Tenno Sushi (Los Angeles, December 2017)


My Twin Cities readers who are sick of my criticisms of sushi in Minnesota and my constant praise of sushi in Los Angeles will be pleased to read this review of Tenno Sushi, a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo that is no better than the places I’ve found lacking here (though also no worse). How did we end up here despite our commitment to eating high quality sushi in Los Angeles? Well, due to the intersection of two reasons:  we needed to be at the Natural History Museum after lunch; and our older brat decided on this trip that he wanted to finally try sushi and we needed to find a place that was relatively kid-friendly.

Since it was lunch time, Sushi Gen with its mad sashimi-special rush was out (we tried and couldn’t even find parking in the lot). Sushi Komasa is dinner-only (and is nothing special either). And while Hama Sushi was open, it’s not kid-friendly at all: almost all of the seating is at the bar and they have no cooked dishes. The latter meant there’d be nothing for the younger brat who is not yet sushi-curious and also, realistically, for the older brat (for we knew that he’d eat a couple of pieces of sushi and then want something more familiar). We walked around a bit looking for alternatives and decided to go into Tenno Sushi which did not have a wait. This is no temple of sushi—their target audience appears to be tourists wandering Little Tokyo—and the menu is calibrated accordingly: there’s tempura, teriyaki and other cooked dishes (including jalapeno poppers and sesame chicken); and their lineup of bizarro rolls would warm the heart of the average Minnesotan restaurant customer. We mostly got raw fish though.

How was it?

Well, it wasn’t terrible, and nothing was expensive but it’s also not a place to go to if you’re looking for very good sushi. We got their Sakura sushi combo, the Sakana sashimi combo, a teriyaki chicken bowl and an order of yellowtail rolls. The Sakura combo is 2 pcs each of six types of sushi: shrimp, scallop, yellowtail, albacore, salmon and ahi. The Sakana combo is three thick slices each of tuna, salmon, yellowtail and albacore. It was all cookie-cutter and unremarkable and also mostly inoffensive (the exception was my albacore nigiri which was topped with burnt garlic flakes). Of the nigiri the scallop and yellowtail were pretty decent—the scallop superior to that I ate last week at Minneapolis’ altogether more expensive and pretentious Kado no Mise.

Launch the slideshow for not-very-good cellphone pictures and scroll down for price etc.

All of this, a couple of soft drinks, tax and tip came to $86. Not bad value for two adults and two children but also just a little bit less than we paid at Raku and Sea Harbour for the four of us. Which puts things in perspective. That said, the Sakura combo gives you 12 pieces of just about acceptable sushi (as long as you’re not particular about the rice) for $24 and that’s a pretty good price if what you’re mostly interested in is quantity over quality. As to whether that quality improves if you sit at the bar or order their omakase in the evening, I don’t know but sort of doubt.

Oh yes, you’re probably wondering how the older brat’s first sushi foray went. Well, he loved the cooked shrimp—no surprise. He also liked the yellowtail and the tuna. The yuzu kosho on the scallop was not to his taste and he didn’t like the burnt garlic on the albacore anymore than I did. These he took small bites of before yielding the rest to me. The salmon he didn’t want to try even though he loves cooked salmon. A good first try—we were both proud of him and ambivalent about the increase in expense once/if he gets into sushi for real.

Anyway: only one more meal from our December L.A trip to come. My next meal report, however, will be of a lunch at one of our favourite Twin Cities restaurants.

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