If the world were a comic strip, you'd be able to see the little question mark that floated over my head as I decided on, traveled to, and finally entered Sushi Go 55 in Little Tokyo's Mitsuwa Shopping Center. I didn't really have a huge reason to have that annoying question mark following me around. After all, it is owned by the same people as one of my favorite haunts as of late, Izakaya Haru Ulala. Maybe it's because I'm just too much of a follower, and the fact that there were mixed reviews on Chowhound made that question mark linger like an annoying fly no matter how hard I tried to swat it away. I think the biggest factor for all my iffy-ness, though, came from the fact that my sushi was going to come from a place located in the Mitsuwa Shopping Center, a virtual ghost town of a shopping center. It might be busier during weekday lunch hours, but I wouldn't know. I never see the lunch crowds that probably fill up this three story mall with what seems like less than a fifty percent occupancy rate. What Pam sees are the weekend Mitsuwa shoppers that pretty much stay on the first floor of the mall to shop the market, maybe to go to the Yuki dollar store or to the Mikayawa sweet shop, and never even reaching the desolate second and third floors.
Hence the question marks, which were soon accompanied by a series of those bubbly cartoon clouds that if you could read my mind, would say "Who goes here??? Does anyone go here???" "How fresh is this fish gonna be???"
As we walked in to the clean space on the so-quiet-you-can-hear-a-pin-drop third floor of the Mitsuwa Shopping Center, my head was abuzz with question marks and cartoon clouds. "There's only two other people here. They can't possibly turn their goods that fast." "I hope this is gonna be good." "This BETTER be good." But I kept my thoughts to myself since this was a nice dinner date for me and Isaac and since the restaurant's host greeted us with such friendliness. And at least we didn't have to wait. We were seated immediately at the beautiful-hunk-of-blond-wood sushi bar and greeted by our sushi chef, an short older man with a smile that crossed from ear to ear. As we decided on our fish, rectangular platters of wasabi and ginger were placed in front of us which was followed by an amuse bouche of delicious marinated octopus salad. We hadn't tried the fish yet, but the atmosphere was extremely pleasant so far...the question marks were starting to fade slowly.
Marinated Octopus Salad
We requested orders of various nigiri sushi one by one from our smiling friend: albacore, yellowtail, bonito, tuna, to name a few. A statement on the restaurant's website certainly holds true: "Our cuts are thicker than most sushi bars." A question mark, combined with an exclamation mark floated over my head as our chef plopped the first pieces of nigiri on our plates. There they were, long slices of glistening fish draped over smallish pieces of rice like a petite girl donning one of those long shawls. The iffy-ness came back: this fish couldn't possibly be as fresh and tender as the more delicate cuts I'm used to! But I was wrong, and the question mark once again faded, replaced by a smiley-face with an exclamation mark. OK, so I still think that Sushi Gen and Izayoi are a teeny cut above, but the goods here ranked high on the quality and freshness scale. Our teeth seemed to melt away the fish before biting into the small, tender mound of vinegar rice.
A muy bonito bonito
A giant caterpillar, or tuna nigiri?
Tender to the core albacore
I couldn't help it; I had a big bottle of Kirin in front of me, and though the sushi was doing the job, I needed some oysters to help wash the beer down! Why? 'Cause there ain't no better combination than fried oysters and beer! Sushi Go 55 uses plump, juicy hama hama oysters breaded in panko and fried to a light golden brown. A tiny mesclun salad with ginger soy vinaigrette sits off to the side, looking and tasting pretty. More smiley faces.
We gave many thanks to the staff, our sushi chef (damn, I didn't get the fellow's name!), the host whose family just happens to own the Sushi Go 55/ Haru Ulala empire. "Oh, so you're related to the lady who works at Haru Ulala?" we asked. "Yeah, that's my mom," he replied. "Awesome--we love her!" He was extremely gracious as well as proud of his family's achievements, explaining that his family opened the second sushi bar in the U.S. back in the 60's and that they'd recently been given awards and recognition for achievement in sushi! With the extremely pleasant expereinces we've had at both their restaurants recently, I can tell that the Morishitas are just wonderful people.
The question marks are back though. As well as the cartoon clouds. I'm wondering, "How the hell is this place being so quiet and all able to serve such fresh fish???" I guess I'll just have to let it go for now. But the smiley faces? Those are staying! =)
Sushi Go 55
333 S. Alameda St. #317
Los Angeles, CA 90013