Let that not mean it was easy going. It’s on the third floor of the Little Tokyo Market, a fairly large edifice on the corner of 4th and Alameda. I hesitantly walked into the mall from the Alameda street back entrance: past the massive grocery store, past the frozen yogurt shop, past the karaoke place, back to the frozen yogurt shop to ask the friendly server inside if I was even in the right place, and then, affirmation in hand, past the aikido and judo studio upstairs, until...there it was...luminescent sign, fish on the doorway and all.
Irrashaimase! We enter the tiny space, with about 8-10 tables tucked into it. Everything is casual, warm, and welcoming. We choose to sit at the bar which is half empty this particular Wednesday night, (perhaps people were still attached to their TVs digesting the inevitable analyses of the State of the Union) because it offered more privacy than being stuck at a middle table barely a foot away from our fellow diners.
Libations: We order green tea, which is refilled diligently throughout dinner. Sake, shochu and beer are on the menu as well.
Flip through the menu and you will see that each contains handwritten add-ins on specials. Charming, I thought, because they are obviously written by different people in different marker hues.
True to their word, there are no newfangled fancy roll platters or such on the menu. For my party of two, we order some salmon nigiri (a personal must for me at Japanese restaurants), some kumamoto oysters, a nigiri take dinner (8 pieces of assorted nigiri, 3 pieces of cucumber maki and 3 pieces of tuna maki), and the nasu hasamiage (stuffed eggplant all tempura-ed up). As soon as the order if placed, we notice ‘Japanese chillies’ scrawled on the specials board in addition to the menu, and summon our server back to ask if they mean shishito peppers. “Do you read katakana?” she asks, astonished, as the actual word, ‘shishito,’ was only written in katakana on the board. We don’t but we’re great at hoping and assuming, we inform her. We’re in luck: they do mean shishito peppers. One order please.
The sushi is handed over across the bar by the smiling chef. Speaking of, there is one smiling chef and his grim looking sous-chef who does occasionally burst into a jolly trot toward the freezer or a surprisingly cheery smile. The rest of the food is delivered from the kitchen.
Now here’s what I have to say:
For a place that focuses emphatically on the quality of the fish, it was surprisingly unexceptional: the salmon was decent (then again, I have a tendency to forgive salmon even if it isn’t superlative), and the rest of the assortment in the nigiri take dinner was strictly so-so. The shishito peppers were delicious, grilled well, and topped with bonito flakes. Squirt some lemon on them, and you’re good to go. The kumamoto oysters: exemplary. I placed an order for the hama hama oysters, fleshier and larger than the kumamoto that they have on the menu as well, which turn out to be the same. Scrumptious. The nasu hasamiage was crunchy and went down well, but had no memorable taste to speak of.
Summarily then, go to Sushi Go 55 for their oysters, shishito peppers, and perhaps their other menu offerings, but if you’re a stickler for excellent sushi like I am, walk down the block and try another spot in Little Tokyo. Unless you order everything à la carte or place multiple orders of oysters, the bill turns out pleasantly light.
Parking is available in the market’s parking lot, where the first hour is free and the second is just $1.75. Street parking is available in plenty (at least on a weekday evening) on Alameda.
333 S. Alameda Street #317 Los Angeles, CA 90013
Telephone: 213 687 0777
Hours: Monday-Friday 5:30 – 7 p.m.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 GENMAICHAS; 4 IF YOU'RE JUST GOING TO MAKE IT ABOUT OYSTERS