Sushi Nozomi III (Torrance, Ca, December 2022)

Lunch at Sushi Nozomi was supposed to be our first meal in Los Angeles this December, to be eaten on our way from LAX to Seal Beach. But Sun Country screwed us over and we ended up eating dim sum instead at the new Torrance outpost of Lunasia (a meal that was good but not as good as I’d expected it might be). Nozomi is an altogether more reliable prospect though and I am pleased to report that our eventual meal there—lunch the next day—was just as good as we’d hoped it would be. The price, however, was not what we’d hoped/expected it would be—more on this below. But first let’s get to the good stuff.

The last time we were at Nozomi—almost exactly a year earlier—they had, like many other places, tented outdoor seating on the go and that’s where we’d sat. All of that is now in the past in Los Angeles, and we were inside. It’s a slightly crowded main dining room—there’s also a smaller private room off to the side and a few seats at the sushi bar. But it’s a nice space for all that.

What did we eat? We started with some ankinmo/monkfish liver. There was some confusion here. At the time of ordering I asked if they had any and our server told us they did but it was reserved for dinner. I asked if she could possibly see if the chef would be willing to spare some for pilgrims from Minnesota who are denied such pleasures there. She came back and said he would indeed be happy to serve us some and asked if we wanted one order or two. Two, I said, thinking that meant we were being offered ankimo in sushi form. But, in fact, we ended up with two large appetizer orders of ankimo, each with 4 thick pieces. Please note that I am not complaining.

Everything else was as expected: the older boy and the missus both got an order each of the lunch sushi combo: 8 pcs of nigiri plus tuna roll. The younger boy, who thankfully is not as committed to the sushi lifestyle as his brother, got the lunch teriyaki-tempura combo and also got two pieces of salmon nigiri on the side. He liked all of his food very much and in a shocker particularly liked the salad, or more accurately, the salad dressing: he ate it all!. The three lunch combos came with miso soup and salad. I put together a nigiri assortment for myself, along with some bonus pieces for the missus (uni) and the older boy (ikura).

The lunch sushi combo included the following: albacore, salmon, kanpachi/amberjack, maguro/tuna, ika/squid, hamachi//yellowtail, ebi/shrimp and tamago/egg. Them that ate it were well pleased. My assortment comprised the following: hirame/halibut, kanpachi/amberjack, hamachi/yellowtail, sake/salmon, kohada/gizzard shad, iwashi/sardine, aji/Japanese horse mackerel (billed as Spanish mackerel on the menu), saba/mackerel, hotate/scallop, Santa Barbara uni/sea urchin genitalia, ikura/salmon roe. All were at least very good. My picks of this bunch were the kanpachi, all three silvery/oily fish, the hotate and the uni.

For a look at the restaurant, menu and what we ate, click on a pic below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and my reservations about the price.

Service was friendly and present when needed. So, what are my reservations about the price? Well, with tax and tip the total came to $258.72. A nearly identical meal eaten a year previous had cost $185 with tax and tip. Here are some of the increases for comparison: the basis lunch sushi combo has gone from $19.80 to $29.80. The deluxe combo has gone up from $50 to $65; the lunch omakase from $60 to $80. Almost all the nigiri by the piece has gone up in price by at least 30% as well. Some examples: yellowtail from $3/piece to $4/piece; halibut likewise from $2.80/piece to $4/piece. The most egregious is uni from $10/piece to $15/piece. Lest you think this is only about the price of fish, the lunch teriyaki/tempura combo has also gone up from $11.80 to $16.80.

Now, I’m sure post/pandemic expenses have something to do with this (though our meal in 2021 was even more so in the teeth of the pandemic). More likely, it seems to me, is that the sky-rocketing prices at the high-end/temple of sushi part of the market are pulling up prices in the middle of the market as well. If true, that’s one more thing to not be happy about re the skyrocketing prices at that end of the market (which is now basically closed off to anyone not willing to pay $300/head before drinks, tax and tip). Whatever the reason, the end result is the same: Nozomi no longer feels like a great deal for what you’re getting. Let me note here as well that en route to Delhi 10 days later, we had an unexpected one day mini-vacation in New York courtesy Lufthansa. We had sushi for lunch that day at Tomo21 in the Village: the fish was of comparable quality to Nozomi and that meal was even cheaper than our 2021 meal at Nozomi had been! In Manhattan, not a strip mall in Torrance.

All that being said, it’s likely we’ll be back at Nozomi again on our next trip to Los Angeles. As I said, the high-end is now all but closed off to us (especially with the lamented closure of Kiriko). And we just haven’t found any options in the South Bay better than Nozomi or at the same level at a lower price. In fact, on this very trip we had inferior sushi in Seal Beach for even more money! If you have recommendations, please do let me know below.

Alright, the next restaurant report will be from the Delhi trip again. That’ll be tomorrow. On Tuesday, I’ll have a Minnesota report again.



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