January 20, 2021


All Things Delicious

1 of L.A.’s very best sushi cooks is at Morihiro in Atwater Village

4 min read

Morihiro “Mori” Onodera, like the relaxation of us, experienced other options for 2020.

The revered sushi chef — a tender-spoken bespectacled determine dependable for training what appears to be like fifty percent of the city’s sashimi professionals — experienced still left his write-up at the upscale Japanese place Inn Ann in late 2019, two months before the restaurant closed for great.

By then Onodera experienced begun sketching out his next venture, an personal sushi bar in Atwater Village that would provide as a fruits of the a long time he has put in mastering the craft.

He envisioned a large-stop sushi counter that offered $300 omakase dinners at evening. Six seats at a white oak bar. A handful of tables.

But the moment COVID-19 hit, Onodera understood his business thought had to improve.

“I resolved to make it much more very affordable,” he stated. “The meals will generally be extremely very good high quality, of study course, but this time I will attempt to retain the value as low as possible.”

For those who have at just one time or yet another splurged at a person of Onodera’s establishments, this statement is not insignificant. At Mori Sushi, the Michelin-starred West L.A. cafe that he ran for around a ten years ahead of promoting it to his assistant, the sushi omakase ran a couple hundred bucks at bare minimum. The exact same was real at Shiki Beverly Hills, the ritzy restaurant he oversaw in 2017 before shifting to Inn Ann.

But at Morihiro, his new restaurant on Glendale Boulevard that opened in November, he’s making ready takeout bento boxes that get started at $27 (vegetarian) and $37 (blended), a modest selling price by Onodera expectations.

Nigiri sushi at Morihiro

(Ibuki Kobayashi)

Sushi enthusiasts can get a $50 omakase set that involves 6 pieces of nigri, a lower roll, an appetizer and miso soup. Onodera selects all the seafood himself, substantially of it flown in from Japan: fatty winter season yellowtail, infant barracuda, golden eye snapper, etcetera.

He steers obvious of bluefin tuna on theory (it’s really overfished), preferring to showcase his adore of hikarimono, silver-skinned fish this kind of as gizzard shad, sardine and horse mackerel recognised for their much better taste.

The cafe place — a narrow 1,000-square-foot room with a bare-bones open kitchen area — is attached to Viet Noodle Bar, a community Vietnamese restaurant operate by Onodera’s longtime pal Viet Tran. The two worked out a deal that permitted Onodera to build out his possess kitchen and eating place while sharing a prep place and restrooms with the greater restaurant up coming door.

“I thought it was the best measurement for creating sushi,” Onodera said. “Many people today questioned me, ‘Are you positive you want to open proper now?’ But simply because this isn’t a massive cafe, it is much easier. The compact space is cozy for me.”

With the restaurant shut apart from for takeout, Onodera is making ready all the foodstuff himself and packaging orders with the support of an assistant.

Eventually the menu will contain his model of a classic Japanese breakfast: heat rice, pickles made from neighborhood generate, new tofu, a rolled egg omelet, soup, some sashimi or grilled fish.

A seasonal bento set at Morihiro

A seasonal bento set at Morihiro

(Ibuki Kobayashi)

“It’s a gorgeous assortment of breakfast,” he claimed, describing his vision of a tray loaded with 10 or so smaller dishes that would price tag all over $20. “Very uncomplicated, but it calls for a great deal of ability to prepare.”

The chef’s longtime lovers may well observe other trademark touches at Morihiro. An achieved potter, Onodera crafted all the restaurant’s ceramic dishware — about 300 plates, he estimates.

Then there is the rice.

Onodera is known for proclaiming that terrific sushi is 70% rice and 30% fish, and his record speaks to that obsession. Beforehand he’d partnered with farmers to mature a certain assortment of limited-grain koshihikari, 1st in the Sacramento Delta and later on in Uruguay.

These times he’s arranged a contract with a rice farmer in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan because he believes the location makes some of the most exquisite and flavorful grains on the earth.

“The very best rice for sushi comes from Japan. Some men and women inquire me, ‘But what about California?’ I’m incredibly sorry, no contest.”

Not a single to restrict himself, he’s also putting in his very own rice sprucing equipment, which will enable him to mill unhusked brown rice at the cafe so it retains optimum dampness.

“Everything in this article is authentic,” he mentioned. “It’s my foodstuff, my plates, my vision.”

In spite of the logistical difficulties of debuting through the pandemic, Onodera is upbeat about the long run of what he calls his “dream restaurant.” Desire for on the web pickup orders has currently shot earlier his early expectations.

And as soon as dining rooms are allowed to reopen, he at some point desires to introduce those people dear ($300) omakase dinners. For now, he’s just as energized about serving $5 rice balls stuffed with sour plum or seasoned bonito flakes.

“I’m 56 several years aged. I under no circumstances think about retirement. I’m excited to get the job done and introduce more people today to conventional Japanese foods. It can be expensive but not normally,” he stated.

3133 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 522-3993, morionodera.com

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