A few years back, I often used to host out-of-town friends, many of whom were visiting L.A. for the first time. Some of them would invariably ask me if the top-tier sushi spots are found in Little Tokyo. Of course, this was quite a reasonable assumption coming from a tourist. But for many years, my answer to this question would have been a rather uncomfortable ‘No’. I mean, there were undoubtedly good sushi places in that area, but none of them quite measured up to the temples of sushi in other parts of town, such as Mori Sushi or Shunji Japanese Cuisine.
Oh, how the tide has changed, because in 2021, not one, but TWO top-notch sushi-ya’s are newly open for business in Little Tokyo. One is Sushi Kaneyoshi, the much-anticipated debut of former sushi journeyman Chef Yoshiyuki Inoue. And only a short walk away at Weller Court, we find J-town’s other new sushi hotspot: Sushi Hide.
Chef Hide Takeda had long dreamed of running his own place, even while he was (for many years) the lead shokunin at Sushi Tsujita (Sawtelle Japantown). With Sushi Hide, he now feels the freedom to express his own style to his clients. Having reserved a $250 Signature Omakase in advance, I walk through the doors, not knowing what to expect.
The space itself is inviting: It is well-lit, featuring a nine-seat counter, and several tables. Unfortunately, due to current pandemic dine-in restrictions, there was no seating at the bar itself. Fortunately, sitting at the table in from of the itamae’s station did the trick very nicely for my meal here.
Birru, please! Koshihikari Echigo was super refreshing.
Sunomono of mirugai and mozuku… Crunchy and soft at the same time, an intriguing entry course.
Suzuki: Whoa! A really great bite. It seems we are bypassing the traditional otsumami up front, and diving right in to the nigiri. Interesting!
Honmaguro akami: HUGE BITE. This was probably the best maguro nigiri I’ve had so far in 2021. Complex as can be. The shari also really shined here.
Kuro awabi, steamed in dashi and sake: Just beautiful. Black abalone is one of my favorite shellfishes. The kimo (liver) is also served here, and any leftover can be “cleaned up” with a spoonful of Hide-san’s shari (sushi rice) in the form of kimo gohan! I am beginning to see that Hide-san’s style means placing otsumami (cooked courses) between bites of nigiri. This is reminiscent of SushiSho style, pioneered by Chef Keiji Nakazawa.
Iwashimaki: During earlier pandemic take-out orders, Hide-san’s meticulously constructed sardine roll, whether by intention or not, has become one of his signature dishes. It is absolutely delicious! HUGE BITE.
Nodoguro sashimi, straw-smoked: Marvelous presentation: A dome filled with smoke (from burning straw) covers the tender nodoguro as it exits the kitchen. And as the cover is lifted by the diner, fantastic scents permeated the air! I seriously wished I had a sip of Japanese whisky to enjoy at that very moment. The nodoguro itself, with its oily skin, has absorbed just the right amount of the aroma. HUGE BITE.
Yari ika: Loving Hide-san’s knifework here…
Aji: Another HUGE BITE. For me, this was a perfect cut of hikarimono.
Sukiyaki: A5 wagyu, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, shirataki noodles. This was a tasty interlude which reminded me of Chef Hiro Urasawa’s eponymous sushi kaiseki very much (minus the foie gras).
Koika-no inrozume (baby squid roll, stuffed with shari): WOW! Another course almost identical to Chef Nakazawa’s iconic dish…
Nodoguro, seared: Another way to enjoy the nodoguro, this time as nigiri…
Amaebi: From Santa Barbara, the spot prawn is entering its season…
Tempura of hamo (pike conger), shiso, ume, served with sea salt: Gorgeous.
Kinmedai: Most chefs will sear the goldeneye snapper, but here Hide-san has chosen to let the customer enjoy it in its natural raw form as nigiri. Really nice!
Shima aji: Hide-san really has a way with hikarimono. This was delightful.
Chawanmushi with murasaki uni and mirugai: This was mindblowing. HUGE BITE.
O-toro: Decadent… (as it should be!)
Kohada topped with cured egg yolk flake: This combination worked really well.
Aka uni with ikura don: YES! Eat more of every type of uni! HUGE BITE.
At this point, Hide-san tells me this concludes the main portion of my set omakase. But I was hungry for more… Let’s go into okonomi BONUS ROUNDS!
Samekawa karei (sharkskin flounder): A rarely-encountered morsel at the sushi bar, this fish has a very limited season. Yum.
Zuwaigani (snow crab, from Toyosu Market), with its kani miso: Umami overload!
Chu-toro: Terrific, with a luscious, lingering aftertaste…
Saba (from Aomori): Hide-san saw that I was enjoying the hikarimono immensely. Truly so.
Anago, with sea salt: Fluffy, warm, achingly tender. Wondrous.
Hotate seared, with nori wrap: Game on! HUGE BITE.
“Toro-gobo”: Chopped fatty tuna belly, mixed in with crisp gobo chunks. Fantastic!
Iwashimaki: Instead of the classic tekkamaki to signal the end of the meal, Chef Hide reprises the sardine roll. Come to think of it, this is also very similar to a dish I was served at SushiSho!
Kasutera-style tamagoyaki: I recall enjoying Hide-san’s tamagoyaki very much, even back in his Sushi Tsujita days. His version at Sushi Hide was probably the pinnacle of his craft. Silky…
Dessert: True to Edomae-style, no added sugar! Just an all-natural, house-curated yuzu juice. And yes, it was as good (if not better than) the famous yuzu juice at Sushi Zo, which is saying a lot.
A stupendous first omakase here made a lasting impression with me. Hide-san’s style is quite unorthodox in his menu sequence, while at the same unquestionably excelling first rate with respect to ingredients, preparation, and shari. One can indeed taste the chef’s dedication to his craft here. Future visitors, when inquiring about the best sushi houses in Downtown Los Angeles, will receive my answer: Sushi Hide.
Sushi Takeda (formerly Sushi Hide)
Weller Court, 123 Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka St., Suite 307
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Fan page: hide-sushi.com