- $180/person and up, before drinks, tax, tip
- Size: 8 seats at counter, plus tables
- Style: tsumami + sushi omakase
- Reserved: 2 weeks in advance
Mori Sushi perhaps represents the earliest cross-pollination of the more "traditional" style now pervasive at sushiya in New York City and the "strip-mall sushi" culture that has developed in Los Angeles over the past 30+ years. Morihiro Onodera, the shop's original chef and founder, was a disciple of Naomichi Yasuda during his days in the late-1990s at Hatsuhana, at the time one of New York's top-ranking sushiya. When he opened his own shop in the early-2000s, Mori-san transported several of Yasuda-san's key principles - namely, a particular focus on the shari, and a relatively simple, unadorned style.
Mori-san sold his sushiya several years ago to his itamae to focus on other pursuits (ceramics, of which many are prominently displayed and used at the restaurant, and rice farming, which supplies the shari for the restaurant). The current head chef is Masunori Nagano (or "Maru-san"), who has been with Mori since his beginning in Los Angeles.
I'll get this out of the way first: my visit to Mori Sushi is the best sushi omakase I've had in Los Angeles, period, and the shop certainly deserves a ranking in the top tier of sushiya throughout North America. Ingredient sourcing is at the highest level, from garnishes and palate cleansers (wakamomo and fresh wasabi from Shizuoka) to some very rare wild neta (matsukawa karei from Hokkaido, aji from Awaji Island, anago from Ishikawa, and awabi from Tokyo Bay...). The shari is on the mild side, but nuanced in both texture (slightly dry) and seasoning (a blend of akazu and gomezu); the word "balance" comes to mind as the best descriptor.
While not everything served was flawless, any small flubs were lost in the overall consistency of the meal. This was helped along by the exceptional variety of neta, which in my estimation probably rivals any US sushiya that I can think of. This standard of variety and care was even extended into the types of otoro cuts that were provided to diners on my visit - hagashi (cut from between the belly sinews) and setoro (from the "shoulder"/upper back).
Perhaps even more astounding is the fact that Maru-san's experience as an itamae has come exclusively from his work at this shop. I don't mean to impugn the credibility of US-trained sushi chefs, but a simple fact is that training in Japan generally imparts enhanced skills in the areas of precision and consistency. In Japan, many itamae typically spend 5-10 years on tasks like preparing the shari, tamago, or kanpyo (and before that, simply cleaning or washing dishes!) before being permitted to make sushi. Compare that to the US, where chefs can graduate from a "sushi academy" in a few months, or where they may be thrown into serving diners on their first day at work, and you can begin to understand this discrepancy. In Maru-san's case, his skills were indistinguishable and in some cases better than many Japan-trained itamae working in the US, and this is certainly laudable. I definitely look forward to returning.
11500 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA