In the shadow of skyscrapers, in the corner of a dimly lit restaurant, Hiroyuki Naruke is chopping fish.
It’s a Tuesday night at Q Sushi. Naruke is the only chef on duty, as usual. He’s the leading man on this stage, though the contrast between the man and his adopted city is hard to miss. The dominant sound in the room is that of chatter: power brokers, social climbers, and Hollywood hangers-on creating an echo chamber of first-world problems. Naruke does his work meticulously, in silence.
Rocky Aoki would disapprove. There are no oversized hats or knives here. Chef Hiro’s fingers work in plain view with the quiet precision of a surgeon, only faster. When a new dish of sushi is complete, Chef Hiro opens his mouth to present the end result. Other than the softly spoken announcement that heralds each new plate, your attention will not be demanded. In Los Angeles that counts as quiet ambition.
The lack of bells and whistles at Q Sushi puts a lot of pressure on the food to be good. So does the menu. It’s a fixed-price Omakase menu running $165 (15 pieces) or $200 (20 pieces). There’s also a $250 premium menu that requires 48 hours’ notice to prepare the ingredients. The cuts of fish rotate seasonally.
It seems there hasn’t been a wrong choice yet. The city has embraced its unlikely Hiro. One list named Q Sushi Los Angeles’ 10th-best restaurant of any kind for 2016. On this night at least, it all makes sense. Every cut — hirame, bluefin, amberjack, swordfish, toro, jack mackerel — is on point. It’s all locally sourced, which helps it avoid the “fishy” taste that can sink any sushi chef’s best handiwork.
You don’t have to be a sushi snob to appreciate the food. History tells us that sushi is the equivalent of Japanese street food, a spirit preserved here. (Chef Hiro observes the Edomae style, which dates back centuries.) Q Sushi is footsteps from the 7th St. Metro station, accessible from anywhere the rail lines take you. There are even a couple Japanese craft beers on tap.
But there are no gimmicks, no forced ambience. The understated experience is as refreshing as the food. In Los Angeles, it’s hard to overstate how special that is.