When I was in high school, I always over-accessorized. A green shirt was not complete without a headband in a matching shade, funky over-sized earrings in a matching shade and bangles in a matching shade. A skirt had to be paired with colorful tights. My fingers needed to be blingin’ with rings. Hats, sunglasses, necklaces, pins, ribbons, stockings– nothing was off-limits.
As I’ve matured, I’ve started to tone down my fashion sense and appreciate the beauty in simplicity.
So I was thrilled when I got to check out a sushi restaurant with that same ideal in mind. sugarFISH, with locations in Brentwood, Marina Del Rey and the newly-opened downtown Los Angeles follows the philosophy of esteemed sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa, well known for his Trust Me-style sushi in Studio City.
According to the sugarFISH site, “Nozawa shuns ‘American-style’ extravagant rolls and fusion dishes. Instead he concentrates on the purity of his basic ingredients— nurturing relationships with the finest fish purveyors across the globe, cutting his fish with an artisan’s painstaking care, and even making his own fresh soy sauce and ponzu.”
My foodie friend, Jennifer was equally delighted at dining in the downtown locale with me and dishes about sugarFISH’s standout sushi experience.
Simple. Clean. Modern. Personal. Detail-oriented. Innovative. Neighbor-hood friendly.
That is how co-founder Emanuel Massimini, a native of Rome, would describe his newest sugarFISH location in downtown Los Angeles. There are three restaurants in total including the original Marina del Rey location and the popular Brentwood restaurant, and the founders are in the process of opening another one in Santa Monica.
United by the love of legendary sushi chef Nozawa, the founders wanted to allow diners to enjoy the luxury of quality fish on a daily basis.
The attention to quality and detail is apparent, and the ingredients are crucial. The seaweed comes from Japan and is particularly crisp, contrasting nicely with the soft fish and firm, moist rice. The sauces are a secret, and Nozawa’s son makes sure that each bite is one his father would approve of. Nozawa hand picks each cut of fish from the downtown LA fish market, and some specials are so limited he only offers 5 orders. He is known for his loosely packed rice, seasoned with the familiar tang of rice vinegar and a hint of sugar.
In order to provide quality food at an affordable price, sugarFISH relies on its lower margins, Trust Me menu, and streamlined kitchen.
That’s right—there is no sushi bar here.
We had the Trust Me Nozawa, the largest of the three Trust Me’s. The edamame was lightly salted, firm, and subtly sweet. We started with tuna sashimi in a ponzu sauce topped with green onions. Next came the salmon, snapper in ponzu, and albacore in ponzu. The albacore was thick and melted in our mouths like butter. Next came the halibut in a citrus ponzu and yellow tail, followed by a toro handroll and then a Boston blue crab handroll.
We were warned repeatedly throughout the night to eat the handrolls as soon as possible so that the seaweed stays crisp upon first bite. sugarFISH so particular about this that you cannot order a handroll to go. The special of the day was large scallop, which was sweet and silky and tasted of the sea. We ended with an ice cold, silky uni and a tender piece of unagi, the perfect dessert in my opinion.
The restaurant relies only on word of mouth to advertise, and they seek to create personal relationships with their customers. They focus on creating a consistent experience for customers, emphasizing “everyday efforts.”
The menu is the same but specials change daily. They are eco-friendly and use filtered water.
Massimini emphasizes the little things like details and consistency.
The back of the menu features the nutritional value and chemical content of the fish, a big worry for many seafood lovers. They were not required to do it but wanted to know what was in the food they were eating almost every day.
The name “sugarFISH” reflects the restaurant concept. It is simple, reminiscent of childhood, and has that wow-factor that Massamini and his co-founders strive to impart to its customers with each and every bite.
This food is definitely 100% Nozawa.
And we are definitely 100% returning for more sugarFISH in the near future.