Sugarfish is the successful series of sushi restaurants, associated with famed Los Angeles sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa. While it has commoditized in some ways the sushi experience, it has also served as a breath of fresh air in the Los Angeles dining scene. The restaurants, of which there are currently five (with more on the way), are elegant and sparse, manned by waiters (unlike typical sushi bars, the chefs are relegated to the kitchen) who preach a commercialized gospel of omakase, which in practice translates to three set-menu options of escalating size, with specific instructions on which dishes should not be eaten with soy sauce, plus a limited a la carte selection with daily off-the-menu specials.
Frankly, it’s surprising that a similar concept hadn’t already taken root in a city chock-full of sushi spots, izakayas, and ramen houses. What I appreciate about the Sugarfish restaurants is their consistency (at its particular price point) – of fish quality and of service namely. While it is neither the best sushi in town nor the cheapest, Sugarfish gives me, as LA critic Jonathan Gold puts it, “basically a fixed-course, fixed-price meal,” something that always felt amiss for sushi restaurants. On one end, getting omakase at LA’s finest sushi institutions can easily run into the hundreds of dollars, albeit for noticeably better fish; on the other, similarly- or lower-priced fare are not usually reliably delicious. Sugarfish is. Perhaps that is the greatest value-add from Chef Nozawa, who is involved in the fish-buying process for the restaurants.
My typical order is the “Trust Me,” which slightly pared down in quantity during lunch service. It goes as follows:
I also added an extra order of salmon sushi and another of albacore tuna belly, the off-menu special:
Trust Me set menu (go with the blue crab hand roll)