Here’s what I’m starting to get about L.A.: L.A. cherishes its secret hole-in-the-wall dining destinations. People would rather eat at a restaurant that nobody knows about yet than one everyone’s clamoring to get into. In New York, things are more open. For example, the restaurant-of-the-moment in New York right now is Carbone and everyone’s Tweeting and Instagramming and talking to their therapist about going there. In L.A., there are restaurants so exclusive they don’t take reservations and you can’t go to them unless you’re invited (see: Yamakase). I think the L.A. vibe is a product of celebrity culture, one in which well-known people want to remain incognito while enjoying the best life has to offer. As a result, some of L.A.’s best dining experiences are hidden away like little buried treasures waiting for you to find them.
Take, for example, all the sushi restaurants here hidden away in strip malls. On a Thursday night, last week, I said to Craig, “Let’s go get sushi somewhere we’ve never gotten sushi before.” I showed him this L.A. Weekly article about the best sushi places in the Valley. We decided to check out 4 on 6 in Encino, a short drive without traffic but an epic drive with traffic. No matter: we listened to good music as the sun was setting. I enjoyed it.
Here’s the glamorous sign out front:
See what I mean? Hidden away near an Office Depot. Blink and you miss it. Here’s the actual entryway:
I’ve been to many sushi restaurants in my day and this may have been the least charming of all. It had all the allure of a Day’s Inn gift shop. We sat at the counter and I started to worry, “Did we just drive 45 minutes north for no reason whatsoever?” We studied the menu on the wall:
At some point I said to Craig, “Well since we came all this way, we may as well order Omakase. That way we get to experience the best they have to offer.”
It didn’t take much to get Craig to agree since Craig loves sushi more than life itself. We told the sushi chef behind the counter what we were doing and then all my doubts were put to rest when he put this plate in front of us after carefully assembling it.
He pointed to each piece and said, “Grunt, Porgy, Threadfin Bream.” Each bite had a cleanness to it, a clarity, that made us both roll our eyes back in our heads as we nodded enthusiastically chewing along. “This place is good,” said Craig authoritatively.
And that was just the beginning. Next came Japanese sea scallop with truffle salt:
This is something 4 on 6 is known for, bold flavor pairings with the fish. In this case, the truffle flavor absolutely enhanced the scallop without overwhelming it. It’s a great combo.
There was King Mackerel:
Bonito with ginger flowers:
(It’s funny, he said “Bonito with ginger flowers” but when I look at that picture I just see a slivered shallot and some kind of paste. Hmm!)
Seared albacore belly:
I loved all the stuff he piled on top though, because the sushi chef was rather taciturn, we never really learned what any of it was. All I can say is that it pepped up the flavor of the sushi to such a degree it’s going to be hard to eat normal sushi again. (That’s a lie, we ate normal sushi last night.)
My favorite bite of the whole night is the one you see at the top of this post: Gravlax Salmon, Sour Cream and Wasabi Stem. It was like my favorite bagel combination in sushi form. I could’ve eaten a thousand of these, they were so good.
At this point, the sushi chef asked if we were full and we said “no” so he made more sushi. Including this one with sea urchin:
Pepper albacore (sort of like pastrami!):
And, at the very end, Craig asked for unagi because it’s sweet like dessert:
All of that amazing sushi hidden away next to an Office Depot: L.A., you’re a funny place. And the best part? Guess how much all of this cost for 2 people? I really, genuinely expected the bill to be $200. When we asked how much Omakase would be, I was pretty sure he said $70 for 6 pieces and we’d each had 10 pieces. But when the bill came it was only $100 for the both of us which makes me think when he quoted the $70 figure he meant for two people. Which is an ASTOUNDINGLY good deal. In fact, Craig and I are already scheming about going back to do this again (though I’ll campaign to try some more hidden away sushi places, especially the ones on this Eater list.)
If you’re an adventurer and like sussing out hidden away places, L.A. is a fantastic dining city. You never know what you’re going to stumble on next.