Echigo Sushi

Restaurant: Echigo

Location: 12217 Santa Monica Blvd. Suite 201. Los Angeles, CA 90025. (310) 820-9787

Date: October 27, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Very good warm-rice style sushi


Back when my office was at the Watergarden in Santa Monica Echigo was one of my regular lunch haunts. The chef studied under Nozawa and is stylistically related to nearby Sasabune. They both follow the “warm rice” school of sushi (which I believe originates in Osaka prefecture. The rice is warmer and less sticky than Tokyo-style sushi. It tastes really good this way, but has some tendency to fall apart on the way to the mouth.

The lunch menu has two choices, the lunch special for $14 and the omakase. Below is the union (both) of each. The lunch special is by far the best deal (6-7 years ago it was even $9!).

Fresh ground wasabi and pickled ginger. These photos were taken on the iPhone 4S which does pretty well in good light. A few missed photos were purloined from the web.

Skipjack tuna with a bit of sauce.

Medium (chu) toro.

Hamachi (yellowtail).

Halibut, which itself doesn’t have much flavor, but the vinegary sauce does.

Tai (red snapper).

Scallop. One of my favorites.

Salmon with a bit of kelp and sesame.

Bonito, also delicious.


Kanpachi (young yellowtail). With a bright vinegary sauce.


Shimaji (stripped jack).

Butterfish. This is an Echigo specialty. A firm fish with miso based sauce.

Uni (sea urchin).

And the now classic Nozawa blue crab hand roll (I ate two and could have had more).

Echigo is a hair below a few of the very top lunch LA sushi places (Sushi Sushi, Mori, Go, Kiriko etc), but it offers pretty good relative value, and on the absolute scale top sushi, far above the generic touristy sushi joint. Getting the Omakase at dinner at the sushi bar is an even higher caliber experience.

For more LA area sushi, see here.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Sushi Zo

Restaurant: Sushi Zo

Location: 9824 National BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90034. (310) 842-3977

Date: April 8, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: Top warm rice style sushi.

LA is a sushi town. I eat a lot of sushi (just take a look at my LA Sushi review page!). People say Zo is the best in town. I finally went.

Unfortuantly, this outside shot is all you get, because they don’t allow photography. Bummer, because the sushi was good.

Zo is omakase only. You sit down. They bring you stuff. They charge you by the piece but don’t really tell you how much. They keep bringing you sushi. Eventually you get full and they hand you a (stiff) bill. It’s closest in style and format to Sasabune (my detailed reviews of that, with photos, HERE and HERE).

This is Osaka-style “warm rice” sushi, like Sasabune, and presumably descended from the same Chef Nozawa source. The individual pieces are made one at a time, no precutting, and given to you in a hurry. The fish is superlative, although each piece seems to have been placed in a miniaturization machine set to 70%. I’ve never seen sushi this small. This was particularly humorous when it came to the “battleship” style ones like Uni (sea urchin). They just looked so cute and diminutive (maybe 50-60% size for these). But I’m not sure this size issue resulted directly in less value. At the end I was still just as full as at Sasabune, although it cost perhaps 10-20% more. I perhaps had more pieces numerically. But each was certainly smaller.

The fish was a bit better than Sasabune, and certainly better than Echigo. The preps are very similar, with 90% being “no soy sauce” — a fact of which we were emphatically reminded each and every time. There was a lot of use of vinegar, yuzu and other brightening flavors. I do like these, but I think it did tend to distract slightly from the fish — which was stellar.

The chef had a bit of an attitude. Bordering on brusk. First the no camera bit. Then the sushi-nazi style directions on the table about proper sushi etiquette, the hurried pace, and the “no soy sauce” or “yes soy sauce” commands — barked.

But food wise, this is overall the best warm-rice style sushi I’ve had in recent years. I really should go back to Nozawa, but it’s been way too long for me to give him proper perspective.

But I’m thinking I prefer Sushi Sushi (reviews HEREHERE, and HERE). The deal is a little better, it has more variety of style, the fish is just as good, and I prefer the more traditional Tokyo (cold rice) style, the friendly chefs, and the emphasis on the taste of the fish.

For more sushi reviews, check out my LA Sushi page.

Quick Eats: Chan Dara

Restaurant: Chan Dara

Location: 11940 W. Pico Blvd. (1/2 blk East of Bundy) West Los Angeles, CA 90064Phone: 310 479-4461

Date: December 19, 2010

Cuisine: Thai

Rating: Very good modernized Thai


Chan Dara is one of those funny places that doesn’t exactly fit the model of the traditional ethnic joint (which food-wise, it is). It has a bit more decor than the typical Thai place might, and it has a full bar and TVs running the game. But basically, this is a well run and reliable Thai restaurant with a big menu. Going with the decor, things are a little more Americanized, which is fine for most of my fellow diners, as a very traditional Thai place can be VERY spicy and/or use a lot of fish sauce.

Red wine doesn’t really go with Thai. My last bottle of this drier riesling. To me it tastes like flowers. “Lush lime scents are found in the delightful aromatics of the 1998 Riesling Cuvee Theo. This is a well-structured, pure, suave, concentrated, dense, yet elegant wine. Loads of spices, minerals, and fresh, crisp white fruits can be found in this chewy textured, medium-bodied offering. Projected maturity: 2002-2008.”

The very reliable chicken and beef satay. I love the juicy beef satay here. The sweet/spicy peanut sauce is great too, and the pickles.

Saigon,” roles. These soft rice crepe rolls are stuffed with various veggies. It’s all in the sweet sauce though.

Tom-Yum-Goong. The classic chili, lemongrass broth with mushrooms and shrimp. Given the cold and rainy day a little soup hit the spot.

Crispy Veggie rolls. My toddler’s favorite — well if you discount the rice crackers.

The sides for the coming dish.

Beef kabob on fire.

And here is the fire.  They dump some Bacardi 151 on top and light. Despite the show, the meat is wonderfully tender and has a great flavor.

Vegetarian pad Thai, with steamed tofu. This dish has the slightly exotic sweet/fishy tang that it is supposed to.

Pineapple duck curry. I love red currys, and this one is particularly good. Chunks of dark duck meat combine with the pinapple into a sweet/savory blend. Just a little heat (Chan Dara is a VERY mild Thai joint), but a lot of flavor.

Mango Salmon with cashews.  You can also see the coconut rice. Asian white rice is great, but a little coconut makes it even better. Then drench it in some red curry.

As usual, I ate too much.