan decor, but the purist omakase is filled with exceptional flavors that more than make up for the bland setting. Chef Kaizo Seki sources uncommon and distinctive cuts of fish, which are carefully paired with tasty sauces−ordering "on the side" is discouraged.