Tuna and tamago
I've been to Kiriko about ten times, and not once have they let me down. It's one of those rare restaurants where the service is always good, the tables aren't crammed together (except sometimes on a busy Saturday night), you can usually get a same-day reservation, and no matter what you order, it will be fresh and well-prepared.
Seared Wagyu beef sushi - $20 for 2 pieces (but worth it)
Kiriko is a small restaurant in the Olympic Collection building, that large yellow shopping and banquet center on the corner of Sawtelle and Olympic. The restaurant opens for dinner at 6:00 and recommends reservations. I've always made reservations to be on the safe side, but it seems like if you arrive early you'll be able to get in.
Shishito peppers, shiitake mushrooms and shaved bonito
The dining room is small and narrow, but not at all cramped. The tables are made of a sleek, shiny dark wood. Low lighting, but not too low, adds to the relaxing atmosphere. The service is always attentive, but can sometimes be slow. The servers are always very respectful and make sure to inform you about any dishes that are somewhat unusual when you order them. The daily specials and desserts are charmingly hand-written on fancy paper. I like that the specials are written down, so I don't have to recall a server's explanations or crane my head to find a dry erase board behind the sushi bar.
The prices are reasonable, too: the bill on one visit was an amazing $43 for 2 people with small appetites ordering many things, including some at market price. Of course, on another visit I managed to spend $63 on myself alone. For $75, you can try the omakase. They also have a great deal on a lunchtime omakase--twelve pieces of six kinds of nigiri for around $30.
Mango-wrapped smoked salmon
The smoked salmon is freshly smoked and bears no resemblance to the semi-translucent stuff you can buy at the grocery store. You shouldn't pass up this fish, even if you don't normally like salmon. The tamago is unusually cake-like: delightfully spongy, fluffy, and sweet, and tastes only faintly of egg. For those who say you can judge a sushi resetaurant by the quality of its tamago, Kiriko is thrilling. The tuna looks amazing, but I'm not really a tuna fan (with the exception of albacore and toro) so I can't give a meaningful opinion on it. Kiriko's fish is some of the best I've ever had, and it's always soft and fresh.
Albacore tataki salad with garlic ponzu sauce
Albacore salad is one of my standby favorites, and Kiriko's version does not disappoint. The albacore is fresh and generously cut. The amount of lettuce is just right--not excessive. While some albacore salads consist of lots of salad with a little albacore, this salad truly showcases the fish. The ponzu sauce is perfect, and sesame seeds are always a great garnish that increase depth of flavor while also looking a bit festive. Kiriko's garden salad is also excellent. It uses flavorful greens that taste like they are from Maggie's Farm topped with a succulent miso dressing.
Kiriko often has nice, fresh flowers on every table--not cheap carnations or craft store imitations. Sometimes they even have orchids.
Yellowtail (back left), halibut (front left), sea eel with salt (back right), toro (front right)
At Kiriko, your server will usually tell you whether a fish should have soy sauce or not, but never in a condescending way. Since sushi novices are prone to drowning everything in wasabi and soy sauce (I know I used to), it's never a bad idea to point out the best way to enjoy a particular fish. It shows that they really care about the food.
Sea eel with salt from Japan
Sea eel (also known as saltwater eel) is my one of my favorite kinds of sushi. Unfortunately, most sushi restaurants don't serve it. The funny thing about eel is that saltwater eel is the one that's actually served fresh. Freshwater eel is often vacuum packed, shipped over from Japan, heated in the toaster oven, and doused with eel sauce (which tastes identical to teriyaki sauce, to me). Sea eel is sometimes an off-menu item at Kiriko, so make sure to ask your server about it. They'll as you if you want eel sauce or sea salt on top. I recommend going with the sea salt to experience the full flavor of the fish.
Fresh salmon roe
Since the salmon roe were actually fresh, and not the usual salt-packed preserved kind, I decided to try them for the second time in my life. They were very liquidy and only had a faint salty taste. I didn't particularly enjoy them, but the popping and oozing is an interesting sensation if you've never tried it.
Yellowtail scallion roll
A yellowtail scallion roll for me is a familiar and tasty way to get a bit closer to full without blowing my budget. Kiriko gets the fish to rice ratio just right, and toasted sesame seeds on the outside add extra flavor.
A friend who doesn't share my love of sushi ordered the teriyaki chicken. The chicken was moist and tender, and the sauce was sweet without being sticky. Beneath the chicken hides a savory puree of golden sweet potatoes. As far as teriyaki chicken goes, Kiriko's version is above average in both flavor and presentation.
Brown sugar and ginger ice cream
For dessert, don't miss Kiriko's homemade ice creams. My favorite is the brown sugar and ginger, but I also love their honey vanilla with fresh berries. Sometimes they have special flavors like sweet potato or even truffle (the mushroom, not the chocolate.
I always have a wonderful experience at Kiriko--it's never overcrowded, noisy, or sub-par in any way. They've even made it onto Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential LA Restaurants list and into the Michelin Guide, so it may not be my favorite secret for much longer.
11301 Olympic Blvd #102
West Los Angeles, CA