Sasabune – When Cinderella Moves into the Prince’s Castle

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca

Sushi Sasabune
12400 Wilshire Blvd. (@ S. Carmelina)
Los Angeles, CA 90025

There isn’t much I can add to what has already been said about Sushi Sasabune. Descriptions, opinions – they are are all out there, and run the gamut. The haters don’t argue the quality of the fish, but also don’t restrain themselves from bemoaning the environment in which the sushi is served. They maligned the lack of “atmosphere,” with fluorescent lighting and the cheap, flimsy, card-for-dining tables taking away from the sushi “experience.” They decry the attitude, turning gentle omakase’s “Trust me” into an egotistic command from a despotic chef. The sushi is mass-produced because customers don’t make choices, neither do they make orders. They simply eat what has been almost robotically prepared by chefs who might not even be Japanese. Eating at Sasabune is like dining in an industrial factory.

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, no spicy tuna
no spicy tuna for you!
sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, trust me
trust me

But then, there are those Sasabune devotees who can do nothing but rave about the restaurant. Not only do they deem the quality of the fish as high, but they go so far as appraising it as “the best.” They found the ramshackle surroundings to be utterly charming, a sign that the food is more important than the atmosphere. It is, perhaps, the sort of absentmindedness that comes with genius.

There are strong, convincing arguments on both sides, thus there isn’t much else I can say that will add any value to what is already known, so I really should just save my blogging breath.

However, I am going to say it anyway!

I can say that I have held both opinions, and not only once each. Back when Sasabune was in literally a shack of a place on Sawtelle, I was wary of the place. I was skeptical. Sushi is raw. It has to be served in a sanitary place. The shack looked scary and unclean and something like a hut in the woods that a serial killer who doesn’t wash his would live in. I refused to go there, arguing that if a restaurant can’t even maintain a respectable appearance, how am I to trust them with raw fish that is potentially full of parasitic worms? It may not seem like it based on a few of my ex-boyfriends, but I do have standards.

However, I did try it, and I ate a huge side of humble pie with the glorious fish that I ate. Oh, that sneaky little Sasabune was like Cinderella, hiding royalty underneath the ashes and rags.

sushi sasabune, santa monica, los angeles, ca
sushi sasabune by way of CapsLock

We know the story of happy Cinderella who hums along with the birds and plays with housemice who, amazingly, know how to sew. What we don’t know is the story of the “ever after.” Cinderella married Prince Charming, moved into his castle, dropped the “Cinder-” part of her name because it reminded her too much of the poverty she left behind, and had her name spelled out in diamonds to wear around her neck. In the fairytale of sushi, Sasabune moved into a giant, fanicer, glass-encased space on the Westside and plastered its CapsLock name in neon blue all over the place: SASABUNE.

sushi sasabune, santa monica, los angeles, ca, ume shu
pour me another ume shu, daaah-ling
sushi sasabune, santa monica, los angeles, ca, wasabi and ginger
breathsavers aka ginger

Success in the form of money and fame has turned what I once knew as a humble, quiet sushi joint into an arrogant, loud, obnoxious, over-sized sunglasses-wearing, chihuahua-toting, sushi heiress. But no matter how much your A-list stylist works on you to look good for the cameras and polished from a distance from a distance behind the velvet rope, on the inside, you are still who you are. You can take the Cinderella out of the ashes, but you can’t take the Sawtelle out of the Sasabune. The fish is still the same, the attitude is still the same, and though it appears to be in a bigger, better, fanicer space, it still feels like the ground floor of the office building in which it it housed.

I won’t go into the details about each individual piece, but rest assured they all tasted good, some better than others, but on average, all good. At some point, I had to ask to chefs to make mine sashimi because I was getting way too full on the nigiri with rice. Surprisingly, they were happy to accommodate that. I have to admit though, that even with the sushi being as good as it, I am not sure how anxious I am to go back. Good sushi is not hard to find, so now, the atmosphere really does matter. Sasabune’s atmosphere is now in that limbo between charmingly-devoid and over-the-top, which are a dime a dozen.

Now let the porn parade begin!

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, albacore tuna sashimi
alba(hard)core sashimi
sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, maguro nigiri sushi
luscious red maguro

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, ono
ono is hawaiian for ono
sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, ono
ono! not again!

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, hamachi
hamachi you wanna pay?
sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, scallop and salmon
scallop, salmon, but i prefer sake

sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, tuna and kani rolls
tuna and kani rolls with it, baby
sasabune sushi, santa monica, los angeles, ca, kani handroll
signature farewell-kani handroll

** a year ago today, there was curly parsley for garnish **

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 chubbuni13 October 26, 2006 at 12:43 am

You made me want to go to the Don Sasabune in Century City; in fact, I think I will go there tonight… and I agree with you 100% on your assertation that cupcakes are a laughable trend, but when my girlfriend exclaims to me with unmitigated glee that I “made her dreams come true” after buying her Sprinkles cupcakes for our anniversary dessert, I guess I gotta just grit my teeth and make the trip down to Little Santa Mo.


2 Anonymous October 26, 2006 at 11:42 pm

How do you think they would handle a diner who can’t eat shellfish?


3 Chubbypanda October 27, 2006 at 12:55 am


That plate of albacore is seriously pornographic. But, I’ve never been a big fan of places where you can’t order either okonomi or omakase. My favorite place, Frenzy, allows you to do both. If something isn’t fresh or good that day, they won’t serve it. I trust them not to stock crap.

You’re completely correct. At the price point most sushi is served at, both atmosphere and service need to be as stellar as the food.

– Chubbypanda


4 sarah October 28, 2006 at 6:59 am

chubbunni: cute name! wait – there is a sasabune in the century city mall? is that what that sushi bar was in the middle of “The Dining Terrace?!?!?” I didn’t even look at it when I went! How is it?

anonymous: if you have a serious allergy to shellfish, a sushi bar is very very dangerous, no matter how sanitary the place is. even if they send their knives and cutting boards through industrial hygiene procedures, how can you be sure? if you’re asking about their willingness to accommodate special requests, they’re not total nazis. i asked for no rice, and i didn’t have a problem. :)

chubbypanda: hm..i may have to try frenzy

l.a.c.: i was there on someone else’s dime, so we sat at a table, on his call.


5 Ishmael November 7, 2006 at 2:19 pm

what will they do, If you can’t eat shellfish?

Maybe they’ll throw ’em back.

But first… have you tried removing the shells?

Don’t listen to me…. or just take it on the chin.


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