Niko Niko Sushi – Oh no no, Ono

niko niko sushi, los angeles, ca - ono sushi
I am a very forgiving person.

Yeah, right. On Planet Dreamsville.

I am not a very forgiving person at all, but really, I try. Doesn’t trying count for anything? I try to be forgiving. I really do try, because I want to be a sweet, soft, Hello Kitty of a loving person, but that is trying to fight the wonderforce known as Mother Nature. I am just biologically and genetically a petty, unsympathetic, unforgiving, unforgetting girl who holds a grudge with a death-grip like Kenny Rogers holds onto four of a kind. I never fold ‘em. Never.

Aren’t we all supposed to forgive and forget? We’re supposed to, but I can’t. Sure, when I’m on Planet Dreamsville with everyone else who has fooled themselves into auto-Gandhi mode, I can “forgive.” I can slap a sticky sweet smile on my face and do the happy little *pat pat* ass-out hug on the outside while hissing a “Don’t worry about it. Of course I totally forgive you for accidentally spilling red wine all over the $2,000 custom-tailored white dress that fits me like a glove but is now a very expensive wine-stained dish rag! I forgive you!” But do I actually forget it? Never. I will file it away in my brain and hold onto it until my body and mind evaporate into ether. Do other people really forget? Doubtful; selective Alzheimer’s doesn’t exist.

When it comes to food, my memory and my inability to forgive and forget is my worst enemy. One horrible, gut-wrenching experience can taint my opinion black forever, no matter how deliciously apologetic it is afterwards. I had sushi at Niko Niko that repeatedly punched me in the gut for five straight days. What would Jesus do? Turn the other cheek and take it like a saint. No way. What would Sarah do? Both cheeks chilling on porcelain, I cursed Niko Niko and swore that I will never go and eat there, or any other sushi bar that advertises “half-price sushi” ever again. Never ever again.

Niko Niko is located in a tiny mini mall next to a Winchell’s donuts on the northwest corner of Westwood and National Boulevards in West Los Angeles. We were on our way to Trader Joe’s to pick up ingredients as part of a hectic tear-about-town in preparation for a bruncheon, and just happened to stumble upon Niko Niko along the way for lunch. There was a sign that screamed “Do not eat here!” It was spelled out right there in front of me, but for some reason, my Engrish must have only seen “happy hour, sushi half price” without registering the translation.

The interior was a pleasant surprise – clean, spacious, with an honest effort at modern, sleek, Asian design. It was an honest effort, but not wildly successful. We sat down at what felt like a card table with very flimsy chairs next to the window. But hey, it was a sleek card table.

Niko Niko has a menu with many of the standard Japanese foods, as well as some fusion-forward favorites like salads and creative monster rolls. Because we were in a bit of a rush, we simply made a few tick marks on the sushi scorecard and handed it back to the server. She confirmed our order with us by reciting out loud as she circled each fish, then skipped away to hand the list off to the sushi chefs. She returned less than a minute later to let us know that they were out of hirame and would we mind ordering snapper or sea bass instead? The sea bass would be fine.

It didn’t take long, since there were only a few other diners in the restaurant (even with half price sushi!). The sushi was nicely presented on a rectangular plate and the server was nice enough to point and identify what each one was – albacore, ono, sea bass, unagi, and a spicy tuna roll. Everything looked fairly standard, except that the ono was very oddly “perfect.” Both pieces of fish were perfect right rectangles.

niko niko sushi, los angeles, ca - ono
oh no, not wahoo!
niko niko sushi, los angeles, ca - sea bass
show some skin

I tried the ono first. Ono is a fish common in the waters of Hawaii, and is also known as wahoo. It had a mild to almost non-existent flavor that was almost completely lost to the ground ginger garnish, and the texture of the flesh was dry and grainy. I don’t recall ever having eaten raw ono before, so I didn’t have any basis for comparison. I simply made a mental note that I didn’t like ono and that I probably wouldn’t order it as sushi again. Next was the sea bass, which had a bit of the silvery skin left on. Silvery skin turns a lot of people off because of its appearance and its signal of a fishy flavored fish, but fishiness is something I love. Of course, sea bass, like most other white fleshed fish, is fairly mild, so I wasn’t horribly disappointed when it tasted only one decibel up from the ono on the fishiness scale. However, I did find the flesh to be unusually fibrous.

niko niko sushi, los angeles, ca - albacore
alba, to the core
niko niko sushi, los angeles, ca - unagi
uangi is always dessert

Albacore and unagi sushi were standard, as was that spicy tuna roll. We gobbled everything up rather quickly, paid our half-price check, hopped into the car, and raced off to complete our errands for the day.

