Cheat Sheet: KazuNori

By Lesley Balla  |  August 5, 2014

Welcome to the Cheat Sheet, a back-pocket guide to restaurants you need to know.

The Gist: After offering a sneak peek at Coachella this year, the group behind fast-casual sushi chain Sugarfish, Kazunori Nozawa and the Nozawa family, debut their inaugural hand-roll bar in Downtown LA today, August 5. Like Sugarfish, KazuNori serves fast and efficient sushi at an affordable price. But here it's all hand rolls, all the time. After all, Kazunori Nozawa was a hand-roll pioneer at his original Sushi Nozawa, the beloved Studio City sushi bar he closed in 2012 after 25 years. It's a no-brainer.

The Vibe: The space on Main Street is small and compact with an urban, industrial Zen edge. There are only 24 seats at the bar with a few tables outside. Grab a menu and pencil on the way in the door, mark down what you want and the sushi chefs behind the bar will make them as fast as they can. There's not a lot to it, which is probably the point.

Eat This: There are about eight hand rolls on the menu and one daily sashimi dish. For the latter you might find chopped halibut in a light pool of soy, or perhaps fresh salmon sliced thin on a plate. The hand rolls — creamy scallop, salmon, original crab, lobster, salmon, hamachi or cucumber — are served quickly and are meant to be eaten right away. The chefs and servers won't let you dilly dally, either. They aren't against photos, per se, but if you're taking too long, someone might say something. It's because the hand rolls lose their perfection almost immediately, when the warm, loosely packed rice starts to soften the crunchy nori, and the cold fish starts to reach room temperature. The best bites are the first. You can order the rolls à la carte, but why would you? Get the five-roll deal for $17.50. Add more if you're still hungry. Do know that if you sit outside, you'll only be able to order cut rolls. Hand rolls take too long to deliver outside, thus they loose their perfection.

Drink This: The green tea is thick, matcha-style but still rather refreshing. There's also Sapporo and one sake, both served by the glass.

Skip This: There's a cucumber roll, but why waste a hand roll on cucumbers? There's toro to be had.

The Tab: The "trust me" menus are three rolls for $10.50, four for $13 or five for $17.50. Tip is already included, so you can easily get a decent sushi lunch or dinner for around $20.

The Verdict: If you miss the hand rolls from the original Sushi Nozawa and are a fan of Sugarfish, you'll love KazuNori. It's a quick, delicious meal. Right now there's no line, but we imagine there will be during primetime dining hours. It's also extremely budget-friendly — a total win-win, especially along this strip of Main Street with Baco Mercat, Pete's and the Nickel Diner nearby. Expect to start seeing other branches of KazuNori pop up around the city soon.

Prior Cheat Sheet coverage on Zagat LA:

Panda Express Innovation Kitchen
Tipple & Brine
Mastro's Ocean Club
Pine & Crane
Glazed Donut Bistro
Wexler’s Deli