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It is amazing. After 13 years of FrankAboutFood.com, the question most asked is “What is the best Sushi Bar in the Ventura County Area?” That would seem to be and is a tough question since sadly there are almost as many supposed ”Japanese” sushi bars in the county now as there are low end chain Pizza joints and with quality often ranging toward those lower at a similar level. And we have checked out just about every one of any potential from Calabasas to Oxnard.
But if the owner and ALL Sushi chefs are not native Japanese, we walk. We lived in Japan ate lots of true Sushi there and do speak fluent Japanese
And thus what we discovered is that because of a shortage of TRULY trained (10 years prox) in Japan “Sushiyas”, most of the current crop are non-Japanese Asians faking that they are Japanese Sushi Chefs. Not one of them that we talked to has ever been been near the world famous Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo and their expertise begins and ends with slicing the dreaded “California” or “Ventura Roll”. If that is your style don’t bother to read further.
But if you are “Serious About Sushi” Kaminari (Japanese for Thunder) in Westake Village stands out from all the rest. When you enter this small room, you will be transported to the Ginza in Tokyo. You will be greeted by a charming diminutive Japanese server. Behind the bar are 2 true Sushi Masters who have been on this job for a decade plus Chef Owner Hidekazu with 40 plus years of slicing, chopping and squeezing behind him. He is also at the downtown fish market every morning with his Japanese Tsukiji trained eye selecting the freshest and best fish available. He will not accept Santa Barbara Sea Urchin (uni) unless it measures up to his high standards.The same goes for all the Ngiri sushi served as well as the very creative rolls that are also on the menu. He is as good as they comie!
Service is the best. But there can be a wait on weekends.
If you know what you want, you will immediately recognize the difference. If you are an adventurer, consider ordering “Omakase” which is Chef’s Choice while indicating a price limit starting with a low of at least $50 per person while adding your own special choices such as Toro (BlueFin Tuna) or that very special Sea Urchin (Uni).
Avoid the “All You Can Eat, On a Revolving Belt or Near The Water Hustlers” You will get a lot of rice, soy sauce and very little True Fresh Fish
Kaminari is slightly higher in price than others but absolutely worth it for the serious Sushi Lover.
2891 Agoura Road, Westlake Village 91361
(Actually on Village Glen)
Most Credit Cards Convenient Free Parking
The renaissance of downtown Los Angeles appears to be amazing. Philanthropists appear to have saved MOCA from outside interference and are embarking on exciting purchases. Aside from The traditional Dorothy Chandler , Ahmansohn and Mark Taper offerings of musicals and plays, the recently added exciting Disney Hall now features very sophisticated levels of music at the highest levels. Classic, Contemporary and Jazz consistently sells out its architecturally appealing and acoustically tuned auditorium. Add in Staples Center and The Nokia theater a few blocks south and now hordes of residents at all ages from Calabasas West to Ventura are consistently enticed by these multiple choices. But then they face that dreaded drive East down the 101 with a 50-50 chance of arriving late. There is a solution !!!
Beat the traffic and ensure a stress free evening by dining EARLY downtown, 5 quick minutes away from all the above attractions A few years ago good dining choices were slim and expensive. But today there is a wide range from which to chose and we have dined at most of them. But we recently came upon a choice that we think is very practical in many ways. Drago Centro offers very authentic Italian cuisine in a charmingly wide price range that is cheerfully served in a spectacular if slightly noisy setting.
You see, Celestino Drago is one of the finest creative Italian Chefs in this country and has been around Los Angeles for 3 decades starting with a small store front on South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills before opening a very hot upscale location in Santa Monica. He has also assisted all his brothers by putting the Drago stamp on low key Enoteca Drago Pasta in Beverly Hills, Panzanella in Sherman Oaks, Celestino’s in Pasadena and Tanino in Westwood. Celestino personally will soon be adding another for himself on Sunset in Hollywood.
But he is now concentrating all of his efforts downtown. At dinner you can choose wonderful pastas such as fettuccine with squid ink at less than $20. Tantalizing and sophisticated entrees of Chicken, Duck, Fresh Albacore, Salmon, Mediterranean Branzino and Steak are fairly priced from $27 to $36. The 5 Course Tasting Menu at $70 is the evening bargain of downtown. The very large wine list is fairly priced.
Drago Centro is open for lunch with prices on Pasta as low a $12! plus a 3 course business lunch that is value priced at $25. Validated Parking is in the building directly below. However be aware that Drago is on the West side of South Flower just South of 5th street and the parking is immediately after passing 5th street. If you miss the parking location you may waste 15 minutes making the circle back.
Drago Centro 525 South Flower Street-213-228-8998- Most Credit Cards- Drago Centro.com
Before Drago opened, The Water Grill was our favorite downtown choice. It may be the best fish restaurant in the state. Great choice of crustaceans. Very Professional but friendly service. Dining Room is a bit out of touch. Expensive.213-891-0900. 544 South Grand.
Patina at The Music Center: FuggedAboudid! Overpriced, overrated, arrogant. Only benefit is valet parking at the ground level entrance that gets you in and out of The Disney Hall in a hurry.
Rivera on Flower is the great John Sedlar’s latest. Many think he has been the most creative chef in Los Angeles in the last 25 years . Food leans toward upscale Mexican and can be a bit spicy. at upper end of pricing scale.
Some one else picking up the tab?? Consider spectacular WP24 at very nearby Staples and Nokia. It may be the most expensive Chinese food anywhere….period. But the food measures up to the spectacular room, view and unequalled service. Save a few bucks by going early and sitting in the bar area and choose small plates as the sun sets over the city. Do it at least once in a life time. Easy Valet parking at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel below. 213-7438824
Cicada may be in the most beautiful dining room in the state. It emulates the dining room of the opulent Rex Steam Ship of Italy. But for the price the food may not match up to the ambiance. Prompt in and out Valet parking is a time convenience
Bargains-Pizza etc. Maria’s Kitchen now has a location in the area offering somewhat fast food at Maria’s prices. Easy underground parking in the building. Calori nearby is a small warm Italian family spot but usually jammed. Chinese Food is a few blocks away. CBS Seafood is best choice. It is not the typical tourist joint of Chinatown. Japantown with a wide choice of very authentic and fairly priced Sushi, Shabu Shabu and Tempura is also very close by but parking is annoying. R23 is far and away the hot choice but a very tough reservation at any time .