422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/6/12 and 4/11/12
Sushi Gen is one of Little Tokyo’s most popular restaurants (4.5 stars on Yelp with 1500 reviews is a good indication), seemingly always having people waiting outside. It’s probably one of my favorites too, and one of the first restaurants I remember dining at in LA. I’ve been back many times so a post is long overdue.
To me, Sushi Gen offers two pretty distinct experiences. One is at the sushi bar, where diners sit in front of the sushi chefs and the menu is pretty much sashimi/sushi-only. The other, and seemingly more popular option, is to sit in the dining room where sushi is available, as well as a variety of composed cold and hot plates. While my best meals have been at the sushi bar, dining at the tables presents much more variety and value since there are a number of combination plates that provide more bang for the buck.
Recently I dropped in for lunch at the sushi bar (the wait for a table was 45 mins. even though there was immediate availability at the bar), and came back for dinner a few days later for dinner (in the dining room).
Salmon and Yellowtail
Beautiful. We started with two good pieces, soft and tender with clean flavors.
The fish was slightly warm and slightly chewy, complemented by some light acidity.
As expected, this was soft and silky with a fatty melt-in-mouth texture. Always a highlight.
This was one of the highlights too – it was very soft and delicate, and the yuzu kosho topping was exactly what I was looking for. We enjoyed these so much that we ended up getting another order.
In between sushi courses, we also ordered this dish of monkfish liver. Creamy and rich with a clean sea flavor, it was a pretty good example. Subtle heat and acid complemented the rich liver.
Frequently one of my favorites, the sweet shrimp here was succulent and sweet with a great snap to it. The shrimp heads came either fried or in soup; I opted for the latter. I liked the shellfish flavor it imparted into the soup.
This giant clam was chewy, sweet and not at all fishy. A little bit of yuzu kosho was a zesty accompaniment.
I loved the deep red color of this tuna; it was tender with a good flavor.
Onion, soy, and a light citrus (ponzu?) topped these soft pieces of albacore.
The crisp, sharp flavor of the raw onion countered and fatty fish with a little bit of ginger coming through too.
Tender with a sweet sauce, I liked the delicate texture and nuttiness that the sesame seeds offered.
The sushi was quite good; in fact, better than I had remembered it to be. Totally better than the stuff sold down the street at equally-popular Komasa. The fish were cut a little bit thicker and wider than what I typically see, and this helped to create some great meaty bites. The price wasn’t bad at all either, coming in just over $50pp after tax. Makes for a pretty guilt free lunch too, health-wise.
Sushi Gen doesn’t have much in the way of dessert, but I’ve got the perfect after-lunch sweet/drink. Mikawaya’s mochi is a good bet, but I prefer this:
(Boba) Milk Tea
Yay! Half a block down, Ozero makes some good milk tea. There’s a pretty extensive menu, but I’ve stayed within a very narrow range of a few different milk teas (black, green, oolong). My favorite is easily the regular (black) milk tea without boba, on the right.
A few days later my aunt, uncle and cousin were in town and they always come here. We opted for a table in the dining room since it offers a more varied menu. Unique to the dining room, a bunch of combinations are offered from sushi/sashimi to more standard fare like steak, chicken and salmon teriyaki. The combinations come with miso soup and sunomono, and a choice of sashimi or tempura.
Chicken teriyaki isn’t the most unique dish here, but they do it pretty well. A generous piece of dark meat is seared to get a crispy skin (that’s key!), while the teriyaki was a welcome addition, not being overly sweet or thick.
The tempura was done pretty well too; the batter was fairly light and fried well. I think there were two shrimp, sweet potato, a carrot and a couple other vegetables.
Like the chicken, the salmon teriyaki is pretty good as far as salmon teriyaki goes. I don’t think this dish has been cooked as consistently as the chicken though, sometimes being a bit overcooked.
On this occasion I went with the sashimi dinner. There are a few cooked preparations to go along with the sashimi and there’s a lot of variety on this plate. I could make out squid, cooked tuna, spicy tuna, raw tuna, yellowtail, crab, albacore, cooked salmon, and chopped tuna with green onion. The quality of fish in this dinner combination is definitely a notch or two below what’s at the sushi bar, but it’s good enough considering the $26 price tag (which includes the tempura).
Sushi Gen is ultimately a very satisfying restaurant for both those that want a higher-end sushi experience and also a pretty good value play for some good Japanese food. Even the sushi is relatively reasonable for the quality; I think one could go all out and still spend less than $100. Sometimes I’ll find a middle ground and order sushi to supplement one of the combinations, but for some reason the sushi just doesn’t taste the same when it’s brought to the table.
I have definitive favorites when it comes to Japanese food in Little Tokyo. Daikokuya and Shin-Sen-Gumi for ramen, Fat Spoon for curry, and Hama and Sushi Gen are tied atop for sushi. Given the fact that Gen offers much more than Hama in terms of cooked dishes (Hama is a sushi bar only), Sushi Gen might be the restaurant I recommend most often in Little Tokyo.