My BF and I are something of sushi fan-atics, and we recently moved down from the Westside to Hermosa Beach. We have had the typical evolution of sushi aficionados, having graduated from overly sauced "creative" maki rolls to the purist, luscious, buttery, melt-in-you-mouth edo-style sushi a while ago.
With such a great selection of serious sushi venues up north (Sushi Zo has essentially ruined us to any other sushi), I was more than just a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to find quality of that kind down in our new hood. I mean, we need to have our fix a minimum of 1x/week, but usually twice. It seems like everywhere you go in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa, and Redondo it's all trendy sushi places, which as I mentioned, is so five-years-ago. So I naturally did my research on CH as any good 'Hound would, and came up with only two potential candidates...Tomi in RB and Kanpachi in Gardena.
My BF and I trepidatiously visited Tomi right after we moved down to our new house. Tomi was described here as being very traditional and having 14th-generation sushi chefs. Hmm, I took one look at the cheesy plastic promo card on the tables with the lame sushi pics and thought, nope, this isn't going to cut it. We started off with a house salad. How much mayonaissey dressing can you possibly put on top of iceberg lettuce? Well apparently at Tomi, a huge ladle full. There was seriously more icky dressing in the bowl then greens. A little mayo in dressing doesn't usually hurt, but in theirs, it's the only thing you can taste. We had to send it back. Things didn't get any better once the sushi arrived. The fish was all extremely dry and the antithesis of buttery. Ugh. My BF and I lamented the handful of happy-go-lucky other customers going about their sushi dinners. None of them seem to have a problem with it, but then again, far be it from me to rationalize other people's sense of what good sushi is.
Man, did it ever hurt to see that bill. We didn't enjoy a single piece of sushi and it ended up being an $85 learning experience. So strike one. Last night we decided to give Kanpachi in Gardena a try. When we got there, we both immediately thought, ok, this looks promising. It's a cute little place and almost everyone in it was Japanese. Good sign. We order a few basics to start. Salad (here it's very good, shoyu based dressing)...salmon, yellowtail, red snapper, kanpachi, spanish mackeral. It was ready nice and fast. So, the salmon wasn't bad. Salmon's one of those things that's pretty hard to screw up. I'd say it was almost as good as the salmon at Irori. The yellowtail, was well, passable. Definitely not buttery. So I expected great things from the eponymous kanpachi, which of course failed to deliver. First of all, they didn't serve it with the usual requisite yuzu. Second, we didn't even realize it was kanpachi when we ate it at first...that's how not good it was. The snapper was downright fishy and the mackeral, while edible, was nothing to write home about either. Ugh. We really wanted to like this place.
So we ended up ordering two toro/scallion rolls, some albacore and another round of salmon. The toro rolls came cut, so they ended up redoing them for us b/c we'd wanted handrolls. The albacore came w/o any of the usual fixings, no ponzu or anything. So we had to ask. Albacore is another one of those things that's extremely difficult to screw up. We couldn't believe it...the albacore was some of the toughest fish we've had. It wasn't just seared, it was barely even sushi anymore. Judging by the two experiences we had at Kanpachi and Tomi, we noticed that they both had a dry, non-buttery fish thing going...like it wasn't accident or out of carelessness, it seemed to be purposeful, as though that's the "style" in the South Bay. I guess we just don't get why that would be something there would be a demand for.
When we were waiting to pay the bill, another $80 out the window, I told my BF, this is pretty much it. This is the closest thing the SB has to offer us to what we have up north. He said, well then, we're going to have to fill up the gas tank, b/c it's up to Sushi Zo we'll be going.
That's just fine with me.