Thursday, July 27, 2006

Red Booths and Raw Fish - Noshi Sushi

Noshi Sushi

4430 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 469-3458

Open 7 days til 9 pm

Google Local Info

It's a fucking zillion degrees in L.A. You've already imposed on your friends to swim in their pool twice, you've seen An Inconvenient Truth and every other thing playing at the Arclight. You've cooked out on the Weber until you have hot dogs coming out your ears. You feel like it's actually too damn hot to eat, but you've got to... and you've got escape the heat.

If you're like me, you want raw fish. Cool, fresh, buttery slabs of sushi. And you'd like it somewhere where you can relax and spend a couple of hours, not propped up on a slightly-too-small plastic chair in a spartan Zen room that should be cool but, because of the small space and the track lighting over the sushi bar, is just a little too close for comfort.

You want to go to Noshi Sushi. I think it's the best sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. Sure, there are places in Beverly Hills that do the thousand-dollar slice of fish. And of course there are the splendors of sushi row on Ventura Blvd. Katsu-ya makes delicious dishes in the "Japanese tapas" style -- things like Carpaccio of Yellowtail with JalapeƱo, or Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice Cakes -- as does my new local favorite Shintaro. There's Nozawa with his "Trust Me" special, and his amazing array of tunas and his blue crab rolls. But Nozawa's rice is always a little warm, and authentic or not, I don't want warm rice taking the cool edge off my raw fish on a hot night.

No, those places are great, but when my wife and say "Wanna go for sushi?", we mean Noshi. Why? Big slabs of fresh fish at reasonable prices, consistently amazing hamachi (which is, after all, the best of all possible sushi fish), and the most comfortable dining room of any sushi place in L.A.

It's in what looks like a nuclear fallout shelter on Beverly Blvd., smack in the middle of Koreatown. It's got a huge sushi bar, but it's one of the few sushi joints where I don't usually sit there... because Noshi's got booths. Big ones. Real, honest-to-god, spacious, red naugahyde booths. The place looks like it was probably once a steakhouse, and has the airy, high-ceilinged feel of a Japanese Hamburger Hamlet, without the cheesy decor.

You won't find any fancy, layered, fusion creations here. No specialty rolls. It's stripped down, dude. No fancy "premium cold sake list." They got hot sake, cold sake, and Asahi and Sapporo beer. Small bottles only, no large. No Kirin. Tempura/teriyaki combos and old-school sushi rule the day.

There are a very few specials on the wall. The albacore salad, a mound of crisp cucumber and shredded daikon and carrot with slabs of albacore tuna in a light, tangy dressing, is the perfect starter to beat the heat. After that, you'll recognize the menu from 1980's sushi bars: Tuna, eel, clam, giant clam, octopus, squid, shrimp, and scallop sushi; California rolls; spicy tuna rolls; salmon skin rolls. You can try to ask for your favorite nouvelle sushi option, but if you're going much beyond "Spicy Scallop Hand Roll," expect a blank stare.

But what they do, they do right: big, bold and fresh. My personal favorites are "white fish" (you get halibut unless you specify red snapper, which is usually better) - order it with ponzu sauce. Scallop sushi (ordered with mayo) is never better anywhere than here. And as for the hamachi (yellowtail) sushi... it's simply the most consistently sweet and buttery you'll find. It invokes in this blogger what his wife affectionately calls "hamachi-face" -- that look of utter epicurean delight that makes your face positively melt with joy. Which is much better than having it melt -- like the Nazi dude in Raiders of the Lost Ark -- in the heat outside.

Two tips:

- Arrive early. The restaurant is only open 'til 9:00 pm, and you can have a tough time parking and a long wait in the 7-9 window.

- Bring cash. It's cash only, and they have no ATM. But you don't need to bring too much... unless you eat more than your weight in sushi and drink more than three beers or sakes, you'll have a hard time spending more than $35.00 a person.


  1. You convince me. If I am ever in LA I will stop here and eat Sushi.

  2. i like this place, too, but the waitresses can be so unhelpful. do you know what the dynamite is? i hear it is a specialty of the house but i have no idea what it is. the picture makes it look like a bowl of black lava.

