SushiKo: Japan on Pico

Nathaniel Kukurudz, Staff Columnist

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Restaurant review

Located on Pico Boulevard, Sushiko can pride itself on being the only kosher sushi restaurant in Los Angeles County. With that monopoly comes a big responsibility; it must be good enough to keep people coming and paying the extra price for being kosher, and not wandering off to the plethora of other sushi restaurants – or other kosher restaurants — in town.

I have to admit that Sushiko does a decent job. But there is definitely room for improvement, as there always is. With a few adjustments, because of sushi’s already existing popularity it could easily become the king of the hill on Pico Boulevard — the destination for the vast majority of Jews looking to dine kosher.

Let’s start with the outside appearance. First of all, the location is not so great, and the banner could use some work. Located in a small shopping center next to Elat Burger, Sushiko does not shout class despite its very expensive dishes. However, for a restauranteur, being strictly kosher comes with a hefty price, and the simplest way to deal with that is by perhaps choosing an inexpensive location. Additionally, I believe the banner is way too plain — some color wouldn’t hurt in making it more inviting to the eye.

Once inside, at around 6 pm on a Thursday evening, I wasn’t sure where to go. There was no host, and no one greeted me. Finally, I was shown to my table. To be fair, I love the creativity of the décor. If nothing else, it is original. One wall looks to be made of bamboo, one is green and gives me the impression of being lost in the Amazon, and the other is simply white. One thing that did bother me was the glass wall looking on to the outside. It takes away all privacy.

It must be hard to be a sushi restaurant, since there are only so many possible dishes. Sushiko is extremely creative in its house rolls. There are about a dozen, which incorporate all kinds of ingredients in a very creative and original manner. I ordered the $13 caterpillar roll. The name should speak for itself; it should look like an actual caterpillar, as shown in the picture on the menu.

This was not the case. The waitress brought me eight sushi pieces on a rectangular plate with an orange sauce drizzled all over it. Where were the face, and the antennas? That’s the only reason why I was willing to spend my $13 on just one sushi roll! I told the waitress that this must be the wrong dish, but she replied that it doesn’t look like a caterpillar today because sometimes “the chefs don’t feel like doing it.” So, my loss I guess. I went there on the wrong day.

It’s very possible that this was an off day for the restaurant, because the Sushi, in one word, tasted strange. It contained tomato, tuna, a sweet sauce, and was spicy all at the same time, and for me it didn’t work. But for $1.62 a sushi, I couldn’t throw it out either.  I do have to commend Sushiko at least for not putting mayonnaise in their sushi. I don’t know how long it has been since I have eaten a sushi which was not vegetable that didn’t have mayonnaise. It was a relief to see that some people still understand that mayonnaise is not meant to be combined with Sushi.

With my $20 Boiling Point budget, I also was able to try the miso soup. I love this soup anywhere, anytime, so it is hard for me to criticize it, but this one was particularly salty. It also came with some tofu pieces that were not properly sliced, in pieces that were too large. However, I loved the presentation of the soup. It came in a very traditional Japanese bowl with a deep Japanese spoon. It was also brought to me very quickly, to help me forgive the excess sodium. Also, at $5, I thought it was reasonably priced.

Throughout the meal, I was entertained by the two televisions on the wall showing the sushi chefs preparing the food live. I love this idea, and it definitely added a nice touch to the restaurant. On top of serving as entertainment, it also shows that the restaurant is clean, since I see the chefs wiping their utensils and their cutting boards after every sushi they complete.

Overall, my Sushiko experience could have been a bit better. Maybe I was not lucky on the special that I ordered, and maybe as the waitress bluntly told me, I came on the wrong day. However, I am sure that the restaurant could become of the hottest places in the Pico area. Maybe if it sticks to more traditional Sushies, and drops the creative misses, I’ll enjoy it more next time.

Quality of food: 3.5 stars. No mayonnaise! But the specials could definitely use some help.

Service: 3.5 stars. Two decent waitresses, but one would have been less confusing. However, despite my asking several times, they never brought me more water.

Ambiance: 4.0 stars. Apart from the glass walls, the live video and the nice décor give it a pleasant ambiance.

Value for price: 2.5 stars. $13 for less-than-par sushi is not so great. The other items on the menu looked relatively expensive as well.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars.

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