Monday, October 31, 2005

Big Fish Story -- Sushi Dan

Sushi Dan

8000 W. Sunset Blvd., #A2020
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 848-8583
Google Info

11056 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 985-2254
Google Info

I know the stated purpose of this blog is to identify "cheap ethnic eats," which evokes (as it should) images of holes-in-the-wall in Koreatown, Thaitown, Little Tokyo, and East L.A.. I suppose, Sushi Dan is "ethnic," as mush as the ubiquitous raw fish can be said to be truly Japanese anymore; and true, the lunch special is an extraordinary deal. But somehow a spacious marbly room that shares a mall with Virgin Megastore, Crunch, and Sam Ash at the entrance to the Sunset Strip seems unlikely for this space. Suffice to say I'm no slave to labels, man. I'll review whatever's making my taste buds do jumping jacks at the moment. And Sushi Dan fits the bill.

Here's the dish.

It's on the top floor of the Virgin Megastore mall on Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights, right across from the Laemmle Theaters. You know the Laemmles. You were there to see an indie film, how many months ago? Damn, when was the last good indie film playing at the Laemmle, anyway? It's a space that's seen a couple of restaurants come and go, most recently a pretty decent fresh-Mex grill.

A big modern room with full bar greets you as you enter, along with the obligatory cute young Japanese hostess. There are a large number of dining room tables, and an expansive sushi bar... sadly, mostly empty. The best tables are in the back, past the huge aquarium whose seemingly continuous issues with water clarity are not, I hope, an ill omen for the restaurant. There, five or six booths line the windowed back wall, affording panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills and the east end of Sunset Strip: SkyBar, Chateau Marmont, the Marlboro Man-cum-iPod Girl billboard.

I confess I've only been there for lunch; why go any other time? There are three lunch special combos, all of which offer a mix of traditional nigiri sushi with one of the restaurant's many specialties. For $9.95, (that's right, $9.95), you get miso soup, five pieces of sushi and one of a selection of a dozen or so rolls. This may not sound like much. It is. The slabs of fish on the nigiri are huge. On my first visit what already looked like a gigantic salmon slab on my sushi turned out to be twice as big... the slice was double thick, folded under the rice. It was the entire end of a fillet which would probably be counted an entire "serving" at your local Weight Watchers. But for all the emphasis on quantity, the fish has been uniformly excellent on every visit. And refreshingly, the five varieties of fish reflect what people (well, what I, at least) in the 21st Century order at sushi bars: the salmon is complemented by hamachi, albacore, maguro, and seared tuna instead of the standard 80's palette of tired shrimp, fishy mackerel, cheap tamago and rubbery squid that make up so many combo plates.

But the highlight of the meal is your choice of one specialty item that comes with the combo. I've yet to work my way through the menu, but I can vouch for a couple. To call the Calamari Tempura Roll "generous" is like calling Gary Busey "quirky" or the Bush Administration "pesky." It's probably bigger than your head. The roll itself is tasty, all crisp nori, tender calamari highlighted with avocado, cucumber crabmeat and eel sauce. But it's invisible under a PILE of bic-lighter sized pieces of additional calamari tempura. Imagine your favorite steakhouse's "fried calamari" appetizer done Japanese style and dumped on a single maki roll, and you've got the idea. It's delicious, and if you are light luncher, probably enough for two. The Yellowtail Collar is a large piece of fish grilled to a slightly charred crispness on the outside but yielding nooks and crannies filled with an extraordinary amount of tender, flaky fish.

Downsides to Sushi Dan include spotty if friendly service. Several orders have been botched but corrected with apologies stopping just short of seppuku. My urgent need for a Bloody Mary at a hangover brunch brought a "so sorry." Apparently the batch of mix had gone bad waiting for anyone to order it. This leads to concern that the slow turnover could lead to fish laying about longer than it should. You can help. Go to Sushi Dan. Order fish. Demand a Bloody Mary. And then go check out that indie movie... I hear The Calamari -- sorry, The Squid and the Whale -- is good.


  1. Anonymous1:38 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. been going to Dan's for years.. both locations.. I have never found better sushi anywhere. CRS

  3. Anonymous1:56 AM

    great food... worst service i have ever recieved. ive had employees at Mcdonalds give me better sevice. I can get great sushi anywhere but the service keeps me coming back. Then when i complained the manager pointed his finger in my face and told me not to tell him how to run his floor. My guess was he was probably hookin up w/our server... As for this place--- NEVER AGAIN