I didn’t notice the rumbling until the following morning. While working alone in the early morning in my kitchen, I felt a quick sharp stab in my lower abdomen every once in a while, but shrugged them off. I had had a few drinks the night before (but after prepping ingredients, of course!) and thought the pinching was my body’s normal morning-after reaction to alcohol. Don’t make me blog it out loud. Okay, fine! I thought it was perhaps my regular cocktail cramping, or even *whispers* gas. I ignored it and continued scrubbing potatoes, toasting pita, and cursing while trying to peel and slice cucumbers into flat “wrappers.”

By the time my family
arrived, the pinching had escalated in frequency and intensity, as if someone were repeatedly stabbing be with the shards of a broken bottle of Chardonnay. If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought I was having contractions in the beginning stages of a strange immaculately conceived Alien labor. Finally, doubled over, I surrendered my paring knife, and ran for the bathroom. I’ll spare us the gruesome details of what ensued.

It lasted for five days. I wasn’t necessarily in unbearable pain the entire time, but every time I ate something, I would have to make a visit to the bathroom 15 to 20 minutes later. Wednesday night was the worst of it. Happily blogging away over my laptop, my hands were paralyzed mid-stroke, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and yet I was in a cold sweat. My body was a furnace, but I piled on layers and layers of clothing and blankets, unable to keep my teeth from chattering. My lips were blue, I was soaked with sweat, and my face was so pallid my skin seemed almost transparent. Niko Niko’s sushi – grainy ono, fibrous sea bass, whatever it was – had made me sick for five straight days.

Forgive and forget?

Turn the other cheek?

My ass.

Niko Niko Sushi
10839 National Blvd (@Westwood Blvd)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
310.470.2661

** a year ago today, i made a gingerbread ice cream sundae with rum-molasses pineapple sauce and candied ginger **

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous May 9, 2006 at 4:15 pm

I AGREE. Niko Niko is gross and the ratio of rice to fish in their regular rolls is 90-10. Way overpriced for what they give you. They do have happy hour for their sushi and Japanese beer, but the happy hour prices are what you should be paying normally.

You should check out Boss sometime. Boss is my favorite sushi/japanese place in Los Angeles.

mel_fox80[at]yahoo.

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2 abraxis May 9, 2006 at 4:17 pm

A few years back, I was in LA more frequently.

Used to go to Crazy Fish a LOT. It was great!

Have you been lately?

I wonder if it’s still good…

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3 Stephanie May 9, 2006 at 5:40 pm

Oh, no…I hope you don’t mean ‘gut-wrenching’ in a literal sense!

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4 Anonymous May 9, 2006 at 5:44 pm

CrazyFish is still a good place to go for big rolls. Be ready for a wait though there are usually people waiting outside depite the fact that they remodeled and added a few seats a year ago.

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5 Catherine May 9, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Bummer! :(

The one in our area is really good and always fresh from our experience.

However, we once ate at a Niko Niko in Long Beach and it was a big disappointment. Isn’t that one of the biggest food-mood kills? To leave a sushi restaurant with a bad taste in your mouth.

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6 presodent May 9, 2006 at 11:46 pm

For me, Niko Niko was also a literal ‘gut-wrenching’, approximately 8hours after leaving. I’m waiting for the address you post up to see if it’s the same location.

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7 Skip May 10, 2006 at 12:02 am

This is where my girlfriend and I went last night.

http://www.masusushi.com/

It’s really good! If you’re ever in Portland…

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8 shay May 10, 2006 at 1:45 am

oh man, I have not been there but I’m glad to know I should avoid it. I have a few sushi places that I LOVE in town, the cheapest of which (yet still manages to be yummy good quality) is Sushi Don Sasabune (Yes! Affiliated with THE Sasabune) located in a strip mall behind the Starbucks on the corner of Laurel Canyon & Riverside in Studio City. You all must go and check it out – $9 for 5 or 6 pieces of sushi and a big roll. Heaven!

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9 Yasmin May 12, 2006 at 3:43 pm

Ugh. Thanks for the heads-up…bad sushi that’s overpriced…talk about adding insult to injury! I’d be curious to know which location, too….

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10 peachiee May 12, 2006 at 4:01 pm

The picture is beautiful! That’s not actually from your hated sushi venue, is it?

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11 peachiee May 12, 2006 at 4:01 pm

The picture is beautiful! That’s not actually from your hated sushi venue, is it?

