At Sushi Sonagi, tucked into a Gardena strip mall, the courses centered around “micro-seasonal” fish and produce such as a summer-corn chawanmushi.
With highly limited seatings, a Korean-influenced omakase and the return of second-generation sushi chef Daniel Son, Gardena’s new Sushi Sonagi fills up quickly. The intimate new restaurant from the Katsu Sando co-owner is a new chapter in Son’s career and one he has desperately sought to embark on since his family’s closure of their long-running West Hollywood restaurant, Kura Sushi.
“Doing sushi again feels extremely fulfilling and I feel very much more at peace,” said Son, who has trained in sushi for most of his adult life. “Katsu Sando has become such a big thing and although we’re so proud of what we’ve created and the people that we’re working with, I feel like my relationship with the sando company or brand became more of a restaurateur. It’s a lot more satisfying to come back to the cutting board and the knife, just going back to the roots of it all.”
At Sonagi the menu shifts weekly but might include corn-and-shiitake chawanmushi with uni, scattered with chive blossom; a single-bite tart filled with sake-poached ankimo; baby white shrimp nigiri, hand-formed in a shiso leaf to impart its oils; and tamago tinged with scallop and shrimp in the batter for a savory edge, and topped with bruleed miso butter. He serves a maximum of nine guests per seating, of which there are two every night of service: 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. Reservations are rolling, unlocked at midnight 30 days in advance of the date, and fill up almost instantly.
Chef-owner Daniel Son displays a course of grilled kuromutsu that’s been coated in puffy rice crackers.
He sees Sushi Sonagi as a way to represent an L.A. style of sushi, using traditional Japanese technique while drawing on other cultures, including his own Korean heritage, as well as local produce sourced primarily from the nearby Torrance farmers market to create courses that are unique but might feel familiar to a range of customers.
“It’s making sushi and being unapologetically Korean American about it and delving deeper into the culture that Korea and Japan have a history with. There’s this Japanese and Korean rivalry that happens, but I also think there’s shared culture there.”Grilled kuromutsu coated in puffy rice crackers is familiar to both Japanese and Korean palates, while abalone rice with liver sauce serves the rice crisped as a homage to dolsot bibimbap. He’s served a kind of sushi ssambap, or wrap, with Korean chile paste, roasted garlic, flying-fish eggs and Korean flounder — but instead of an entire ssam set, it was prepared as one bite. Son hopes that the unorthodox flair of Sushi Sonagi — the Korean word for a sudden rain shower — will evoke the same rarity and surprise of its namesake weather phenomenon.
Here he can also more easily promote “micro-seasonal” fish, changing his menu weekly, and utilize more dry-aging practices, which he began studying in Japan in 2015. It’s almost a responsibility to his mentors, he said, to keep pushing those efforts in his new restaurant — and he feels similarly about serving bluefin tuna, which he will not do at Sushi Sonagi.
sushi Sonagi is serving courses such as sea trout that’s been perilla-marinated and cured, then draped in kombu and sprinkled with Kyoto sesame seeds.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)
Since his family closed Kura in 2019, Son searched “aggressively” for a way to open a new sushi venture, and in a space he would want to call home for a long time. He credits Kura, which ran for 18 years, as the project he’s still most proud to have been a part of but feels that that was his father’s restaurant.
Son is at the forefront and behind the counter here, but Sushi Sonagi is still a family project: His parents occasionally help prep, his sister is a server, his wife runs the front-of-house operations. Operating a restaurant with his wife, he says, has helped him to understand his own parents’ relationship in a new light.
Earlier this year he signed the lease on the space in the same city in which he grew up, and where his parents first immigrated to. “For us it felt like it was a perfect move not only for our personal lives, but also to come back home and highlight this area,” Son said. “It’s very fulfilling to kind of come full circle.”
Sushi Sonagi is open Friday to Sunday with the possibility for Thursday night service in the months to come.
1425 Artesia Blvd., Unit 27, Gardena, instagram.com/sushi.sonagi Chef Josiah Citrin just expanded his live-fire concept Charcoal to the Sunset Strip. Charcoal is Citrin’s steakhouse-leaning ode to the backyard barbecue, and now he and chef de cuisine Jordan Olivo are cooking up coal-kissed vegetables and meats in a sprawling 230-seat indoor-outdoor space. The menu is nearly identical to the original Charcoal’s, which opened in 2015 and, along with its theme of backyard grilling, offers what Jonathan Gold called “the smell of sizzling meat, the rush of side dishes and the warm feeling of contentment.” Citrin — who earlier this week retained Michelin stars at his restaurants Mélisse and Citrin — is serving many of his coal-fired Venice dishes that have since become signatures: a thick wedge of cabbage “baked in the embers,” served with yogurt and sumac; a small pile of smokey, sweet lamb ribs; charred chicken wings; a range of steak cuts, half Jidori chicken and half a Liberty duck; fresh pasta; and vegetables such as ricotta- and black-pepper-honey coal-roasted carrots. Cocktails, similarly, evoke the theme, with options such as bourbon with bitters and smoke; an activated-charcoal margarita; and vodka with watermelon, cucumber, Saint Germain, and rosé. Charcoal on Sunset is open from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, with plans to later expand to daily service.
Chef Josiah Citrin’s ode to backyard barbecues is now available along the Sunset Strip. He recently opened a new, indoor-outdoor location of Charcoal in West Hollywood.
Source: LA Times