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Sushi in a Strip Mall

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After our harrowing experience being told what we could and couldn't eat (no soy sauce!?) at the famous Sushi Nozawa (Studio City, CA, 818.508.7017), LAist decided that locating a sushi restaurant with great food and freedom of choice was the order of the day. And so we set out, chopsticks and wasabi in hand, to locate some of the better out-of-the-way sushi joints across town.You can imagine our surprise (while waiting for our trademark Black Forest Blended at The Coffee Bean on Santa Monica and Sepulveda) when we stumbled upon a strip-mall hidden gem called Hamasaku (West L.A., 310.479.7636). Co-owned by entertainment manager Jimmy Miller (repping such Hollywood hotshots as Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey), the signature sushi rolls are amazing (can you say Lobster rolls and Japanese burritos?) and the prices are pretty reasonable if you don't go crazy ordering the LA-location inspired rolls and celebrity-influenced concoctions. Sure, the 405 roll is to die for... But the Scott Foley roll (of Felicity fame), well, leaves a bit to be desired. If you want to get in, reservations are necessary.

Heading further east into West Hollywood, we find ourselves stopping in yet another strip-mall. (Isn't that where the best sushi is, anyway?) Just east of the Beverly Center on Beverly Blvd, right next to the best light-bulb store in all of Los Angeles is Hirozen Gourmet (323.653.0470). Packed during lunchtime and Wednesday through Sunday evenings, the small corner restaurant is best known for their amazing cooked crab cakes, their tangy spicy-tuna rolls and prices that belong in 1998. Reservations are necessary and parking is tight, but the complimentary Valet parking should, you know, reduce your stress levels and not inflame your ulcer like some of those Sunset Boulevard establishments.

All routes end in the Valley, don't they? No matter how much LAist hates to admit it, the 10-degree hotter Valley has some of the best Ventura Boulevarded sushi haunts in all of L.A.. And if you choose to not eat in a dictatorship such as Sushi Nozawa, then your next best choice would have to be Katsu-Ya (Studio City, 818.985.6976). Sharing the end of a strip-mall with a Domino's Pizza and a pet store, Katsu-Ya has become so popular with Valley-ites that they've just opened a second Katsu-Ya in the Encino area. In one word, the food at Katsu-Ya is outstanding. From their warm crab rolls nestled in rice paper to their spicy tuna jalapeno crunchy roll to their albacore sweet onion special -- it's the handwritten board of specials that you want to be choosing from. The laminated menu is just fine...but the treasure can be found on the squeaky dry-erase board that lists their daily elite choices. Reservations are required (try a day in advance) and parking is complimentary Valet.

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LAist knows that some of you have never tried sushi and others can only stomach it when you've had too much to drink -- but the above choices are, hands down, three of the best in town...according to us.