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12 sarah May 14, 2006 at 7:44 am

mel fox: you are not the first person to mention boss sushi to me. i may have to give it a try!

abraxis and anonymous: i think i went to crazy fish a long time ago when i first moved to la, but wasn’t impressed at all. however, it has been a long time, so perhaps i shall try it again!

stephanie: yeap. it was pretty much gut-wrenching. or maybe gut wretching?

cat: i went to the one in west l.a., so perhaps it’s just a location thing.

presodent: 8 hours? i wish my experience was onyl eight hours!

skip: i do plan to visit portland some time! i want to do another tour of the Pac NW!

shay: thanks for the tip – i’d never heard of don sasabune before. is that “don” as in “don knotts,” or “don” as in the “don corleone?”

yasmin: it wasn’t overpriced if it was half-price. but the again, for five days, even half price wasn’t worth it!

peach: yeah, i shouldn’t have taken such nice pictures! i mean, the ono actually looks pretty tasty!

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13 djjewelz May 14, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Sounds like food poisoning with a heavy dose of dehydration. Hope you’re feeling better. I had that happen to me once…from Noah’s bagel of all places.

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14 djjewelz May 14, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Sounds like food poisoning with a heavy dose of dehydration. Hope you’re feeling better. I had that happen to me once…from Noah’s bagel of all places.

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15 sarah May 14, 2006 at 6:10 pm

djjewelz: noah’s bagels?!?! what did you eat there? i could only imagine it being spoiled cream cheese or bad salmon lox!

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16 Anonymous May 15, 2006 at 5:34 am

hmm, are you sure it wasn’t stomach flu? There’s a big stomach flu flying about in LA, with very similar symptoms you were talking about. several of my family members, my bf’s family and friends had it very recently and we all did not eat together. Drink lots of gatorade to get better.

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17 Anonymous May 15, 2006 at 5:38 am

but then again, raw fish can cause lots of problems. i once met a sushi chef who said he won’t eat salmon (b/c most places don’t freeze it long enough to kill the bacteria) or unagi (b/c yakuza feed the unagi their victims, kind of like the mafia and pig farms). Try sushi gen in little tokyo. very good, big portions and pretty reasonable prices.

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18 sarah May 15, 2006 at 7:58 pm

anonymous: it might have been the stomach flu, though i have no idea how i would have contracted it, seeing as how i never leave this house and i rarely come into contact with the public. LOL! i am pretty sure it was the fish.

and another vote for sushi gen! i guess this means at some point i WILL have to leave my house and trek to downtown. :)

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19 Anonymous June 3, 2006 at 6:46 pm

and you’re a loser. you’re probably just weak sauce.

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20 Anonymous June 3, 2006 at 6:48 pm

OH and btw, cease your attempt at usage of esoteric word choice. You use your palabras incorrectly and, thus, sound like an idiot.
Shalom.

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21 sarah June 3, 2006 at 8:12 pm

anonymous: but i love sounding like an idiot!

how about you help me and correct my incorrect usage? thanks! kiss kiss!

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22 Anonymous March 23, 2007 at 2:58 am

It’s all about yamashiro people =) Although I have tried Niko Niko with my girl many times and have never had a problem. Their fish is fresh and miso soup is da bom! The owner always treats first commers with green tea icecream. Hope to see more sushi places around westwood and national, and yeah we have like three trader joes around here!

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23 Anonymous October 31, 2007 at 6:15 pm

We have a Niko Niko here in Costa Mesa, however, unlike everyone else’s experience, this one is great. The fish is fresh and I like the variety of rolls available. I have also visited one in Santa Ana off of Harbor Blvd. it was not as good as the one near my workplace. As like anything, I guess it depends on who is running the joint.

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24 Anonymous November 12, 2007 at 2:23 am

I’ve been to Niko Niko only once but never tried their sushi. I actually just ate their udon and some gyoza, which I thought were pretty okay.

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25 Angel December 22, 2007 at 8:26 am

Just thought I might say that perhaps you should either retry the Niko Niko on National&Westwood, or take this blog post down? I’ve lived in the area since summer 06, and Joe (the owner) said he took over the place around the same time. Me, my sig. other, and all of my roommates & their friends have been going there on a regular basis since last summer. With absolutely no ill effects. The staff have become like a family. To me, they’re amazing. It makes me kind of sad to see such a horrid review on top of the list when you google the place.

I know that you straight up say that you’re not a forgiving person, but you do try… try one more time? At least to see if it’s even the same place you remember? It’s not right to give this bad of a rewvie to the wrong person.

