Kiriko Sushi {restaurant} – Secret on Sawtelle

kiriko11301 olympic blvd. (part of the olympic collection plaza, but storefront is on sawtelle)
suite 102
los angeles, ca 90024

After an article in the LA Times, and a few other recommendations during my sushi research, I finally made it to Kiriko. How many times have I mindlessly walked right by this joint, on my way to the tea house? How many times have I peeked in, noted a sushi bar, but subconsciously dismissed it as another sushi bar in LA? Too many.

I was a little worried at first because it was almost 8 pm , and the tiny little restaurant wasn’t overflowing with diners, as i would expect from other popular sushi joints. it was comforting, though, to see that there were several tables of japanese people very thoroughly enjoying their meals. unlike sasabune or hide sushi, kiriko has a little bit of atmosphere; lower lighting, dark tables and chairs, a wooden sushi bar, and small, but noticeable-if-it’s-not­-there details. there were nice frames on the japanese artwork on the walls, pretty little soy sauce dishes, plates, and cloth napkins!

We asked to sit at the bar, and were puzzled when the hostess seated us directly next to the only other couple at the bar. she apologized and said that it will get busy and that she couldn’t leave seats open in between. she was right. about halfway through our meal, i looked around the restaurant and realized it was full.

The sushi was so good. maguro, hamachi, hirame, shiro maguro were excellent: fresh, and thick-cut. the lone sushi chef had a severe face, but he was fast, friendly and informative. i saw something unfamilar on the menu and asked him very simply, “what’s kohada?” he answered that it was a strong fish, as all silver-skinned fish are. as he continued slicing with a knife made of a single piece of metal from handle to tip, he explained that kohada is marinated in salt and vinegar, and is one of his favorites. without knowing my tastes, he added, he didn’t know if he should recommend it. aw, man. either he really didn’t know, or he knew exactly how to dare me to order something that was *gasp!* market price. i asked for the kohada, and so did the couple next to us who heard his explanations. he put down one piece in front of each of us: a 4-inch long piece of what looked simply like raw, silvery fish skin. somene not used to seeing fish look so much like, well, fish, might have been a little eebed out. it wasn’t the couple’s favorite (i wasn’t surprised), and it was “a little fishy” for fig, but i loved it. in fact, i didn’t think it was the least bit strong, but i also come from a culture that eats fermented soy beans and “rotting” cabbage.

Everything really was very good. and to think i wasted all this time not eating there. i can’t believe that so many many times, i have just walked right by kiriko. i wonder how many times other people do the same and don’t realize what on earth they are missing? hopefully, many, hopefully it’ll stay that way and i’ll always be able to walk in without a reservation.

rating out of 5: food = 5, experience = 5, overall = 5
would i go back? absolutely. sign me up for next week.

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  • chris

    my favorite hole-in the wall for all the reasons you specified. the older sushi chef is too nice, and earned my infinite respect when he surprised me with a seared toro nigiri right before i was going to call my tab.

    their homemade ice cream – as well – is re…f*ckin…markable. sesame honey. mmmm.

  • sarah

    chris, i will have to go back and try the ice cream! (btw, kiriko isn’t quite a hole-in-the-wall, er, at least not the way, say sasabune was!)

  • Alan

    Don’t go there for the ice cream unless you want to be refused service. The waiter said the owner has a wierd policy that you must order what he feels is a “full meal.” I have been refused twice on two seperate occasions. Once I went there with a date and oedered the ice cream… the owner got angry and refused to serve us. The second time was with me and three buddies. The owner got really rude and felt we had not ordered enough food to justify him serving us ice cream. I have yet to even get to try the ice cream and at this point will never go back. This place leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t listen to Alan, this place is wonderful. On both occasions that I went, desert was offered without asking. Of course, we did get the omakase both times.

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