The Best Sushi in Downtown Los Angeles

Hama Sushi in Downtown L.A. | Photo by Clarissa Wei

It’s a great time to be a sushi aficionado. The Japanese food scene in Los Angeles is stronger than ever as the American palate is evolving to be less squeamish towards raw fish and much more inclined towards simplicity than the fanciful mayonnaise-drenched rolls of yesteryear. There seems to be sushi at every corner in Los Angeles, but Downtown L.A. in particular boasts a diversity of options. Little Tokyo in itself is sushi central and not far from it are powerhouses like Sushi Zo and Sugarfish. You’ll get a good mix of affordable plus luxurious choices – all without driving very far.

dineL.A. Restaurant Week lunch at Sugarfish in Downtown L.A. with salmon sashimi and albacore belly sushi. | Photo by @bonnietsang, Instagram

SUGARFISH by Sushi Nozawa | Downtown LA



Sugarfish is renowned for their Trust Me menu, where beautiful compact bites of nigiri are handed out as the meal goes on. The rice is warm and loosely packed and the fish is always creamy and soft. It’s intensely simple here – but that’s part of the whole appeal. A typical menu runs seven items strong, with a couple of hand rolls and a saucer of organic edamame. You can add more bites if you wish but trust them – their curated menu is often more than enough.

Q Sushi in Downtown L.A. | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Q



If you’re looking for traditional, no other place in Los Angeles does that better than Q. Chef Hiroyuki Naruke is a champion for Edomae cuisine, using red vinegar for his rice, a pinch of salt and forgoing the use of sugar. In Edo-style times, rice was naturally sweeter and there was no need for sugar. The fish is seasonal and imported from around the world. The 26-seat restaurant is intimate and extremely detail orientated. Wasabi isn’t just handed to you; it’s glazed on top. Some bites come brushed with a hint of miso. Others, a delicate soy.

Photo courtesy of KazuNori, Facebook

KazuNori : The Original Hand Roll Bar | Downtown LA



In many ways, KazuNori is bringing back what sushi used to be: fast finger food, eaten on the go. Started by the same people behind Sugarfish, KazuNori is a hand roll bar nestled on Main Street between 4th and 5th, and a champion for sensible ingredients wrapped in rice wrapped in crisped nori. That’s it: handrolls and a couple of drinks. Same quality as Sugarfish, but so much more simple.

Chirashi bowl at Sushi Gen

 |  Photo: Clarissa Wei

Sushi Gen Restaurant



Sushi Gen is a Los Angeles sushi darling that’s been around for more than three decades and Angelenos are well aware of the fact. Lines are out the door from the moment service begins. Their chirashi is a sensible assortment of the day’s freshest catch. Though salmon slices are notably absent, they have incredibly fresh bites of trout, tuna, yellow, squid and eel. The best catch is at the bar – where you’ll get a spectacular selection of fatty toro, ebi or scallop that will never disappoint. It’s quite a splurge but so worth it.

Hama Sushi in Downtown L.A. | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Hama Sushi - Little Tokyo



Walk into Hama and you’ll be warned that this is a sushi only place. There’s no tempura, teriyaki or noodles. You can’t even get rice alone. The fixation is on raw fish over rice and you’ll be quick to find that their fish quality speaks for itself. The best option is to sit at the bar and order nigiri individually, or ask the chef to help you out. We dig the sweet translucent ebi shrimp and velvety salmon belly.

Chirashi bowl at Nabeeya | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Nabeeya



It’s a shame Nabeeya is a lunch-only place, because it’s a complete steal. The eatery changed ownership recently but has maintained the quality of their star item: the chirashi bowl. It’s raw fish over rice, so nicely seasoned that your taste buds don't have a chance to get bored. While the sashimi is the main attraction, it’s easy to get distracted by the potpourri of fish roe, seaweed, and spring mix.

Toro | Photo courtesy of Sushi Zo, Facebook

Sushi Zo



It’s the $160 omakase that both draws and deters people from this place. But if you have the money to spend and the patience to enjoy, Angelenos swear by Sushi Zo as one of their best sushi experiences. The wild sockeye salmon, if you are lucky enough to get it on your plate, is a resplendent blood orange, almost neon in color. You might have the oyster from Washington, toro from Australia or the abalone from Monterey. Each course, like a global procession, marches into your mouth educating you on what sushi can be and should be.

Chirashi bowl at Sushi Go 55 | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Sushi Go 55



Located on the top floor of the Little Tokyo Galleria Market, Sushi Go 55 has been a Little Tokyo establishment for nearly 60 years. They have all the standard options but it’s most known for being the home of the two-tiered chirashi. The top bowl is the usual assortment of fish - red snapper, tuna, yellowtail and salmon. The rice is embedded in the bottom layer and seasoned with a rather lavish amount of roe, seaweed and shredded egg.

Ceviche platter at Chaya Downtown L.A. | Photo by Clarissa Wei

Chaya is the birthplace of tuna tartare. The story: Back in 1984, when Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills had just opened, a table of six refused the prix-fixe menu’s beef tartare. Chef Shigefumi Tachibe improvised with tuna instead, and his seafood tartare has since become a fixture in restaurants across the country. Tachibe’s version uses big-eyed tuna, avocado and capers paired with bread and a wedge of lemon. We like their Downtown location for its sultry vibe. They also recently launched an Osaka-style box sushi and a Kaisen raw bar that showcases fresh seafood prepared in ceviche and seafood platter form.

Crispy Golden State sushi roll | Photo courtesy of Shojin, Facebook

Shojin



You won’t find any fish at Shojin, yet it makes our list as a top sushi place because of its stellar variety of vegetarian sushi options. There’s tartare fashioned out of vegetables, mashed potatoes and sushi rolls with tofu, and tempeh instead of salmon and tuna. Shojin’s sushi rolls are usually gluten-free unless otherwise specified and despite being completely vegetarian, it’s all quite substantial and tasty.