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26 mafiagodfather69 January 24, 2008 at 11:23 pm

I have to agree wth Robin. I tried the place numerous times since I went to UCLA(2001), I can’t say that I am like a “family” with them, but I certainly go there enough to know if there is anything wrong with their food. I eat like a Japanese when it comes to sushi(with my hand), and even by doing that I have not experienced any stomach discomfort, so… I don’t know if what you experienced was a 1 time thing or…? Not sure how they could stay in business so long if what you are saying is always true.

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27 Anonymous March 10, 2008 at 11:56 pm

niko niko in burbank is the best!! eat their poki salad. you’ll get hooked.

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28 Anonymous March 10, 2008 at 11:56 pm

niko niko in burbank is the best!! eat their poki salad. you’ll get hooked.

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29 Anonymous March 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Niko Niko sushi is not a true Sushi joint. It’s the McDonald’s of sushi serving what is known as “sushi” in North America. Maguro and a side of fries anyone? It’s sad how so many of these places have popped up everywhere serving mediocre sushi. Granted, if one goes to a real sushi bar, it will cost you a weeks worth of pay. I get a kick out of people say yay or nay about these McSushi Joints. If you find it tasty, good for you! If not, go to a real sushi bar and stop griping over “crappy sushi”.

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30 Angel March 28, 2008 at 5:35 pm

So what do you consider “real” Sushi places in LA? Are they super expensive because they are really really that good? Or because they are located in yuppyville and cater to the patrons who don’t bat an eye at spending a weeks worth of pay on one dinner? What makes them good other than the price?

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31 Anonymous May 6, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I made the mistake of going to Niko Niko last night in Lng Beach. WHAT A MISTAKE!!! Lousy service, lousy food. I would warn everyone I know of to AVOID this place, even if the food is free!!!

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32 sarah March 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I’m another frequenter of Niko Niko and am sad to see such a terrible (although well written and entertaining) review. I’ve eaten handfuls of times with no bouts of food poisoning. The staff is incredible and the food in my experiences has always been delicious and fairly priced. I second Angel’s request for you to give it a second try…They’re super sweet folks and it’s sad to have this review as the first thing that comes up in Google chasing away business. (If I had never been I certainly wouldn’t go after reading this, and would have missed out on trying my new favorite sushi happy hour spot!)

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33 Gern March 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Wow, people bashing people who tell it like it is.
Niko Niko Westwood/National has been my Closest sushi restaurant since 2000. I went in the beginning, and it was just OK.
What do I look for in sushi? Flavor. Freshness. Yes it is a personal decision.
I figured that when the quality started slipping, this outlet was being “carried” by the owners ‘Other’ Niko Niko shops. Customer count dropped massivly at one point, not fresh enough, I felt. My wife & friends &i stopped going around the time of the original Blog. I tried it again in Dec 2009. Still NOT impressed. I had rumbling a bit too. I won’t go back. I like Mori on Pico Blvd. Also Sushi Central.
I Don’t like Ugly Sushi @ Palms/Sepulveda, or Yabu on Pico.
Hey Sushi lover, I say, “Try out the places you want to. Return to the ones you like!” Pretty simple, huh? You and I may have differing palates.
The main thing, to me, is to ENJOY!

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34 TheJames October 27, 2010 at 10:21 am

My wife and I were looking for a tasty and friendly meal out as an end to a long day. We had been to Niko Niko some time ago. The interior has a pleasant look apart from three or four large screen TVs that are always on.

On our previous visit, we had a pleasant experience. But this time our experience was different. At last we were able to get a wall table where one of us was spared the stroboscopic effect of several large screen sports TVs.

We were immediately asked if we were ready to order, which we were not. When we did order, it was several pieces of sushi and appetizer of egg roll. But the sushi came first, then the egg roll later.

The sushi was rather bland, except for the spicy tuna roll which was OK. Quantities were minimal, and the shrimp tiny. Egg rolls were OK, but by no means delicate in flavor. We then ordered the recommended white tuna sashimi. It was not as soft as we had hoped, and was almost flavorless. It tasted like it had been frozen.

Our table was cleared and mopped up, and then we waited and waited and waited, and could not even catch the server’s attention for our bill. She was too busy cleaning a counter to notice customers.

So we stood up, unnoticed, walked to the cash register, where the other server looked up, took our payment without a word, and went back to sorting through receipts.

We left feeling very let down by our evening out, and we will not be returning. Shame, as when friends are in town it is the only restaurant within short walking distance.

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