Mori Nozomi (West L.A.): A Pictorial Essay

The building at the intersection of Pico and Gateway in West L.A. has played a pivotal role in the history of the sushi scene in Los Angeles. It was here that famed chef (as well as formidable potter and rice farmer) Morihiro Onodera first set up the sushi-ya that would simply be known as Mori Sushi. One omakase at a time, his reputation as a giant of West Coast sushi was built here.

However, this would not last forever. Once he moved on to other locations (currently he presides over Morihiro in Atwater Village), Mori-san’s very adept shokunin Masanori Nagano (Maru-san) took over this space. Like his predecessor, Maru-san created a name for himself in this building, all while using in his own style. Unfortunately again, this proved to be an impermanent arrangement as well. The pandemic saw the shuttering of Mori Sushi. And although Maru-san did resume serving private (and fantastic) omakase meals to a smaller clientele as restaurants gradually re-opened in L.A., he ultimately decided to transfer this spot to a chef from the next generation.

Chef Nozomi Mori (Noz-san’s family name is coincidentally the same as Mori-san’s first name) worked her way through apprenticeships at Sushi Enya and Moto Azabu (where washoku chef Teri-san, from former beloved Westside izakaya Terried Sake House, would teach her the ropes). She furthered her training at Sushi Ginza Onodera (again, no relation to Mori-san). Noz-san’s excitement as the freshly-minted oyakata of her eponymous restaurant, Mori Nozomi, was palpable as I walked through the door to try her inaugural omakase menu last week.

The same space I recalled from meals past now features a 7-person bar, with no tables. The edifice appears minimalist in design, with clean lines. A budding sakura branch serves as the focal seasonal adornment.

Let’s get started! Itadakimasu! (I ordered an intriguing Tea Pairing from the beverage menu to accompany my dinner as well…)

Yuzu-infused sake: This refreshing apertif proved to be a very welcoming start…

Chawanmushi with kegani (from Hokkaido), caviar: Elegant, and delicate. Lovely preparation. The caviar here played more than a visual role as garnish; it added a nice brine to the flavor. This was served with a taste of umeshu, compliments of the chef…

Buri niru, with grated daikon: Interesting effect that the slight boiling of the buri had on the palate…

Gyokuro sparkling tea: With low astringency, gyokuro differs from sencha, as the plant is grown under the shade (whereas sencha grows in direct sunlight). I’d never had a carbonated version of this before - Fascinating…

Chutoro nigiri: This honmaguro is from Japan. The complexity of this first nigiri piece is wonderful. Huge bite!!!

A note on Noz-san’s shari: Firm packing, low nebari (“stickiness”), light on vinegar, a touch warmer than ambient temperature, and lots of hagotai (pearly “al dente” sensation). I believe this is Noz-san’s personal style. The neta-to-shari ratio is fine as well. Her shoga is slightly pickled, and uses very young ginger.

O-toro tataki nigiri: From the same tuna. What can I say? Who doesn’t like eating o-toro scented with a touch of char? Noz-san uses a butane-powered grated grill as her heat source for grilling. No straw or binchotan noted on this evening…

I couldn’t resist ordering a bottle of the Ohmine “3 Grain”, as it matched so well with just about everything that night. Kudos to @beefnoguy for dealing me some real-time sake wisdom from afar!

Noz-san preps the next course…

Hotaru ika: The firefly squid is procured from Hyogo. Perfect prep. Tons of flavor!

Tennen madai sashimi: Wild sea bream from Japan is not often seen in L.A. sushi restaurants. Very nice…

A large shellfish specimen is up next…

Tairagai, grilled and sandwiched within nori: This was awesome. Everybody at the sushi bar wanted seconds of this… Huge bite!!!

Tachiuo, grilled and with ohitashi: Again, flawless technique here. Really nice contrasting textures at play.

Hojicha: This was the next pour for the upcoming courses… Unusual to have this in the middle of the meal, but it works; the pairing was seamless.

Uni tray: Bafun uni from Hokkaido… A gorgeous sight!

Uni nigiri: Simply. Excellent. Huge bite!!!

Iwashi nigiri: The knifework on this piece was new to me. It did not detract from the tastiness of this most flavorful type of hikarimono…

Ankimo, steamed: Very gentle, perhaps a touch too gentle. I would have preferred a bit stronger of a profile on this dish, but the restraint here may be intentional.

Sumi ika nigiri, with sea salt: The texture of the cuttlefish was spot on…

Kasugodai nigiri: Another terrific piece…

Akamutsu, grilled nigiri: A definite highlight. Huge bite!!!

Hirame with engawa: Halibut on the outside, and a layer of its fin below. This makes for a larger-than-normal bite, and I really liked its density!

Ikura with shari: This was just OK. The roe was a bit flaccid. Our server forgot to give us a spoon beforehand, but this was quickly corrected by the chef…

Miso soup with dashi and fish bone broth: I really like the ongoing trend of gussying up the miso soup with neta-infused flavors. The kombu used for the dashi is specially ordered from Japan. A delightful intermezzo bowl…

Anago nigiri: Sea eel hails from Tsushima. This was just superb. Huge bite!!!

Yabukita sencha cold brew: Totally a novelty for me. This is the highest grade of sencha. Tastes buttery, with a bit of a grassy palate lingering on, but in a pleasant way that very much paired with the food…

Tamagoyaki, Osaka-style: Splendid! I loved this steamed prep. Very much akin to a first-class French country omelette (except without the herbs). Huge bite!!!

These beauties are from Fukuoka…

Strawberry: These marvelous strawberries look and taste different from our excellent California-grown berries. The inside is a bit denser, with very very little tartness. The sweetness doesn’t hit the tongue up front like, say, Harry’s gaviotas, but rather it builds as the diner continues to chew.

Hojicha: A different variety than before, to signal the end of the meal. But wait, there is more!

Wagashi with kurogoma filling: Noz-san makes traditional sweets, too! She trained in chado (tea ceremony) in Japan, and so treated us to some very authentic matcha to pair with the house-made wagashi!

The black sesame filling rocked! Huge bite!!!

Pu-erh tea: A final cup tea to complete our journey. This was very refined.

Blending the traditional with the chef’s own style is how I’d characterize my first dinner omakase here. Noz-san exudes joy in her dishes. The progression of her courses differs from most omakases out there, but at the same time the novelty and high execution are what make this a very special dining experience. Mori Nozomi proves a more than worthy successor to this storied L.A. sushi space.


Mori Nozomi
11500 W. Pico Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90064


Great to see and also great to see pictorial essay from you it’s been awhile!


It’s actually really cool seeing the space empty like that. I have a booking for next month.


I love the “pictorial essay” as well. Also as I read thru the post I like to guess if it will be “highly recommended”!


Since I’m not huge into sushi, I think the black sesame mochi got me the most excited (and the carbonated green tea)!!! :slight_smile:

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You should all go here just for this to spite Schlosser #sakuramochigate


It was great.

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her mochi is very delightful

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so good we asked for two

caveat: astrea client