SUGARFISH Beverly Hills
212 North Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 5/18/13
SUGARFISH, the streamlined sushi concept from Nozawa, has been rapidly expanding across LA since opening its first location in Marina Del Rey five years ago. This Beverly Hills location is the 6th in the chain (a 7th in Calabasas is already planned with rumors of a NYC project next year), though this one’s not quite like the others. This location is home to something called the Nozawa Bar, a reservation-only 10-seat sushi bar in the back of the restaurant serving an omakase-only menu of various sushi/sashimi. Whereas SUGARFISH focuses on more of the “typical” cuts of fish, the Nozawa Bar promises a more adventurous foray into sushi with its ~20 course meal. Another big difference is that the sushi is prepared right in front of the diner (like a typical sushi bar) rather than in the back (something all SUGARFISH locations share).
Lunch and dinner reservations are taken online only (here), at $130 and $150 per meal, respectively. Having never been to Nozawa I was excited to dine here, which seems like the closest thing still in existence (though, a completely different concept). This would also be my first true omakase sushi experience since returning from Japan late last year.
The dimly-lit, lounge-like feel of SUGARFISH carries over to the Beverly Hills branch. Nozawa Bar diners are walked to the rear private room, which yields a brighter-lit sushi bar (pictures are currently not allowed of the bar, chefs, or food preparation).
This sushi bar is helmed by a longtime friend of Nozawa-san, Osamu Fujita. Serious-looking at first, Fujita-san actually had a fun, sarcastic sense of humor and was very easy to talk to.
dungeness crab with seaweed
toro and octopus sashimi
squid with shiso leaf
scallop with yuzu ponzu
lobster hand roll
oysters with spicy cherry ponzu
monkfish liver mousse with white miso
geoduck with shiso and lemon
toro hand roll
lychee ice cream, fresh berries, hojicha
There wasn’t anything particularly unique about the variety of fish offered, but the quality was consistently high. My favorite was probably the cool, sweet uni; presentation and flavor-wise, I like it without seaweed wrapping. Bluefin toro was plentiful on this night; it was silky and fairly fatty, though I wouldn’t say it was an exceptional example of the cut. I thoroughly enjoyed the luscious golden-eye snapper, as well as the sweet king crab. The scallop, from Hokkaido, was another favorite with a touch of citrus, as was the clean, bright salmon roe. With the exception of a piece of shell in my lobster hand roll, all of the fish was very good.
Overall construction of the sushi, for me, was a bit of problem with loosely packed warm rice that barely held together. It was impossible to dip the sushi into the soy fish-side first (using chopsticks or fingers), and looking around, dropped rice seemed fairly commonplace around the bar. The most successful diners seemed to quickly bring the sushi to their mouth without dipping into the soy, or carefully and briefly dipping rice-side down before shoveling into their mouths. I really would’ve liked the chef to brush the fish with soy to make it a bit easier here; I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble eating sushi in my adult life.