Los Angeles has some of the best sushi in the world outside Japan, and a huge amount of it is served in nondescript restaurants hidden among nail salons and spray tanneries in low-slung, neon-lit strip malls. In the San Fernando Valley, along Ventura Boulevard from Studio City to Tarzana, a number of these sushi places have attained cult status, thanks to world-class chefs, superlative ingredients, and the A-list sitting nightly at the bar. Here, four of the best.
Katsu-ya, Studio City
There were, at last count, four Katsu-yas across L.A. This is the original, opened in 1997 by master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi. (He’s only one of four with that title in the city.) Katsu-ya is a chain—this is where the standard crispy rice slathered with spicy tuna originated—that features a bit of Cal-Japanese fusion (whitefish carpaccio with sun-dried tomato and arugula; tuna with Japanese salsa) and it works. Ask any of the wall-to-wall Hollywood agents (or Jimmy Kimmel, Jay-Z, etc.) at the bar at lunch.
Asanebo, Studio City
Michelin-starred sushi implies a hushed restaurant and severe decor. But at this spot, across from CBS studios, the interior is as unassuming and disarming as the waving-cat statue at the bar. And the sushi might be some of the best and most traditional along Ventura Boulevard. It was once a sashimi-only venture, because of a non-compete agreement with a nearby sushi bar, and the expertise shows. Try the salmon with kaluga caviar or kanpachi with miso, serrano pepper, and yuzu.
Sushi Bar, Encino
Ride an escalator and ring a bell, and then you’re one of 14 patrons enjoying a 17-course meal. This is a theatrical experience—that’s owner and Top Chef veteran Phillip Frankland Lee’s MO—with a bit of an Escape the Room vibe. (Don’t worry, Adele and Cameron Diaz recently made it out fine.) As for the sushi, it’s unorthodox (yellowtail with sweet-corn pudding and sourdough bread crumbs) and otherworldly.
The Brothers Sushi, Woodland Hills
Chef Mark Okuda took over this popular spot last year, having run the sushi counter at Asanebo for eight years. The daily menu, sourced from farmers’ markets in Torrance and seafood merchants in Santa Barbara (and heavy on uni), is ever-changing. A recent addition: a Japanese take on New England clam chowder.