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.
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 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.
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 pastas; 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.
9000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (424) 288-4671, charcoalsunset.com
An Orange County restaurant group has expanded to L.A. with A PCH, a modern-American restaurant with bay views, house-made pastas, Wagyu-topped pizza, caviar service on fresh-corn blinis, oysters and more spread across 5,400 square feet. A PCH, located within Long Beach’s 2nd & PCH mixed-use complex, is the latest project by River Jetty Restaurant Group from restaurateur Jordan Otterbein and film director Joseph “McG” Nichol, which operates A Crystal Cover in Newport Cove and CdM in Corona del Mar, among others. Executive chef Louis Capiz, formerly of A Crystal Cove, is heading up a menu of some of the hospitality group’s most popular items, including the Fancy Pizza with Wagyu hanger steak, curry, roasted pineapple, Calabrese aioli and Fresno chiles, and the Dirty Pasta with ground duck and ricotta salata. Brunch service involves horchata-inspired pancakes, breakfast pizza, duck-confit sopes with Wagyu-lace refried beans, and filet-and-crab Benedict. A forthcoming restaurant, A Sunset, is slated for the city of L.A. A PCH is open Monday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Expect programming such as DJ sets Thursday to Saturday.
6460 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite D200, Long Beach, (562) 431-4949, riverjettyrg.com/a-pch
Bludso’s Bar & Cue Santa Monica
Legendary L.A. pitmaster Kevin Bludso has expanded his barbecue empire to the Westside with a new location in Santa Monica. The newest Bludso’s Bar & Cue marks the chef-owner and TV personality’s first full restaurant opening in a decade, and serves his signature blend of Texas-by-way-of-Compton flavor in the former Truxton’s space. Bludso recently won a James Beard Foundation award for his cookbook — named by L.A. Times as one of the best of 2022 — and is serving all his iconic dishes also found on La Brea, including his award-winning family-style meats smoked on-site: beef ribs, brisket, pulled pork, rib tips, sausage links and even vegan jackfruit, plus newer items like fried okra and smoked turkey. Sides include baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, Texas caviar, collards, cornbread and more. The new location features TVs and a full bar, which offers options such as the “pitmaster’s punch” with pineapple, ginger and vodka, and the bourbon-spiked sweet tea with rhubarb and peach. Bludso’s Santa Monica is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
1329 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 310-2775, bludsosbbq.com
Crazy Thai Burger
The family behind one of Thai Town’s most beloved sidewalk stalls just launched a quick and casual fusion concept with a bricks-and-mortar in Koreatown. At the new Crazy Thai Burger, the Sathirathiwats are shifting their noodle focus found at Radna Silom — where pad Thai, rad na and other wok’d dishes are fried and simmered freshly in front of Silom Supermarket — and instead are offering a handful of Thai-inspired burgers, such as a krapow variety and a larb iteration, both served between rice patties and with a sweet and sour house-made roasted Thai chile sauce. There are rice bowls, too, as well as boba Thai iced teas, slushies made from freshly squeezed orange juice, and a tom yum-spiced spaghetti with shrimp and fried basil that uses custom Thai seasonings. “We tried the other companies in the U.S., but it tastes different,” said partner Kaenipa Lantomrattana. “We found someone to make it in Thailand and then [import] it.” More offerings are in the works. Crazy Thai Burger is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.
4008 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 925-5652, instagram.com/crazythaiburger
Gingergrass Mini Mart
Silver Lake Vietnamese spot Gingergrass now has a sibling mini mart in East Hollywood selling Vietnamese pantry items, pan-Asian noodle bowls, coffee and more in the former Square One Tacos space. Co-owner John Himmelstein asked himself what the next generation of Gingergrass might look like as a market and tapped chef Andrew Lo to help envision it. Lo’s menu is inspired by Vietnamese, Cantonese, Thai and Indonesian flavors and involves dan dan noodles with herbs, lime-dressed cucumbers and turmeric-pickled mustard greens; a rice paper crepe dressed with egg batter and topped with lemongrass pork; coconut curry noodles with shallot-oil-poached shrimp; mushroom noodles with miso butter and garlic panko; and grab-and-go fridge items like corn salad in shrimp butter and Vietnamese chicken salad with coconut nuoc cham. Himmelstein’s partner, D’nell Larson, is heading up much of the retail curation with Vietnamese pantry and small-batch items such as gourmet fish sauce, pho-flavored beef jerky, canned coconut milk, imported potato chips, pho kits, and all the accoutrements to make Vietnamese coffee at home. Gingergrass Mini Mart is open Wednesday to Sunday from 4:30 to 9 p.m., with lunch hours to follow. In Silver Lake, the restaurant recently launched a weekend-only program for sidewalk-grilled Vietnamese street foods.
4850 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, gingergrass.com
Granville North Hollywood
A popular local chain for sustainability-minded modern-American fare recently expanded to North Hollywood, opening in the former Renegade space in the NoHo Arts District. It marks the fifth location for Granville, which also maintains outposts in West Hollywood, Burbank, Studio City and Pasadena. Chefs Glenda Galvan-Garcia and Marc Dix and serving signature Granville items such as “uptown” mac ‘n’ cheese with cheddar, Gruyère, asparagus, peas and humanely raised chicken; Thai soba salad with candied ginger; Wagyu stroganoff; sustainable, Cajun-spice-rubbed pork chop with spinach and potatoes; and cocktails that riff on classics such as a chamomile take on the sour and a kaffir-tinged paloma. The two-story restaurant features a central bar and a communal table, as well as murals and other art by local makers. Granville North Hollywood is open Monday to Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m., Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday from noon to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 962-0858, granvillerestaurants.com
Arroz and Fun pop-ups
Five months after its debut in Lincoln Heights, cross-cultural cafe Arroz and Fun is opening its second floor and launching a series of pop-ups, collabs and gallery shows with special menu items. The coffee shop comes from the Leon and Liu families, who also operate Chifa and Monarch, and serves items that blend Latin, Chinese, Peruvian and Taiwanese influence such as bolo-bao sandwiches, pollo guisado, an aji-sauced smashburger, egg rolls and fish-ball curry. The inaugural pop-up is a vintage market curated by New York City shop James Veloria, running now through Aug. 15; in honor of the Filipino heritage of Brandon Veloria Giordano — one of the vintage collective’s owners — Arroz and Fun is serving a Filipino congee, plus an Aperol spritz tinged with Tang.
A photo exhibition beginning Sept. 1 will center on director Spike Jonze’s collaborative work and friendship with Bjork, with photos from Jonze’s personal collection curated by Arroz and Fun co-owner and fashion designer Humberto Leon.
“It’s basically a surprise exhibition, because he doesn’t know exactly which photos I’m choosing,” Leon said. The exhibition is set to run for three months and also offer corresponding dishes and drinks. Eventually, Leon says, the cafe’s ownership hopes to launch a grant program that helps members of the Lincoln Heights community access arts classes and other creative programs.
1822 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, arrozandfun.com