Another casual weeknight dinner with three friends rolls around and the group text inevitably goes like this:
“I just want to go somewhere easy where I’m not going to eat too much.”
“Also, I’m broke and don’t get paid until next week.”
“Guys, I’m trying not to eat any red meat. Sushi?”
“F*ck it, let’s just go to Sugarfish.”
This isn’t to say that we have anything against Sugarfish. We definitely ate there at least once this week, and so did you. It’s just that at this point we can recite the entire Trust Me menu by heart, and we also don’t always want to spend an hour and a half of our two-hour dinner date waiting for a table.
So we’ve come up with some places that are Sugarfish-ish - they serve great sushi that’s relatively affordable (for sushi) and are perfectly enjoyable spots for a weeknight dinner with a few friends. Next time you want something that’s like Sugarfish, but isn’t actually Sugarfish, here’s where to go.
The Spots (None of Which Are Sugarfish)
Jinpachi is like the mom-and-pop version of Sugarfish. There’s only one location, and they’re definitely not coming at you with a fancy design scheme, but they will give you some quality raw fish at a decent price. The Sushi Moriawase involves eight pieces of nigiri, a roll, soup, and salad, and is so affordable ($22 at lunch, $32 at dinner) you’ll feel like you’re stealing from them. Which is why you should get the crispy rice with spicy tuna too.
photo credit: Holly Liss
If the sheer rush of getting lots of bang for your buck is your main attraction to Sugarfish, then Sushi Gen is your best alternative. Specifically, the sashimi special, which is $17 at lunch and $23 at dinner, and is so popular it has its own specially-designated dining room. The vibe here is more upbeat izakaya than serious quiet sushi temple, which is probably more what you were looking for anyway. Until you have your own specially-designated sushi dining room.
You can load up on sushi at Murakami, but let’s not kid ourselves, you’re here for the sashimi bowls. Like Sugarfish, Murakami is a pretty fun place to be, and, unlike Sugarfish, you can have a perfectly filling (but not need-a-nap-afterwards filling) lunch for less than $20. Go for the number six (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, albacore, shrimp, eel, and avocado) or the slightly less loaded mixed bowl. And while you’re there, wave to everyone you’ve ever met.
There is zero atmosphere at Sushi Spot in Tarzana, and you will be scolded if you take out your cell phone, but that’s really part of the fun. The omakase here is both affordable ($37 gets you a lot of fish) and slightly different - along with your salmon nigiri, you’ll get some stuffed squid and maybe some eel. If you’re in the Valley, Sushi Spot is a good way to get all your Sugarfish classics with some added things you might not have had before. And you almost definitely will not have to wait.
We can feel you rolling your eyes, but we’re not talking about the house music-pumping, underage kids paying for dinner on their parents credit cards versions of Katsuya in Brentwood and Hollywood. We’re talking about the original Katsu-Ya in Studio City. It’s still busy, and there’s still plenty of creamy popcorn shrimp, but there are significantly fewer stilettos, and the sushi continues to be great.
One thing you will not find at Sugarfish: rainbow rolls. So when you have that one friend in town who just discovered sushi, but also thinks rainbow rolls are LEGIT, the answer is Fumi. Alice can order all the specialty rolls she wants (and Fumi’s are actually good), and everyone else can go crazy on nigiri without burning all their money (start with whatever specials are on the whiteboard). Omakase is going to set you back more than a Trust Me (it’s $65), but you’ll also be thinking about the yellowtail belly for days afterwards.
Hamasaku might be in a strip mall on Santa Monica Boulevard, but this is basically Brentwood, so this ain’t no hole-in-the-wall. But luckily, just because it’s a little bit fancy in here doesn’t mean you’re paying crazy prices for your sushi. The omakase is $55, very generous (with miso soup, egg custard, and dessert included), and they throw in interesting options like cuttlefish. Also the chances of seeing Robert Pattinson are about 2:1, so have your Team Edward shirt ready to go.
Sasabune isn’t on this list because it’s super affordable (an omakase is around $70), and it definitely doesn’t have anything resembling a vibe. But if you want the kind of LA-style omakase that Sugarfish is based on, this is one of our favorite more traditional spots around. Don’t expect any obscure fish with names that sound like mythical creatures, just a solid lineup of the greatest hits (tuna sashimi in ponzu, crab hand rolls, and some hot things) and some very fresh fish.