12400 Wilshire Blvd. (@ S. Carmelina)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
There isn’t much I can add to what has already been said about Sushi Sasabune. Descriptions, opinions – they are are all out there, and run the gamut. The haters don’t argue the quality of the fish, but also don’t restrain themselves from bemoaning the environment in which the sushi is served. They maligned the lack of “atmosphere,” with fluorescent lighting and the cheap, flimsy, card-for-dining tables taking away from the sushi “experience.” They decry the attitude, turning gentle omakase’s “Trust me” into an egotistic command from a despotic chef. The sushi is mass-produced because customers don’t make choices, neither do they make orders. They simply eat what has been almost robotically prepared by chefs who might not even be Japanese. Eating at Sasabune is like dining in an industrial factory.
But then, there are those Sasabune devotees who can do nothing but rave about the restaurant. Not only do they deem the quality of the fish as high, but they go so far as appraising it as “the best.” They found the ramshackle surroundings to be utterly charming, a sign that the food is more important than the atmosphere. It is, perhaps, the sort of absentmindedness that comes with genius.
There are strong, convincing arguments on both sides, thus there isn’t much else I can say that will add any value to what is already known, so I really should just save my blogging breath.
However, I am going to say it anyway!
I can say that I have held both opinions, and not only once each. Back when Sasabune was in literally a shack of a place on Sawtelle, I was wary of the place. I was skeptical. Sushi is raw. It has to be served in a sanitary place. The shack looked scary and unclean and something like a hut in the woods that a serial killer who doesn’t wash his would live in. I refused to go there, arguing that if a restaurant can’t even maintain a respectable appearance, how am I to trust them with raw fish that is potentially full of parasitic worms? It may not seem like it based on a few of my ex-boyfriends, but I do have standards.
However, I did try it, and I ate a huge side of humble pie with the glorious fish that I ate. Oh, that sneaky little Sasabune was like Cinderella, hiding royalty underneath the ashes and rags.
We know the story of happy Cinderella who hums along with the birds and plays with housemice who, amazingly, know how to sew. What we don’t know is the story of the “ever after.” Cinderella married Prince Charming, moved into his castle, dropped the “Cinder-” part of her name because it reminded her too much of the poverty she left behind, and had her name spelled out in diamonds to wear around her neck. In the fairytale of sushi, Sasabune moved into a giant, fanicer, glass-encased space on the Westside and plastered its CapsLock name in neon blue all over the place: SASABUNE.
Success in the form of money and fame has turned what I once knew as a humble, quiet sushi joint into an arrogant, loud, obnoxious, over-sized sunglasses-wearing, chihuahua-toting, sushi heiress. But no matter how much your A-list stylist works on you to look good for the cameras and polished from a distance from a distance behind the velvet rope, on the inside, you are still who you are. You can take the Cinderella out of the ashes, but you can’t take the Sawtelle out of the Sasabune. The fish is still the same, the attitude is still the same, and though it appears to be in a bigger, better, fanicer space, it still feels like the ground floor of the office building in which it it housed.
I won’t go into the details about each individual piece, but rest assured they all tasted good, some better than others, but on average, all good. At some point, I had to ask to chefs to make mine sashimi because I was getting way too full on the nigiri with rice. Surprisingly, they were happy to accommodate that. I have to admit though, that even with the sushi being as good as it, I am not sure how anxious I am to go back. Good sushi is not hard to find, so now, the atmosphere really does matter. Sasabune’s atmosphere is now in that limbo between charmingly-devoid and over-the-top, which are a dime a dozen.
Now let the porn parade begin!
** a year ago today, there was curly parsley for garnish **