  3. I'm glad you mentioned the Dynamite! It's a delicious thing, but it didn't fit in with the "cool food" theme of my post so I didn't mention it.

    It's a mixture of chopped clams, chopped mushrooms, flying fish roe and mayonnaise, baked casserole-style in a large seashell to a crunchy crisp on top but still creamy inside, and served with a squeeze of lemon. Sounds weird, I know, but it's really yummy.

    The waitresses can be a little hard to flag down, it's true. Used to be the same three waitresses there every night, and they knew us and our preferences. There's been some turnover lately, though.

    Mmm. Turnover...

  4. Jonah8:13 PM

    I have only been to Noshi, once, years ago and have wanted to go back ever since. I remember a senior citizen security guard directing traffic in the parking lot with a huge gun hanging off of his belt. Awesome.

    That, and I remember the cheap, great sushi, huge chunks of fish in their rolls.

  5. kaaaaaybad!4:52 PM

    hi mirthmobile!

    i drive past noshi every day and i'm constantly intrigued by it but always hesitate because it's not the prettiest building from the outside.

  6. thanks for the dynamite description. i would never have guessed it from the picture. it really sounds gross to me, but i might try it one of these days.

    hi kaaaaaybad!

  7. Im so glad you wrote about this place. I often drive by Noshi Sushi on my way home to Silverlake and I wonder, "That place is either really good really dang awful." I'll be there soon. Thanks

  8. Dynamite it is but probably the highway to a heart attack. The old asian man (Korean?) still watches the parking lot. Thanks to Jess/Sa I have eaten there at least 10 times over the past 3 or 4 years. One hot tip: get there before closing and they seem to serve extras like soup without charging. In other words, they seem to be unloading the food on you. Regardless --- great food.

  9. Hah, you know, I had ALMOST forgotten about this gem - blessings for the reminder. And the snappy writing, you're a joy to read.

  10. Anonymous3:22 AM

    Bernard said...

    Dynamite it is but probably the highway to a heart attack. The old asian man (Korean?) still watches the parking lot. Thanks to Jess/Sa I have eaten there at least 10 times over the past 3 or 4 years. One hot tip: get there before closing and they seem to serve extras like soup without charging. In other words, they seem to be unloading the food on you. Regardless --- great food.

    miso soup and green tea are always on the house. the tea is of high quality and is imported from japan. old man Noshi knows how to treat his customers right. He's also very dedicated to the restaraunt. he gets up at the crack of dawn everyday to get choice fish from the fish market and he gets less than 5 hours of sleep because he's working at the restaraunt til closing. he holds his sushi at the highest standards.
    i always compare other sushi places to noshi because i have no higher standards and i've been to a lot of sushi places. yes, you won't find those cute looking dishes you find at fusion sushi places like a catapillar role but their sushi is always top notch and prepared properly. for traditional sushi, noshi is the best hands down not to mention the competitive price he offers. yes, the ambience and look of the restaurant could use some work but screw ambiance when your stomach and wallet are happy.

    and yes, the guard outside is korean and he's been out there for years and years. he's a nice guy. i always greet him everytime i go to noshi.

  11. Noshi's was the first place that I had sushi some 20 years ago as a little kid. Now I live in the valley and I don't get to go there as often as before. However, it hasn't really changed too much. The price is reasonable and the quality of the fish is usually good. Noshi himself is still hands on and can be seen scurrying around in the kitchen taking care of business behind the scenes.

  12. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Try this restaurant for jumbo sushi. Its real and its pretty large for Japanese portions

  13. Anonymous9:50 AM

    HEY! The hours are wrong, Noshi is CLOSED ON MONDAYS and open from 11:30am-9pm every other day. I love Noshi, but their hours are the thing that always get me. Especially last night after reading this blog.

  14. Sushi is good, price is cheap and has a great atmosphere...

    not for people watching or fashionably dressed.

    I strongly recommend it.