Sushi Gen: Making it Rain Uni in Little Tokyo

Sushi Los Angeles


Bookend tidal waves frame the sign for Sushi Gen, which proprietor Toshiaki Toyoshima opened in a Little Tokyo plaza in March, 1981. The Japanese restaurant has earned a reputation for market-fresh fish and bringing relative value to a cuisine that doesn’t normally deliver much of it. Of course, handing the keys from our meal to luxury-minded financial analyst Daniel from Effing Dericious eliminated any possibility for value. Still, since it was a birthday dinner for our mutual friend Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang, we were willing to splurge, and the decision paid premium dividends.

There’s seemingly a perpetual line to sit at the sushi bar, or in a dining room that’s visible through wood slats. We waited an hour to secure a table, then let Effing Dericious order, since he eats at Sushi Gen bi-weekly. Sushi Gen sells standard dishes like fried chicken, chicken teriyaki and California rolls, not that we saw any of them. Instead, Mr. Dericious proceeded to shower our table with prized sea creatures.

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We started simple, with noodles in a bowl with gooey white mountain yam and nori strips.

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Low quality monkfish liver has a crumbly texture and has been known to resemble sea feta. No such issue at Sushi Gen, which presented a firm, slightly creamy slab of Ankimo ($6) in a savory, scallion-sprinkled ponzu broth, topped with mashed radish and a shavings of a ginger variety called myoga.

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My friends were quick to poke and prod the pair of broiled fish heads ($15). People valued the cheeks and eyes most, but the meat under blistered skin was still plenty juicy. Mashed daikon and pickled vegetables joined the heads.

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A meal that started with relatively rustic preparations transitioned to deluxe sushi platters, two pieces of each, per person, including snow white hamachi toro, firm giant clam wrapped in nori belts, well-marbled, rosy-hued toro with wasabi between the fish and rice, and aji (mackerel) with silver skin, scallions and grated ginger, best dipped in savory ponzu.

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Anago featured freshwater eel fillets that were lightly sauced, and not too sweet.

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They swaddled cool, creamy uni in nori, which contributed texture and accentuated the urchin’s salinity.

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One of the only dishes that would have worked better at the bar was an oily toro hand roll with wet nori paper, negi (green onion) and crunchy pickled daikon. At the bar, there wouldn’t have been a lapse, which allowed the seaweed to absorb the fish’s natural oils.

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Amaebi (Sweet shrimp) began with sweet, melt in my mouth amaebi sushi treated with light wasabi.

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Chefs used the remainder to produce crispy fried shrimp heads, which were overly burnt.

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Murky miso soup hosted more of the shrimp heads, along with more negi.

To drink, we enjoyed a 720ml bottle of Wakatake “Onikoroshi” Sake, Junmai Daiginjo from Shizaoka Prefecture, a sake house that dates to 1832.

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Matthew Kang is best known for running Scoops Westside, but he still got a complimentary scoop of green tea ice cream for dessert. How did he like it? Let’s just say that he’s spoiled at Scoops.

This was a blowout meal of epic proportions. The only luxury item we missed was live lobster, which we saw on the bar, but requires advanced ordering. That’s fine. We’ve got to save something special for when Kang turns 30.

Sushi Gen: Making it Rain Uni in Little Tokyo

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

More uni needed! (^_^)

one of the many horrible photos of myself on your site. thanks for the great birthday meal.

Mattatouille,

At least you’re a good sport about it. Look at it this way. That photo is all we ask in return for the meal.

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