Restaurant Review #26: Sushi House, West LA

Sushi House seemed like a promising-ish hole in the wall on Pico just east of the 10, next to Bombay Cafe and across from Chan Dara. On a Friday night at 8, the tiny space was almost completely full of jovial Asahi-sipping patrons. Since the joint was crowded, I kept my hopes up, but everything else pointed towards impending disappointment: excessively loud reggae music, ungodly mounds of bright pink ginger and bright green wasabi, and an overall yellowy dinginess that made it seem as if people should be smoking and definitely would have sent me fleeing had it not been for my obligation to the group I was meeting.

Our group of five had three tables pushed together for us by around 8:30. 3 of us had to face the wall, and we were quite crammed together. Future diners seeking a table stood about a foot away from us in the doorway, over which hung a crumpled paper spider. The walls were in a poor, crumbly condition, which was kind of a turnoff, but this was a hole in the wall place, after all, so I could deal. Clumps of ugly framed paintings, or worse, reproductions of bad paintings, festered across the wall.

When I ordered a sake, I naturally assumed I would get water, too, but I had to ask for it separately when my sake, and everyone else's water, arrived. In leiu of glasses, Sushi House likes to use mismatched brightly screaming plastic cups with hot pink straws. This might have been charming in the right restaurant, maybe, but it seemed too lacksadaisical here. I don't think anyone's water was refilled at any point. My sake was bordering on bad, though not as bad as the really bad stuff in my fridge at home. By bad, I mean it had that kind of repugnant alcohol taste that makes you want to squinch up your face and pucker your mouth. Like Popov vodka.

Since I wasn't hungry at all (I blame this on Entemann's for making such a damn good cream cheese coffee cake), and I was skeptical of the restaurant's ability to deliver edible sushi, I simply marked down one order of hamachi nigiri. The fact that the menu was crumpled and dirty with...dirt??? didn't exactly entice me to order more. In lieu of photos or descriptions, the diagrams of the house rolls were drawn in colored pencil with lines labelling the ingredients on the inside, like a biology diagram. Sushi was never meant to be dissected.

Surprisingly, the hamachi was pretty amazing, and generously cut. Had I been hungrier, I would have orderd more as sashimi. The rice wasn't particularly good, though--it wasn't vineagery enough, making it kind of dry and tasteless. Others at our table ordered various rolls, along with hamachi, tuna, albacore, and salmon nigiri. I got to try the albacore, which was a little too seared and had chili sauce on it. It tasted too much like tuna in a can, and the chili sauce wasn't a match at all. Does chili sauce belong on any kind of raw fish? I think not.

The spicy tuna roll was gloppy with mayo. I ate part of the inside. Mmm, slimy. All of the rolls were sloppily presented in a way that indicated that some thought had been given to presentation, but not enough. The effect was worse than if the maki had just been laid out in neat rows. Instead, they were lumped on top of each other like piles of small hippos. And the rolls with clunky cucumber wrappers in the place of seaweed were unwrapping themselves. The lab specimen sushi ingredients were probably trying to escape to a better restaurant.

No one ever came to take away our empty plates, except by accident when we were paying the bill. The bill, by the way, didn't list individual orders, but simply a total, leaving everyone to guess how much they owed. No one was paying enough attention to our table to notice that it was time to bring the check. No one ever asked how our food was. The diner to my left said that Sushi House was his favorite sushi restaurant, or perhaps Sushi King (which I haven't had the greatest experiences with, either). I'm not sure I value his opinion at all, since he was laying pieces of ginger over his nigiri. At the risk of sounding like the ditzy blonde valley girl I am not, Hello! The purpose of ginger is to cleanse the palate between different kinds of sushi, which means that, in essence, it cancels out the flavor of sushi. I hate to be snobbish about my food, especially since I was eating my sushi in bites and pulling it off the rice. But I really can't take people who put ginger on their sushi.

It was nice to eat at a non-stuffy sushi restaurant. I felt comfortable enjoying my fish as I saw fit, and didn't have any worries about offending any chefs, and the hamachi was great. But I can get unstuffy without an atmosphere that borders on trashy. Overall, the restaurant is simply sloppily and lazily run. Dive bar sushi is definitely not for me, and I won't be going back to this place.

Sushi House
(310) 479-1507
12013 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064


Anonymous said...

"Does chili sauce belong on any kind of raw fish? I think not."

Most spicy tuna rolls are, among other things, just that: raw fish and chili sauce.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more. I love Sushi House. I love the waiters, the chefs, the owner/greeter guy who knows me by name. I love the fact that it's tiny, that way there's hardly ever a wait, only locals stop by and really, the sushi is quite fantastic. I won't call myself a sushi coniseiur, but I do love sushi and eat it regularly and have for many years at many different locations around the world. I'd be lying if I aid this was the best sushi I've ever had, but it's definitely up there.

I think your first mistake was coming with a large group. It's best suited for single diners or couples. Or more mellow large groups that aren't going to get bent out of shape if things aren't just so. It's a very quaint restaurant. If you wanted more water, you simply ask and they are very quick to oblige.

The sushi+reggae is the best part of all. I love the fact that I can relax in a comfortable place, eat good food and listen to good music. The people that run the place are very lax, yes, but they aren't lazy nor are they slobs. They're just plain, cool.

The sushi is out of this world. I highly recommend the Tuna Tuna Tuna roll, the albacore sashimi and the yellowtail. I do admit that there salads are a little funky but who goes to a sushi bar for salad? They have a decent variety of sake and beer. Their sushi menu is incredible and quite creative. They have many house specialties and I always try something new. I think that they have a very fresh tasting variety of fish and the chefs are good at what they do. I highly recommend Sushi House.

Anonymous said...

The sushi is good here. The service was strange. After I arrived at the sushi bar and chose a seat for myself and a friend, I was asked to move to a table because a group that came later wanted my spot.