Sushi Gen has been a Little Tokyo mainstay for many, many years, and is more popular than ever, as evidenced by the extremely long waits during both lunch and dinner. I’m surprised that I’ve never paid a visit all these years, but I guess I just wasn’t sure if it was worth the wait. However, this is arguably Lawrence’s favorite restaurant in LA, and he’s been trying to get me to go with him for month. I finally caved last Saturday night after one too many guilt trips, and I’m glad I did.
The restaurant is actually pretty big for a traditional sushi place, with a long sushi bar to the left of the entrance. There was probably a thirty-minute wait on average (with plenty of these people being USC fans coming after their football game – scary being in enemy territory), but luckily Lawrence made a reservation. He suggested that we try the sashimi platters that are only available at the tables though, to experience a combination of quantity and quality. Seeing that he’s the expert on Sushi Gen (one of the servers even recognized him), I had to oblige.
We started with an order of ankimo, or monkfish liver, in a traditional preparation. I really like monkfish liver, so I enjoyed this. But after having variations of this at Sushi Zo and the Four on Fish dinner (courtesy of Urasawa), where the ankimo was soft and creamy, this just doesn’t provide the same satisfaction.
Lawrence said that the amaebi (sweet shrimp) and uni at Sushi Gen were very good, probably two of the best they have to offer. I have to agree. The amaebi wasn’t like the mushy and slimy one I had at Sushi Zo at all, but rather crisp and indeed a bit sweet. The heads were deep fried for us (pictured below), a plus.
We each got a plate of this. Even if the cuts of sashimi were on the basic and safe side (sans those three cuts of toro), they were of good quality. And at twenty-six dollars (that came with soup, pickles, sunomono, tempura, and rice), it’s a steal. The yellowtail and tuna were great (although I wouldn’t have preferred the tuna to be chopped), and their interpretation of spicy tuna was very interesting (no mayo – looks like they used sambal oelek). I could’ve done without the cooked piece of salmon and pile of shredded crab though.
If value was taken into account, Sushi Gen is a definite A. The sashimi dinner, for twenty-six dollars, is a great value, given the amount of food and quality of the sashimi. I haven’t been so full from a sushi dinner in a long time. The service was great as well, very attentive throughout the night. However, from a pure sushi perspective, the restaurant didn’t amaze me. Rather, it pleased me. But that can be attributed to us ordering the sashimi dinner, rather than sitting at the sushi bar for an omakase. I would really like to do that the next time around, to truly see the quality of Sushi Gen.
Chris Hei grade: B+
422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012