Sushi School at Sugarfish

Last night I get an invite for a complimentary sushi meal at Sugarfish.  They are celebrating their Grand Opening downtown – they also have restaurants in Marina del Rey, Brentwood, with plans for a Santa Monica location in January.

Since Abe is a vegetarian, I take my fish loving friend Joy Osmanski as my guest. And it happens to be her birthday too!


Parking is $3 with validation next door. At 6 pm on a Friday night, we are first to arrive. They don’t take reservations, so this is a perfect time to beat the long line that began forming an hour later.


We are greeted by Founder Emanuele “Lele” Massimini (could there be a cooler name?!) who sits with us for the first few courses and explains the menu. You won’t find any California or Spider rolls here.  This is straight-up, authentic sushi, all created by Chef Kazunori Nozawa (a.k.a. “The Sushi Nazi”) who shops at the same market for Sugarfish as he does for his infamous (and more expensive) Sushi Nozawa in Studio City. You can order a la carte, or select from three pre-selected menus.


I love sushi, but am a dummy when it comes to figuring it out. Seriously, I can’t tell you the difference between eel and uni. As long as I’m not eating any whale, I’d rather have a master chef tell me what to eat. Lele assures me that they always keep sustainability in mind, and also have their fish tested for mercury levels.

Since we are starving, we both go with The Nqzawa.  It’s a 10-course dinner that will cost double anywhere else.  Sugarfish is able to keep their prices low since they don’t have a huge menu or visible sushi bar chefs, allowing them to be efficient and accessible to everyone.

First up is the edamame (organic) and tuna sashimi.  Literally melts in your mouth.  Next comes the first of the sushi – albacore, salmon, and snapper. The rice is served warm, which makes such a huge difference!


All of the sauces are homemade by Chef Nozawa, even the soy. Lele instructs us on which ones needed dipping – most are already dressed, like the yellowtail and halibut.  After scarfing down our sushi (you’re supposed to eat it in one bite, and being good students, we happily oblige) it is time for the hand rolls! Lele says to eat it right away, while the Nori is still crisp. First, the Toro, then, the Blue Crab (which Joy cuddles with):


This is definitely one of our favorites – so fresh and flavorful!  Usually, when I eat this much food, it all starts to just blend together. But I have to say that each course surpasses the previous one. By the time we get to the daily special (scallops) we are on a serious sushi high.

And then we go out with a bang! The Nozawa meal was over, but Lele talks us into one more item (that I don’t even see on the menu).  The lobster roll.  You know that show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate?” If I’m ever on it, this will definitely be mentioned. It is that incredible – a foodgasm moment.  Joy smacks the table a few times in disbelief.

The most amazing part? This ENTIRE dinner had fewer calories than some salads at The Cheesecake Factory. Not that I count calories, but if you do, this will be a much more fun (and tastier) way to enjoy a meal out!

In fact, Joy and I both agree Sugarfish will be a great choice for a date – especially a first one, if you’re trying to impress them. Good for groups, too, since you can all have a top-notch dining experience without spending too much time figuring out the menu and what to share.

Basically, Sugarfish is perfect for everyone, besides Abe.  There’s only one vegetarian roll on the menu (a cucumber one). There is also no dessert, so Joy gets no cake with a candle.  But we are both so full upon leaving, there would not be any room for it!


17 thoughts on “Sushi School at Sugarfish

  1. It All Changes

    I love the comment about “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I think about that a lot when I eat out 🙂

  2. jessica o'brien

    ooooh, i had the pleasure of getting sugarfish quite often (+ charged to my company!) when i marketed the marina del rey center they’re in. the brentwood location is beautiful, so i imagine the downtown one is even more so. too bad i don’t eat fish anymore! 🙁

  3. lequan

    Happy birthday to your friend Joy!

    This sounds like an awesome place. I LOVE Japanese food. It’d be a tough choice for me if I had to pick a cuisine I’d be stuck with for life between Chinese and Japanese food. Funny, cause I hated Chinese food growing up. Now I can’t get enough Asian food.

    Glad you guys had such a great experience!

  4. Joy

    I DID smack the table!! If it wouldn’t have embarrassed Lynn and possibly frightened Lele, I would have done a jig on the table! The best sushi I’ve had. The place is amazing and in super-cool DTLA. Lynn, thank you thank you for an amazing bday dinner!!!!! Sugarfish forever!!!

  5. Lauren

    Wow, I’ve never seen a place that lists calories on a sushi menu. This place sounds great. A HUGE sushi feast is how I would choose to spend my birthday too. 🙂

  6. Erica

    What a cool place! Perfect birthday celebration. And (as Lauren stated)- I’ve never seen a sushi place that lists calories. Excellent review

  7. Gail

    I actually am salivating from these descriptions. This is a must for my next trip to LA. Do pass this on to Jen and Mark.

  8. Sohara

    Oh, my goodness, you’ve got me drooling both with the pictures and the descriptions! That’s a fabulous price, and even though I’m mostly vegan, that’s one of the few restaurants I think I’d have to indulge in. Lucky you–sounds like it was a great night!

    And, seriously? Homemade soy sauce? There’s no way that isn’t a winner. Next time I’m in the area, no question about it–the boyfriend and I are heading to Sugarfish!

  9. Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo)

    She SLAPPED THE TABLE!?!?! Dear lord that must have been amazing.
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Omikase type eating despite how annoying I can be with this on the side that on the side. When I do Omikase (trust me), I just let it be. No requests (not that the Nazi would take them anyway!). I am SOOOOO excited to try this. And the final clincher is the fact that they actually list calories. I’m in love before I’ve even been there.

    BTW there’s a little Omikase place on Westwood south of SM blvd that we should hit some time- I think it might only be open for dinner. The food is so interesting, even if you have no idea what you’re eating (no whale, I’m pretty sure). And btw- UNI is amazing!!!!

  10. wendy lee

    WOW….. this place is on my must. eat. sushi. here. list (which is a list I didn’t know I had till just now) I guess I just have to come to L.A. more often. It would’ve been great though if Joy had actually danced on the table ..

  11. lowandbhold

    That really does sound great! I love places with pre-planned menus. It opens you up to so many things you’d probably never try otherwise.

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