Sometimes (or, most times, for me) Japanese food isn’t about fancifully plated platters of sashimi or minimalist, modern, Japanese-inspired dishes set in futuristic décor. Sometimes, it’s about a simple meal of fish on rice, prepared perfectly, served without frills or overdone formalities.
Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo may house plenty of ramen shops, katsu dens, and mochi parlors, but for simple, traditional Japanese sushi, Sushi Gen is the place to be. On quiet nights, you may find content ladies reading a paperback along the light wood bar, eating sushi with their hands. On rowdy Saturdays, younger folk stroll in, asking the chefs where the fish is from and ordering plates of uni sushi topped with quail egg yolks.
The small restaurant (by Los Angeles standards, at least) divides itself into a quieter table area and a bar area. If you’re in for the real experience, opt for the bar, where you can view the day’s fish assortment and go where your whims take you. You won’t be able to order the combination platters of sashimi, but you’ll be close enough to chat up the sushi chefs and watch them slice up the sweetest pieces of chu-toro or o-toro to order.
On lucky nights, the restaurant will have engawa, served with either ponzu or a light lemon juice. If not, there’s always geoduck, some of the best maguro around, ama ebi (with heads deep-fried or in miso soup), and the rest of a consistently superb selection, all crafted around a perfectly molded bed of rice. End the night with an ochazuke, some tamago sashimi, or green tea ice cream; it’s not much in terms of “dessert,” but it’ll keep you happy as you hit the freeway home.