Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sugarfish By Sushi Nozawa (Santa Monica)

When I compare and contrast the quality of food from coast to coast there are a few dishes that can be debated on, some you call even, and others where it is not even a question. When it comes to Sushi there is no doubt in my mind that the west coast reigns supreme. While there can be many different reasons why this is so I believe the proximity to its origin is the most germane.

One of the several restaurants that stick to its Japanese roots is Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa. The restaurant was founded by Kazunori Nozawa who retired earlier this year after 47 years of service. Nozawa began his tremendous career in Japan cleaning dishes and washing plates as he worked his way up the ladder. During his stay he spent a good deal of time traveling the vast regions of Japan learning to prepare different cuts of fish.

(Image via Yelp)

After opening up a restaurant in Tokyo with his family he moved to California to share this amazing cuisine. His first shop opened in Studio City and as his popularity grew Mr. Nozawa sprawled out to various other locations in the Los Angeles region. His retirement this past February was a blow to the culinary world and I for one am sad that I did not get to visit the Studio City location which closed shortly after.

On the Brightside his teachings were passed down and remain ingrained in the remaining restaurants, one of which I visited this past week. As I strolled down 2nd street on a cool Thursday afternoon I could not wait to experience a traditional sushi dinner. Once I arrived my eyes were dazzled by lovely fixtures which lined the walls.

Since the restaurant takes no reservations it is up to you to make the best judgment on when to go. I expected a mild wait on a Thursday night but was pleasantly surprised when I was told it would only take 10-15 minutes. Before I knew it we were being seated in a cozy little both with the menus right in front of us.

For those who are unaware of what traditional sushi is I can sum it up with one quick phrase, it’s all about fish. Most of us have been exposed to the Americanization of this Japanese delicacy with rolls filled with an abundant amount of different toppings which is then submerged in soy sauce. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that type of sushi I feel like it takes away from the true meaning and even masks the flavor of fish to a large extent.

(Salmon, Yellowtail, and Tuna Sashimi)

At this restaurant everything is about both the quality of the fish and rice. What makes it great is that Mr. Nozawa has designed the menu to be friendly to both experienced and novice eaters. For the latter you can choose one of three samplings of sushi which are called Trust Me, Trust Me/Lite, and The Nozawa. We decided to split the Nozawa which consists of organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore, salmon, snapper, yellowtail, halibut, a tono hand roll, blue crab hand roll, and the daily special which was seared scallops that day.   

Our meal began by nibbling on the edamame and sipping some cold sake. After a couple of minutes the plates began to come out. Once a plate was placed on our table the waiter would give a quick presentation of what the fish was and if it had any sauce on it. In the case of the latter it is advised that you do not add any soy sauce. Throughout the meal I used little to no soy sauce because I wanted to fully enjoy each cut of fish. I also ate a slice of ginger after each piece to refresh my pallet.

(Tono Hand Roll)

As our meal progressed I could not help but notice how each dish exceeded its predecessor.  It was as if Chef Nozawa designed the courses to resemble a roller-coaster of flavor. Each piece brought me to new heights and just when I would think the ride is over I would be blown away yet again. 

Overall I have nothing but great things to say about my experience here. The sushi is fantastic, it sticks to its traditional roots and it the price tag will not kill you. The servers were both reliable and informative and the ambiance was soothing. If you are in the area and in the mood for sushi I would recommend making this your destination. 

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