Sawtelle | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Sawtelle

Kiriko

photo by Anne Fishbein

What more can be said about Kiriko, the Sawtelle sushi bar that has remained a favorite of industry insiders year after year? Owner-chef Ken Namba is the Louis C.K. of the raw-fish world, a veteran talent who appears even more prophetic with age, best known for his unflappably cool demeanor and trademark penchant for dustings of yuzu zest and pink salt. Omakase meals here seem to unfold like paintings: house-smoked salmon crowned with caviar, or soft curls of squid anointed with uni and a drizzle of black squid ink, each looking good enough to frame. But if high-end sushi seems to have gotten overly precious in recent times, Kiriko is the place to reset the humility meter, reminding you that painstakingly prepared sushi can be expressed even in the simplest of settings.—Garrett Snyder

Plan Check

photography by Dylan + Jeni

The gourmet-burger revolution of the past decade has yielded many developments, some of them more pleasant than others (no more truffle oil, please). But we’re immensely grateful for the ascension of Plan Check’s Ernesto Uchimura, the Umami Burger vet whose futuristic creations made with ketchup leather and house-made dashi cheese channel the primal satisfaction of a classic cheeseburger and fries without feeling gimmicky. There’s also unexpectedly stellar fried chicken, smoky and succulent, which requires more steps to prepare than an Ikea bed set. This isn’t how anyone’s grandmother made it, but don’t question: better living through technology. —Garrett Snyder

Shunji

photo by Danny Liao

Once you’ve found your way inside the odd, round building on Pico Boulevard and made your way to your seat inside the sparse circular room, turn your attention to the blackboard on the wall. You’ll need some time to ponder — the daily specials list at Shunji can be a tad overwhelming. A waiter will bring a menu board to the sushi bar or your table and prop it on a chair so you can peruse the tiny handwriting that crams every corner of the board’s surface. Your mind will swim, trying to take in all the sushi and sashimi options, as well as numerous creative Japanese small plates. Don’t sweat it — instead, go ahead and order the omakase, which is the best expression of chef Shunji Nakao’s vision, and which will include much of the best of what’s on the board anyway. In the winter, that means soft persimmon in tofu paste, in summer the chef’s famed agedashi tomato tofu, which is not tofu at all but compressed tomato turned to a tofu-like texture, lightly fried and set in a dashi broth. And always, it means luxuries such as monkfish liver topped with caviar, and pristine, glistening raw fish, draped across barely warm rice.— Besha Rodell

Tsujita L.A.

photo by Anne Fishbein

What is the best ramen in America’s best ramen city? It depends, I suppose, on your mood, on your stylistic preference, on many things. But the consensus among the throngs of diners lining up outside Tsujita is that this is the best ramen in L.A., and we tend to agree. Once inside (the wait is long — it’s worth it), you’ll feast on Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, or perhaps get your dip on with the fantastic tsukemen, its dipping broth thick and silky and rich. With a ramen annex across the street and a new sushi restaurant down the block, the Tokyo-based company is slowly taking over this stretch of Sawtelle, and Tsujita Sushi’s lunchtime offerings are already legendary in terms of raw-fish value. Perhaps once in a while we’ll make that detour, but for the most part you can find us up the street waiting in line and then slurping on ramen, intensely thankful for our noodle riches.— Besha Rodell