photo credit: Edomae Sushi
Sawa gets your adrenaline going from the moment you set out to book a seat. Reservations— which require a $100 deposit—are released online once a month and get swooped up in a matter of seconds, which means you’ll need to log in to Tock with the mindset of a warrior or captain of a varsity sports team. If you find success, congrats. Now you’ll have to find the actual restaurant, which is more like a swanky eight-seat vault inside of a Little Tokyo parking structure. Locating the door is part of the fun if you’re into that sort of thing, but do allow an extra five-or-so minutes to avoid being late.
Sawa is a looser, slightly less formal omakase experience from the chefs behind Sushi Kaneyoshi (located in the same building), and it’s a perfectly lovely time if you’re comfortable dropping about $500 on dinner for two. The room is hushed, the sushi chefs and bartenders instantly make you feel like you’re in professional hands, and generally, it’s a sexy, upscale vibe.
Though the experience as a whole will make anyone feel like a pampered poodle, dinner itself is the least noteworthy aspect of Sawa. The 18 pieces of Edomae-style nigiri are mostly traditional, occasionally forgettable, and occasionally sensational. On our visit, sous vide monkfish liver made time stop, but the Santa Barbara uni didn’t taste like much at all. The real highlights are the cocktails, or rather, the cocktail pairing option. For $45 you can pick any three from the menu and let the masters behind the bar course them out alongside the omakase. There are several highballs, martinis, cocktails, and mocktails at large, and most are made with rare whiskies, gins, and vodkas infused with even rarer ingredients. Aside from Ryla in Hermosa Beach, we can’t think of another place nailing Japanese cocktails in LA quite like this. The super savory dashi martini is a memorable drink that you probably couldn’t whip up at home.
So, should you go here? It’s complicated. If you’re a sushi head or tend to go nuts for Japanese cocktails, yes—add Sawa to your bucket list. If you’re just looking for a special occasion dinner spot, you might find yourself questioning if booking this exclusive sushi experience is worth the effort and expense.
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