With all the sugarFISH downtown posts out there in the blogosphere, what else can I add to the conversation? I guess not much, asides from the fact that it was a surely worthy meal to conclude my seven-month vegetarian stint. As such, when their PR invited me for to check out this restaurant for a hosted meal, I scheduled my dinner right on November 1st (and yes, I stayed meatfree for breakfast & lunch that day.)
You can imagine how antsy I was getting when my dining partner Conbon was running late (ask her about the missed calls and "ARE YOU HERE YET?" text messages,) but it gave me some time to check out the contemporary urban-funk feel of the place, with the exposed concrete, globe-shaped ceiling lamps of various lengths and a topography map made of steel pipes (I first guessed it might've been Japan, but co-owner Emmanuelle "Lele" Massimimi clarified that it was of Tokyo Bay.)
Lele informed me that they were aiming for a "warm" atmosphere and while that shows with the soft white lighting & the blond wood furnishings, the concrete, exposed pipes & steel definitely gave off a cool vibe too. Not a bad thing, in my opinion.
Once Conbon arrived, we were sent on a speed-eating sushi frenzy!
It may not have been Lucy & Ethel @ the Chocolate Factory, but it was definitely faster than my usual rate of sushi consumption, thanks to their warm and incredibly delicious sushi rice that practically falls apart within seconds of arriving on the table.
Ones we had to eat even faster were their handrolls, wrapped in high-quality seaweed that's impeccably crispy & flavorful on the first bite but softens up in 10 seconds! I tried to get a shot of Conbon eating it since she was served first, but this was all I could manage before my hand roll arrived with Lele and the server basically telling me "Eat it now!" (in a more civil manner.) But even with the haste, Conbon and I savored every bite.
Also notable are their housemade condiments, from the vinegar for the sushi rice to the deft touch of ponzu sauces (original, yuzu and chili) on many of the sushi & sashimi we had. For the ones that came "naked," all that's needed is a light dab of soy sauce. It was a sublime experience to be able to taste the freshness and unique character of each fish, delightful accented - but never overshadowed - by the accompanying garnishes and sauces.
I haven't had a single piece that came close to mediocre, but my personal favorites included the giant scallop, sea urchin and sweet shrimp nigiri and the blue crab handroll, which obviously have different textures, mouthfeel and flavor nuances but all sharing a sweet-briny taste profile that really speaks to the seafood's quality and the pristine waters that they were caught or raised in.
Since there isn't much I can say about the food that hasn't already been mentioned by another blogger (and likely better worded,) here are some fun trivia tidbits I've discovered while conversing with Lele throughout the meal:
- Kazunori Nozawa personally selects the same seafood for both Nozawa and the sugarFISH restaurants around 5:30 a.m. daily, even Sundays (many suppliers take that day off - thus making it a generally bad day to go sushi-eating unless you want day-old seafood - but Nozawa's got connections and working relationships with the select few purveyors who do work on the supposed day of rest.)
- While the rice is made in small batches and is never more than 20 minutes old, for to-go orders they tend to use rice towards the latter half of its 20-minute lifespan since it can hold up to ponzu & soy sauces better without falling apart. Of course, given the ultra-short timeframe of the seaweed staying fresh, the hand rolls are not available to go.
- For those with small appetites but still want a taste a wide variety of sushi, their prix-fixe menus (including "the Nozawa") can be split. Items are available a la carte too so you don't have to fight for that one toro & blue crab hand roll.
- In keeping with the artsy, trendy vibes of Downtown LA restaurants, there may be DJ nights in the future for this sugarFISH -- though right now the playlist is a fairly interesting mix of contemporary adult tunes, Putumayo-esque world music with an occasional 80s and 90s pop flashback.
- Since I'm always intrigued by chefs, restauranteurs & foodies who stay fit - which Lele is - for my other blog, I found out that he was a former boxer and used to chase waves with his surfboard daily . . . along with two decades of restaurant experience in front AND back of house (a stark contrast to my pitiful five years.)
Moving onward, I will still have a mostly veggie-focused, and dare I say "vegivore", diet; but this was definitely a great re-introduction in the world of meat and should I get a sushi craving again, sugarFISH is definitely a top contender for me to get my fix.
More photos from my flickr here
600 W 7th Street