The word “chirashi” in Japanese means scattered. Order a chirashi bowl at your local Japanese restaurant and you’ll be handed a bowl of seasoned rice topped with scattered slices of raw fish, fish roe, and/or the occasional tamagoyaki, a spongy egg garnish. It’s the ideal option for sushi fiends who don’t want to order a la carte or dish out the big bucks for a sashimi platter.
The mark of a good chirashi bowl is balance. Each grain should be evenly seasoned with the tangy, alkaline sweetness of rice vinegar. Sesame seeds are often sprinkled on top for good measure. Different types of fresh fish are layered on top - bonus points for textural diversity. Garnishes are optional additions and always provide welcome respite.
Read on for ten of our favorite chirashi bowls in Los Angeles.
A-Won serves Korean-style sushi, and their rice bowls are exceptional enough to be included in this guide. The two dishes of note are the hwae dup bap and the al-bap. Hwae dup bap is the unruly sister of the Japanese chirashi, served with cubed sashimi, sesame-flavored lettuce, fish roe, bean sprouts, and a heaping of rice. It’s liberally smothered with a red chili pepper paste. The al-bap, - though it lacks raw slices of fish - is a medley of five different types of roe kissed with color: ikura, red, yellow, green, and orange.
Located in a strip mall off Ventura Boulevard, DaiChan is a champion of Japanese soul food. Gone are the bland, monochrome walls typical of sushi joints. DaiChan screams eclectic – a characteristic that shines through in both their wall decor and food. There’s not a spot on the wall that’s bare and dishes are drenched in color. The daimyou chirashi ($19) is a party on a plate. There’s a mound of sesame sushi rice, covered by a fan of tuna, salmon, snapper, yellowtail, squid, scallop, albacore, mackerel, unagi, and salmon roe. Shredded egg, green onion and seaweed are sprinkled on top.
It’s a shame Nabeeya is a lunch-only place, because it’s a complete steal. The entire operation is headed by a Korean couple who have been there for nearly seven years. Somehow it’s managed to remain a contained secret within the Fashion District – most likely because locals don’t want the joint to be overpopulated. Nabeeya’s chirashi ($11) is so heavily seasoned, 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 bonito flakes, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, julienned cucumber and minced raw tuna.
Since 2013, Sayuri Tachibe and chef Shigefumi Tachime has built a following with Osawa in Old Pasadena. The couple’s welcoming space touts bars for sushi and shabu shabu, paintings of sea creatures, and a fun painting of animals dining at a bustling sushi bar. At lunch, Osawa offers a high-value chirashi and udon combo ($16). Their chirashi bowl contains a bed of fluffy white rice, big-eye tuna, yellowtail, saba, whitefish, tai snapper, shrimp, salmon, tamago, albacore with ponzu radish and scallion, julienne vegetables, shiso leaf, lemon, pickled ginger, and wasabi. Pickled vegetables come on the side. The accompanying udon soup features buckwheat noodles in a bonito broth with pink-rimmed fish cake, spongy tofu cake, slippery seaweed, and scallions.
Pisces Sushi is a true gem in Manhattan Beach, owned by Yoshi and Sarah, a soft-spoken, sweet Japanese couple. Admittedly, the store is not much of a looker. There’s only one table and some counter space inside - the bulk of their orders are take-out. But if you’re one of the lucky ones to snag a seat, you’ll be treated to one of the most delicate chirashis ($13.95) in the Southland. One of the few versions where the rice isn’t just an after-thought, it’s expertly seasoned, slightly tangy and perfectly portioned. The cuts are thin, arranged in a fan-like assortment and topped with roe and scallop drizzled with aioli.
Sushi Gen is a Los Angeles staple and Angelenos are well aware of the fact. Lines are out the door from the moment dinner service begins. Their chirashi ($17, lunch) is a sensible assortment of the day’s freshest catch. Though salmon slices are notably absent, they have incredibly fresh bites of tuna, yellow, squid and eel. Head over there for lunch to avoid the crowds and knock a couple dollars off your bill - things are always cheaper before the sun goes down.
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. The restaurant is also the home of the two-tiered chirashi. The top bowl is the usual assortment of fish - red snapper, tuna, yellowtail, salmon. The rice is embedded in the bottom layer and seasoned with a rather lavish amount of roe, seaweed and shredded egg.
Sushi Komasa is another Little Tokyo establishment, and at the cornerstone of their menu is a basic, but worthwhile chirashi bowl ($13). The ingredients are uni, salmon, yellowtail, red snapper, tuna, squid, shrimp, tamago, seaweed, ikura roe, umeboshi (pickled plum) and cucumbers. The cuts are thick, firm and fantastically priced, despite the location.
It’s understandable why Sushi Roku is often overlooked in round-ups. They’re owned by a huge dining group, they have multiple locations and can give off something of a corporate vibe. It’s unfortunate really, because Chef Jiro Kobayashi’s premium chirashi ($26) is simply exquisite. The dish is a lunch-only special and contains a truly exceptional hodgepodge of ingredients: Bluefin tuna, toro, Scottish salmon, amberjack, sea bream, spicy tuna, sea urchin, marinated salmon roe, tamago, shrimp, octopus and snow crab legs.
It wasn’t enough for Tsujita to serve the best ramen in L.A. In 2014, Takehiro Tsujita added Sushi Tsujita to Sawtelle Boulevard, teaming with chef Shigeru Kato. The space includes wood-framed geometric bamboo panels and a marble backed sushi bar. Night brings high-end edomae-style omakase. Lunch delivers relative value, with bara-chirashi ($30-45) starring nori-accented white rice topped with pristine seafood like bluefin tuna, kama toro, halibut, unagi (fresh water eel), kohada (gizzard shad), shrimp, clam, uni, tamago, and pickled young ginger. No matter the price point, expect a cooling cup of chawan mushi topped with a thin layer of jelly, a small bowl of gritty miso soup with seaweed and scallions, and a cup of hot brown tea to finish. Sushi Tsujita also reserves 15 orders per day for an $18 version of the chirashi bowl with less manicured cuts of fish.