Trendy isn’t a key ingredient for Bizen

Caitlin McCarrick

A tiger roll at Bizen Sushi and Japanese Cuisine Food in Sherman Oaks. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer
A tiger roll at Bizen Sushi and Japanese Cuisine Food in Sherman Oaks. Photo Credit: Caitlin McCarrick / Staff Photographer

Nestled between a reading shop and one of several eclectic antique stores, Bizen Sushi and Japanese cuisine isn’t your average assembly line sushi restaurant.

This restaurant is small and intimate, perfect for a romantic date or an escape from the daily grind. If you’re looking for a traditional, unpretentious and completely delicious sushi bar, look no further. Finding the restaurant is a bit tricky. You would miss it with the blink of an eye, which makes the place even more special.

When you enter the unassuming restaurant you are greeted by two people, the hostess and the sushi chef who makes you feel like you are at home. My first impression was that the place seemed a bit cave like. There was minimal light, but then again that’s almost ideal if you are meeting someone there for a blind date. Once you get over the fact that you’ve just been time warped some 40 odd years, you realize this is not a trendy sushi restaurant and that’s an extremely good commodity.

At Bizen Sushi you can either sit at the bar, which I highly recommend, or they have adorable two and four person booths. The restaurant is so small I would be afraid to see what it would look like completely packed to the brim, and I wouldn’t suggest bringing more than four friends as well. Go on a week-night because the seating is extremely limited. The people dining there are regulars that are greeted by their first names.

The portions chef Toshi serves are a good size and perfect for sharing. Two people could easily get full on three plates of a variety of rolls and sashimi. The sushi is fresh and the wait is non-existent. I believe we waited less than five minutes in between servings, which is refreshing with living around Los Angeles.

To be honest I’m not a huge salmon fan, but the spicy salmon roll was much better than I anticipated. The raw salmon was mixed with green onions and red pepper and altogether created a flavor that does not overpower the taste of the fish.

My favorite by far was the halibut carpaccio, which could only be defined as heaven melting in my mouth. The halibut was delicate and thinly sliced among a mixture of different spicy sauces and slivers of red and green peppers that really surprised my taste buds.

The tiger roll was not as good as the rest of the sushi I tried, a bit too salty and of course the end pieces were too hard for me to eat as I’m not a professional with my chop sticks. The roll contained fried crab, which is almost always a winner, sliced cucumber and a bit too much fish roe, for me a texture issue. The roll was still enjoyable and didn’t dissuade me from wanting to return to pursue new entrees I normally wouldn’t.

Toshi’s clever and interesting creations are inspiring and eye opening. If you don’t know what to try, ask him for a recommendation and you won’t be disappointed. Guaranteed, anything you try at this restaurant is bound to be mouth watering and delicious.

This little hole in the wall provides a perfectly filling meal with three servings, soup, and two glasses of wine for around $50. While a bit pricey for the starving student, splitting the bill eases the pain. Worth the price, this was one of the best sushi nights I’ve ever had and I strongly advise to anyone who is in the Sherman Oaks area to dive in.

Bizen Sushi and Japanese Cuisine is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. They are closed on Sundays. The restaurant is located at 13447 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423; (818) 906-7274.