To Live and Eat Sushi in L.A.
By AMY PANG
Blast Los Angeles Bureau
923 E. Third St.
(between Alameda St. and Santa Fe Ave.)
The big thing about R-23 is its location. It's tucked away in a row of warehouse buildings in L.A.'s downtown loft district, and the streets get hairy around there. After making a couple of wrong turns, a friend and I found the building and thus began an experience leading to nirvana.
I advise against going there if you're tremendously hungry unless you're rolling in dough. We had dinner there after a day of bad food, and it was so freaking good that we ended up eating a hundred dollars' worth of food without realizing it. The sushi was fantastic - fresh, flavorful and with just enough wasabi to keep you interested.
|"We ended up eating a hundred dollars' worth of food without realizing it."
The decor was minimalist and industrial, with exposed brick and air ducts and chairs made of cardboard. The sake came in cute little handmade cups and a carafe that looked like something a ceramics artist did on their day off. The sushi came on a slab of glazed earthenware about two feet long, the sushi we ordered lined up in neat little rows. Because we were starving, we ordered some oysters on the half shell, which were brilliant and not too briny, and a soft shelled crab, lightly battered and deep-fried. The only dessert is ice cream, namely red bean, green tea and cappuccino. We opted for green tea, which was subtly infused with flavor.
The crowd was an eclectic mix of native Japanese, business folk, and arty-looking hipsters. Service was super; my water glass was never less than half-empty, and various people kept checking to see if we were doing OK without being annoyingly intrusive.
It was a dining experience that comes rare in L.A.
Todai (various locations, L.A.)
Before I had my fabbo meal at R-23, I went to the all-you-can-eat sushi and other things place near my apartment. And a bigger contrast never existed.
The one I visited is in Woodland Hills and used to be a steakhouse. The space is fairly large and decorated in a nautical/marine motif.
The best analogy I can think of is a Las Vegas casino buffet; this is the McDonald's equivalent of Japanese food. Not great, but not horrible.
The sushi selection was more than I expected, considering the context. In addition to old standbys like California rolls and ebi nigiri, I saw futomaki, inari, and salmon skin. The seaweed salad was good. They had other salads but I didn't feel like having any; I wanted my money's worth, dammit, and I wasn't about to waste precious stomach space on lettuce. The hot food includes miso and udon soup, tempura, teriyaki, sautéed string beans and other Asian-influenced items. Oh, they did have edamame, which I didn't notice until after I was too full. Dessert consists of previously frozen cakes and pastries cut into tiny one-inch pieces and fruit.
|"The sushi was mediocre at best. Texturally and taste-wise, it was not all that."
The sushi was mediocre at best. That is, it was edible, and it tasted the way it was supposed to. Nothing smelled rancid. But it wasn't amazing. Texturally and taste-wise, it was not all that.
Because everything is served buffet-style, you have to deal with people trying to nab that last piece of shrimp tempura or maguro, sometimes cutting in front of you to do so. Very annoying. There is a vague anarchistic air, as though a fight could break out any minute over that last piece of salmon.
The good thing is that it IS a buffet; theoretically speaking, you can get there when it opens and spend the afternoon in a daze of slow eating, and then you don't have to eat dinner because you're so full.