SUSHI ECHIGO: TOP NOTCH SUSHI IN WEST L.A.
“Do you want to have sushi, Honey?”
This is the second favourite sentence I like to hear coming out of my fiancee’s mouth around lunchtime. The first, of course, (get your minds out of the gutter, you filthy lot) revolves around the word “Hamburger” but doesn’t get used so regularly now that I am on a tiny bit of a health kick in the run up to the wedding.
On Friday, a day off for Sybil gave us the chance to spend time together adding a few ticks against a seemingly endless list of “oh, so fun” wedding chores, to brave the stupidly large trolleys pushed by stupidly large, stupidly stupid people at Costco and even head to Venice Beach in search a shirt big enough to hide my middle aged gut for the duration of the ceremony.
As a treat for only whining like a spoiled brat every other breath as I was dragged from pillar to post, my intended decided to buy me a lunch and drove us to an unassuming mini mall in West L.A. She explained that this unlikely location housed one of her favourite sushi restaurants in the city, although she also added that, this meal apart, she was boycotting it because “the prices have gone up and the portions have gone down”. I am definitely marrying the right woman.
Sushi Echigo sits next to a shop selling signs and another, which declared itself a “Healing Center” and while the room was pleasant enough, there was little to suggest that it might offer up more than a harmless diversion of a lunch. Even a sign at the door warning that it only served “traditional style sushi” and the fact that it rapidly began to fill up the moment the doors opened did little to convince me that we should linger and I suggested to Sybil that we just have a quick bite before heading back out to our day’s tasks.
Sybil, of course, knew better, having been there many times before and by the time I had come back from a very necessary journey to point Percy at the porcelain, she had already ticked off more than ten boxes on the printed menu and issued a stern warning that she had requested two orders of her favourite sushi because “sharing is not an option”. As I said, I am definitely marrying the right woman.
Small things told me immediately that this was a notch above most sushi places that I have visited. Even my untutored palate could taste that a small slick of wasabi was fresh, clean and a far cry from the slightly powdery substance I have come to expect back home. Likewise the slivers of lightly coloured pickled ginger had been gently dressed to add a slight sweetness to their sharp natural tang.
A first dish of dainty squidlets stuffed with creamy blue crab flesh and dressed with sesame seeds, confirmed all I needed to know about the quality of Sushi Echigo and subsequent courses kept up the high standards. There may be little new to say about slices of raw fish, but the presentation was thoughtful and unlike some of the sushi restaurants I have tried in the city, the chef was prepared to let the quality of the fish speak for itself with only the occasional light dressing of Yuzu being allowed to get between me and the taste nature intended. Just the right amount of rice was used for my taste and it came at the perfect heat, a notch above room temperature as if it had been recently fanned rather than pre-cooked and cooled.
Star dishes came in the shape of gloriously unctuous monkfish liver and in more of that addictive blue crab, this time served in an attractive hand roll. Both so, well, utterly fantastic that I understood why Sybil was loathe to share and was only convinced not to order more because we had a big supper planned that evening and she pointed out that we (and by "we" I mean "she") had already racked up a bill of a little shy of $100. That’s a lot to pay for lunch, but not when put into context of the cost of good sushi and certainly not for a meal this surprisingly terrific.
While I can certainly fight my corner in declaring that Sushi Echigo would see off all but the very best of what London has to offer, I am sure some L.A. locals, Sybil included, will tell me that there is better to be had at the price, in The City of Angels. I don’t know enough about the place yet to argue with them yet. But, I am going to have a hell of a good time finding out.