SUGARFISH by Sushi Nozawa

Sugarfish has been on my radar for a while but I never got around to trying it.  I was reminded of this by the many recent blogger posts on the new Sugarfish that recently opened in Downtown LA.  So I feel like a bit of a bandwagoner with this, but perhaps I can stand apart because I did not dine in Downtown, but rather Marina Del Rey at the original Sugarfish.   My dining companions for the evening, Miss Rheeee and Me So Hairy! decided on this more central location.

Sugarfish is an offshoot of Kazunori Nozawa’s original and more traditional sushi restaurant in Studio City, Sushi Nozawa.  His mission at Sugarfish is to provide similarly high quality sushi, but at an affordable price by cutting out the sushi bar, and streamlining service.   At both locales, Chef Nozawa aka “Sushi Nazi” serves his infamous “Trust Me” style of sushi, where we, as diners, basically trust that he is going to serve you the best damn sushi without the frills and distraction of fancy sauces, rolls, or fusion flavors.   Also, Chef Nozawa hand picks the sushi to be served in all his restaurants, so the quality is consistent throughout.

In addition to ordering a la carte, you have the option of 3 pre-set menus: The Nozawa ($35-$38), Trust Me ($28.50), andTrust Me/Lite ($19.50).  As most diners go with the pre-set menus, we all opted for the “Trust Me” while I added an order of the “Daily Special” which happened to be large scallop.

The most notable thing about the sushi here, aside from the fresh high quality fish, is the rice.  It’s served pretty warm.  While I have experienced the “warm sushi rice” style at Sushi Sasabune and found it utterly unappetizing, I thoroughly enjoyed it here.   The main difference was that the fish didn’t taste like it was being cooked while sitting atop the rice.  The contrast of the chilled fish and the warm rice made for a nice little party in my mouth!   The rice was also seasoned deliciously.  Probably the tastiest sushi rice I’ve had.

Organic Edamame

Edamame isn’t something terrible special, but this version was pretty good.  It was chilled, perfectly salted, and with each little bean soft and substantial.

Tuna Sashimi big eye

The fish was fresh and perfectly complimented by the home made ponzu and sprinkling of green onions.  I can’t pinpoint what was so special about the ponzu, but it was very tasty and I really wanted to get every last drop in my mouth.

Albacore Sushi

The flavor of the albacore was perfectly enhanced by the homemade ponzu and scallions.  The ponzu made its appearance in many of the sushi pieces through the night, and I never tired of its savory and acidic notes.

Salmon Sushi

The salmon was luscious and fatty.  I loved the addition of toasted sesame seeds.  It provided an earthy nutty goodness.  

Yellowtail Sushi

The usual yellowtail flavor was somewhat subdued here, which I found a bit surprising.  Nonetheless, I still appreciated the subtle taste.

Large Scallop Sushi

I’ve been trying to step outside my sushi comfort zone these days by trying some of the less common cuts of sushi.  In doing so, I’ve discovered a love for Spanish mackerel and an indifference to giant clam as well as large scallop.  I could have sworn that I had large scallop before and really enjoyed it.  This version was a bit on the slimier side, but did have an enjoyable sweetness about it.   I could have done without this and still been perfectly happy with the other sushi.

Halibut Sushi

Me So Hairy! noticed that the halibut had its own unique sweetness about it.  I really liked it and found that the ponzu made the fish taste more complex.

Toro Hand Roll

The rolls were the highlight of menu.  The seaweed single handedly elevated the the flavor profile of the rolls.  I’ve definitely had seaweed before, but this was crispy, toasty, and brought such a unique and rich depth.  The combination of the rice and seaweed almost outshined the toro, which had such a light flavor that was difficult to appreciate if I didn’t pause to think about what I was stuffing into my piehole.

Crab Hand Roll

This may have been my favorite part of the menu.  The crab was so sweet and fresh and actually stood strong against the delicious rice and seaweed.  I’m pretty sure there was some sort of mayo with the crab, but it was so subtle, just the way I like it.  I hate overly mayo-ed or creamed foods.  I wish I could have had 3 of these!

It’s safe to say that I was completely impressed.  A place like this makes me appreciate simplicity.   Chef Nozawa focuses on the perfection of just 4 elements: ponzu, seaweed, rice, and fish.  He is able to showcase the sushi as the star of the meal.  You won’t see any rolls here, and you won’t want to see any rolls here.  You will be perfectly satisfied and glad that you “trusted” Nozawa.   For this price point, I think most diners will be pretty happy.  Big eaters will probably want to go with “The Nozawa” and maybe even supplement with some a la carte items.   I can’t say I’ve been anywhere else that was outstanding in those 4 elements.  Then again, I haven’t been to many of the big fancy sushi places in LA like Sushi Zo, Urasawa, Sushi Sushi, or Matsuhisa.   One day, I’ll find myself at those places but for now, Sugarfish is definitely going become one of my go to places for sushi.  Me So Hairy! was so pleased that he plans to bring his “foodie club” friends from work (aka “The Neglected Bastard Child of County”) back here to dine.

SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa

4722 1/4 Admiralty Way

Marina del Rey, CA 90292

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