A friend and I went to Sawtelle to have lunch at Kiriko, but discovered it's closed until Thursday. I suggested going to Sushi Tenn, since I had heard so many raves about it and remember it being named on Jonathan Gold's top-10 sushi bars and best of LA in Citysearch. So we decided to try it out.
We arrived shortly after noon and the restaurant was empty. We were seated at the sushi bar, handed menus, and then the waitress disappeared. During this whole time, there was no sushi chef evident. Finally, the waitress reappeared and we each ordered the "Weekly Special" -- two small appetizers, salad, miso soup, five pieces of nigiri and a spicy tuna roll for $15.
The appetizers were by far the best part. One consisted of some tofu and a few pieces of what we were told were oysters, but had the consistency of monkfish liver. The tofu cubes were fantastic. The oyster was good. The second appetizer had a few cubes of smoked salmon and crab sashimi. The crab tasted like it had been frozen, but the salmon which was served with some sweet vinegar was excellent. Unfortunately, I made a mistake by having one piece of the salmon before my second piece of the crab. The strong flavor of the salmon overpowered what little flavor was left in the crab (which was not much to begin with).
The nigiri and spicy tuna were next. These were exceptionally disappointing. None of the fish had much flavor. The maguro was gummy. The shrimp and whitefish were tasteless. The salmon was okay, but did not compare to the sashimi. The only item that was decent was the scallop, which was tender. The spicy tuna roll was average at best, with little flavor or spice. I could name about 10 places that have better spicy tuna, a dish that I was actually surprised to see on the menu considering how Sushi Tenn professes to be traditional sushi.
My friend and I were quite baffled about the food given the reports we had heard about Sushi Tenn. We assumed that we had ordered the wrong things, so decided to try the toro and sea eel. Again, both were disappointing. The toro, we both agreed, was tender (much more than the maguro), but had very little flavor. The sea eel had a nice sauce, but the eel itself was pretty bland.
Final price: $58 before tip for two, almost the same price as Kiriko's omakase. As we left, we both kept shaking our heads trying to figure out how Sushi Tenn has such a great reputation.
I hope this was just an aberration, but I don't see any reason to return to Sushi Tenn in the near future. I'm quite happy with Kiriko, where I have never had anything approaching such an "average" meal.