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Food

Innovation Isn't Always the Answer: SugarFish

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I am a big fan of Sushi Nozawa. It was the first place I ever had sushi (I know, I'm lucky!) and I've always thought that his reputation as the "Sushi Nazi" is unwarranted. Now that Japanese style Omakase (where the chef prepares what he thinks is best from the day's catch) is more widespread, I've hoped that he would lose the reputation, but it hasn't been the case. Fortunately, Nozawa also has a well deserved buzz about making great sushi. When in his mini-mall digs in Studio City, he's never steered me wrong, but I've always found brother shop, Sasabune, to be problematic (though I haven't tried it since it moved to its new location) as the sushi seems curiously pre-made.

Sugarfish is the new edition to Nozawa's sushi empire, and it attempts to redefine the sushi experience. A change from the bare bones decor of the original, Sugarfish is very hiply decorated in bright colors, with many modern touches -- including the day's menu on video screens.

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The nigiri round arrived. It included "Nozawa style shrimp," a flayed shrimp on a bed of rice with sesame seeds. I've never been a fan. I realize the Japanese have an entirely different appreciation of bitter flavors than we do here in the U.S., but I just can't get there. The halibut and the albacore were decent, though my dining partner said she felt that the sauce was bitter. For me, the salmon was the biggest disappointment. Nozawa served up salmon with a thin piece of clear seaweed and sesame seeds. the result was nutty, buttery, sweet and bright -- my favorite nigiri. The salmon was good enough, but came without the seaweed. When we asked our waitress about it, she seemed to have no idea what we were talking about. "We serve Tokyo style sushi here." Uh-hunh.

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Next up was the plate of cut rolls. This was the least impressive of the bunch. I always consider cut rolls to be filling more than anything. They tend to be kinda bland and this group didn't deviate. There were cucumber rolls, mushy toro and the crab -- a sadly reduced thing from Nozawa's grand crab handroll, generally served last because it's the finale. The nori is still crunchy, softening as you eat it, and the crab flavor really comes out, as it's perfectly complimented by a little soy sauce. In SugarFish's version, the crab roll is cut into four pieces, so it's already cooled. It seems to diminish the richness of the crab, leaving it only a little better than the other rolls.

I might try this place again in a few months, see if they've found they're feet. Not because of my personal experience there, but because of my great reverence for a sushi master.

sugarFISH 4722 1/4 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Sushi Nozawa, 11288 Ventura Blvd Suite C, Studio City, CA 91604

Sushi Sasabune, 12400 Wilshire Blvd # 100, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Photos by Jacy for LAist