Like taking notes by hand, or only watching movies in their native language (sorry, but Howl’s Moving Castle is just better in Japanese, no offense to Christian Bale and Billy Crystal), a well-crafted bowl of chirashi is every purist’s dream. Meaning “scattered” in Japanese, the traditional meal consists only of two things: a bed of white rice (often served sushi-style, and seasoned with vinegar), plus a medley of super-fresh sashimi on top. Which, as you might imagine, isn’t too hard to come by in a city like LA, but what separates a “good” chirashi from an “all-time great” is a singular focus on fish quality. One that’s pure and straightforward, unlike our relationship with our ex. Yikes.
Anyway. From mega-deluxe boxes to classic sets to a unique bowl garnished with cut fruit, here are five chirashis in LA you should know about it. Sure, it’s not necessarily ideal takeout food, but at least it’s not pasta.
The Brothers Sushi
Premium “Jyo” Chirashi Bowl: $50
With seasoned sushi rice, 15 types of seafood, plus a side of miso soup and salad, the premium chirashi at The Brothers Sushi is the culinary equivalent of a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, or this scene from Mamma Mia: 2 Here We Go Again. In other words, an instant classic. There’s a heavy emphasis on rich, fatty toro sashimi here — thick, marbled cuts of ahi that melt in your mouth. The bright-orange uni is firm, but bursts with umami, and glistening scallops contain both sweet meat and a delicate texture. Plus, the rice is separated out into its own container, so its heat won’t cook the raw fish, and is garnished with furikake, tsukemono pickles, plus a few slices of tamago. It’s a stand-out dish that we’d happily eat on its own, any day of the week.
Premium Nama Chirashi: $120
If you’re looking for a luxury experience worthy of royalty, head to Sushi Kaneyoshi. Located on the basement floor of a Little Tokyo office building, this hidden sushi bar serves two versions of their nama chirashi: the original (which costs $85), plus an upgraded version packed with hard-to-find cuts of sea trout, horsehair crab, blackthroat seaperch, and shiro ebi, or white baby shrimp. It’s a dazzling, extravagant box of fish that has more seafood than your half-filled museum aquarium in Animal Crossing. From delicate slices of yellowtail to the highest-grade uni you’ll find in the game, each piece in this labor-intensive jewelry box is prepared Edo-style, a painstaking technique that involves aging and curing the fish for days, in order to highlight it’s individual flavor. What results is not only the most beautiful chirashi we’ve ever seen — but a unique collector’s item, a box that needs to be on every self-respecting chirashi fan’s shortlist. And preferably, near the top.
Although the description for this chirashi on their menu might seem straightforward, what you’ll find in your to-go bag is something much different. Instead of the traditional sushi rice, they opt for savory rice flavored with vinegar and soy sauce, then adorned with tsukemono and mushrooms. Bright yellow tamago, super-crisp pickles, and just-picked strawberries live in a separate container, and complement the fresh cuts of hamachi, ahi, uni, and ebi shrimp. It’s a unique, refreshing combination of both familiar and unfamiliar flavors, a true testament to chef Morihiro Onodera’s many years of experience, and a dish we’d happily eat three times a day, if not for the potential mercury poisoning.
When it comes to affordable, quality sushi bowls, Murakami is still our favorite spot in town. The tiny restaurant on Melrose has a full menu of solid offerings, but it’s their giant bowls (ranging from $17-$25) that keep us coming back. Our favorites include the mixed, a straight-forward order of tuna, salmon, albacore, yellowtail, and shrimp, as well as the spicy trio — a fiery bowl of chopped tuna, yellowtail, and salmon bathed in a slightly-spicy mayo, which makes for a perfect meal for a WFH lunch, solo dinner, or even leftover breakfast, straight from the fridge.
Hokkai Don: $40
Inspired by the seafood-rich coasts of Hokkaido, the Hokkai Don at this new Silver Lake spot is filled with near-symmetrical rows of salmon, blue crab, and salmon roe. It’s a simple chirashi — way less extravagant than some of the other boxes on this list — but that doesn’t mean the fish quality is any less high. The crab meat is soft and slightly salty, hotate scallops are creamy and sprinkled in furikake, and for ikura lovers, you’ll get beyond a generous portion of the juicy, bright-orange salmon roe. It’s a straightforward, well-organized meal. If you’re a Wes Anderson completist or receive The Container Store gift cards on your birthday, this might be the chirashi for you.