Studio Sushi stands out among many Studio City sushi restaurants
It was back in 1979 that Teru Sushi opened on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, beginning a landslide of Japanese fish houses, along what’s often referred to as Studio City’s Sushi Row. The names, and the quality, are impressive — some of the best sushi in Southern California. Along with Teru, there’s Iroha, Katsu-Ya, Kazu, Yume, Asanebo and more.
Which is why I was surprised to find myself impressed by a casual spot just north of Ventura on Radford, across the gate to the CBS Studio Center. And the first reason I knew I was in the presence of wonderfulness was not when I tasted the fish, or the miso soup, or the rice. It was the wasabi — the green horseradish — which is rarely something to take notice of at all.
What most sushi bars use is a mixture of horseradish, mustard powder and food coloring. It has an overly smooth texture, barely any texture at all. Few restaurants offer actual freshly grated horseradish because it’s very expensive — and loses its potency very quickly, in not much more than 15 minutes.
What I noticed about the wasabi at Studio Sushi was that it had a grainy texture. It had a sharp, but not overwhelming flavor. It was exceptional. It was pretty much unique. And it was explained to me that it was actually a wasabi blend. Whatever it was, it was worth using.
But goodness knows, the sushi served at Studio doesn’t need much more than what it is. Which is to say pure and so good. This is a neighborhood sushi bar with many levels of pleasure.
Another mark in the favor of Studio Sushi is that, despite offering some 35 sushi rolls, none of them suffer from excessive fusion madness, which I define as the presence of cream cheese in a sushi roll. I’m copacetic with cream cheese and smoked salmon on an onion bagel of Sunday morning — that comes with the territory, and the aesthetic. But I don’t want cream cheese on my sushi rolls. It feels like chocolate sauce on a cheeseburger — so shockingly wrong. And so, what we have here is rice, seafood, soy aper, avocado, sesame seeds — even ginger flavored mayo, which does push the edge. But no cream cheese. Praise the Lord…and pass the wasabi!
Studio Sushi is affable, casual and kid-friendly, plus it’s easy to be in, with a minimalist outdoor patio to boot. You want to try much for a bargain price, show up for the lunch specials. For $17 you get seven pieces of sushi on the Nigiri Sushi Mix. For the same price, you get nine pieces of sashimi. And for $13, there’s the Hand Roll Lunch, a selection of seven rolls, from which you can choose three. They’re all served with miso soup. Meals always are.
There’s a lunch combination as well that mixes rolls, sushi, and sundry teriyakis. It goes for $15, and comes with miso soup, salad and rice. A feast! (The lunches reappear as dinners, for slightly more. But only sightly.)
The appetizers offer few surprises — edamame of course. Ditto shishito peppers, vegetable gyoza dumplings, crispy calamari, and both salmon and yellowtail collar — both chargrilled, and both outlandishly delicious.
If anything is unexpected, it’s the jalapeño poppers, stuffed with spicy tuna and — yes! — cream cheese. Eel sauce goes on top. I pass. But not on the finely assembled sashimi salad. Or the complex avocado and shiitake mushroom salad, with cherry tomatoes, micro-greens and a yuzu vinaigrette. Or the miso marinated black cod, a standard in any proper sushi bar, and never anything but good. The butterines of the black cod guarantees that.
But ultimately, of course, Studio Sushi is about the fish. And it’s very fine stuff. (Studio Sushi is closed on Sundays because, you know, the fish markets aren’t open.) The nigiri sushi is mirrored with sashimi for a good deal more — but well worth it if you’re trying to minimize the white rice in your diet.
I’m especially fond of…well, just about everything, from the bluefin tuna to the black sea bream, from the Japanese mackerel to the giant scallop, from the freshwater eel to the sea urchin, my beloved uni, which I’ve loved forever.
The simplest of the rolls — the 22 maki — use the fish pretty much in its natural state, but wrapped in seaweed with a touch of seasoning. The specialty rolls toss in, as I said, shrimp tempura (crunchy!) and create combinations like the blue crab and scallop roll, and the spicy tuna and yellow tail Yuzu Ebi-Ten Roll.
There are seasonal specials printed on a separate sheet of paper — seared jumbo scallop nigiri, with uni and caviar (so indulgent!), the hamachi fire roll with spicy crab, yellowtail and jalapeño. And it all tastes better with that freshly grated wasabi. So much better. God is in the details. And so is the taste!
- Rating: 3 stars
- Address: 4037 Radford Ave., Studio City
- Information: 818-760-0313; www.studiosushila.com
- Cuisine: Exquisitely good sushi in a casual space, in a neighborhood with no lack of great sushi bars.When: Dinner, Monday through Saturday
- Details: Beer and sake; reservations important
- Prices: About $30 per person
- Suggested dishes: 20 Sushi/Sashimi ($5-$20), 8 Signature Sashimi ($15-$18), 22 Maki (rolls; $4-$15), 13 Specialty Rolls ($8.50-$15.50), 12 Appetizers ($2.50-$13), 4 Salads ($5.50-$16), 5 Dinners ($16-$20)
- Credit cards: MC, V
- What the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth a trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, even exceptional. Worth a trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A good place to go for a meal. Worth a trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry, and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic going.) 0 (Honestly, not worth writing about.)