We Want Nozawa
Sushi Nozawa officially served its last nigri on Febrary 29, 2012 because Mr Nozawa, a man who has worked all his life, and at Sushi Nozawa for 25 years, wants to retire. His kids have started Sugarfish, a new sushi adventure in various locations in the greater West L.A. area.
Sushi Nozawa was a plain dining room in a plain strip of stores on Ventura Blvd. There was no menu when I ate here a couple weeks ago, it is all omakase, chef's choice only. We waited in line this last time because Nozawa fans were there hoping to get their last tastes of Nozawa sushi before Mr Nozawa retires at the end of Feb 2012. We went with friends who are old veteran and trusted customers of Nozawa. This was helpful because by association, we got the good stuff, the stuff you don't get on the 1st few visits. Also, this was very helpful to know veterans because there are some rules about eating at Nozawa, no cell phones, no photos, no distractions, just sushi and sashimi. People have been kicked out of the restaurant for taking too much time and talking on a cell phone. I gotta say, a cell phone free dining room was actually refreshing and nice. To take these photos I have posted, I had to take them under cover and quickly, as to not be a victim of the kick-out.
How Mr Nozawa worked is that newbies get fairly ordinary sushi and sashimi like tuna, salmon, yellowtail, veggies and the like. I am guessing Mr Nozawa did not want to scare away new customers by grossing them out by serving them unusual fish organs or fish eyeballs right off the bat. Because we went with returning and trust customers, Mr Nozawa served us some sushi and fish parts we cannot get in Nashville. My favorites were toro, lump crab, lobster, monk fish liver and abalone.
Sadly, it is nearly impossible to get toro in Nashville. Toro is the belly ham of the tuna, and it is buttery, and smooth. It costs a lot, and in Nashville it is not considered a good value compared to other more filling and inexpensive rolls like California rolls. So, I was excited to be able to get toro while in L.A. I also enjoyed the crab and lobster sushi hand rolls. The rolls were overflowing with lump crab and lobster meat that I did not have to work to crack out of the shell myself. There was no fake krab-stick in this sushi (which is the only stuff you can get in most Nashville sushi joints). One that I really liked a lot because of the rich texture and flavor was the monkfish liver. Monkfish, when I was a kid, was the "junk" fish or the poor man's lobster because of the striation of the flesh and denseness of fish. Now, because of over fishing of the poor man's lobster, monkfish is no longer cheap, no longer sustainably fished, and has been seen to cost more per pound than lobster in the New England states. I have never had monkfish nor other fish liver before, and it was truly a treat.
The last piece of sashimi I had at Nozawa was abalone. When I was a kid, my mom would make abalone as one dish for dinner when very special guests were invited to our house. Abalone was considered a luxury in my home. We had some abalone shells in the house as well, as key holder dishes, and little knick-knack dishes. Abalone was one of my favorite seafoods that graced my plate once every few years. As an adult, I have not had abalone. On one occasion in Nashville, one retail outlet tried to pass off canned conch for canned abalone at $90 per 5 oz. Conch is ok, I do not love conch, and it is certainly not abalone. So, it has been about 20 years since I have tasted my beloved seafood, abalone. This abalone served at Nozawa was straight forward unadulterated abalone. I ate it slowly to enjoy the texture and flavor.
Thank you Mr Nozawa, I hope your kids can carry on the tradition.
UPDATE: According to the Sugarfish newsletter, the Studio City location will be renovated and will reopen as a Sugarfish. Stay tuned.