1 of L.A.’s best sushi chefs is at Morihiro in Atwater Village

Morihiro “Mori” Onodera, like the rest of us, had other strategies for 2020.

The revered sushi chef — a gentle-spoken bespectacled determine dependable for training what looks like fifty percent of the city’s sashimi experts — had remaining his publish at the upscale Japanese spot Inn Ann in late 2019, two weeks in advance of the restaurant shut for excellent.

By then Onodera experienced begun sketching out his subsequent venture, an intimate sushi bar in Atwater Village that would serve as a culmination of the a long time he has spent mastering the craft.

He envisioned a higher-conclude sushi counter that offered $300 omakase dinners at evening. Six seats at a white oak bar. A handful of tables.

But once COVID-19 strike, Onodera realized his small business notion experienced to modify.

“I resolved to make it more affordable,” he mentioned. “The foods will often be incredibly fantastic excellent, of program, but this time I will check out to continue to keep the price tag as very low as achievable.”

For people who have at one particular time or another splurged at a single of Onodera’s establishments, this assertion is not insignificant. At Mori Sushi, the Michelin-starred West L.A. restaurant that he ran for over a ten years just before advertising it to his assistant, the sushi omakase ran a couple hundred bucks at minimal. The identical was legitimate at Shiki Beverly Hills, the ritzy cafe he oversaw in 2017 right before moving to Inn Ann.

But at Morihiro, his new cafe on Glendale Boulevard that opened in November, he’s planning takeout bento bins that start out at $27 (vegetarian) and $37 (combined), a modest rate by Onodera requirements.

Nigiri sushi at Morihiro

Nigiri sushi at Morihiro

(Ibuki Kobayashi)

Sushi fans can get a $50 omakase set that contains 6 items of nigri, a slice roll, an appetizer and miso soup. Onodera selects all the seafood himself, significantly of it flown in from Japan: fatty wintertime yellowtail, infant barracuda, golden eye snapper, and so forth.

He steers distinct of bluefin tuna on basic principle (it’s very overfished), preferring to showcase his adore of hikarimono, silver-skinned fish such as gizzard shad, sardine and horse mackerel identified for their more powerful taste.

The cafe space — a narrow 1,000-square-foot home with a bare-bones open kitchen — is attached to Viet Noodle Bar, a neighborhood Vietnamese cafe run by Onodera’s longtime buddy Viet Tran. The two labored out a offer that permitted Onodera to develop out his have kitchen area and eating space although sharing a prep spot and restrooms with the greater restaurant future doorway.

“I assumed it was the great sizing for building sushi,” Onodera mentioned. “Many individuals questioned me, ‘Are you positive you want to open proper now?’ But since this isn’t a significant restaurant, it is much easier. The smaller room is comfy for me.”

With the restaurant shut besides for takeout, Onodera is making ready all the foodstuff himself and packaging orders with the aid of an assistant.

Ultimately the menu will involve his edition of a standard Japanese breakfast: heat rice, pickles built from local generate, fresh tofu, a rolled egg omelet, soup, some sashimi or grilled fish.

A seasonal bento set at Morihiro

A seasonal bento set at Morihiro

(Ibuki Kobayashi)

“It’s a lovely assortment of breakfast,” he reported, describing his vision of a tray filled with 10 or so modest dishes that would cost all-around $20. “Very uncomplicated, but it calls for a whole lot of ability to prepare.”

The chef’s longtime admirers could possibly see other trademark touches at Morihiro. An attained potter, Onodera crafted all the restaurant’s ceramic dishware — about 300 plates, he estimates.

Then there is the rice.

Onodera is acknowledged for proclaiming that fantastic sushi is 70% rice and 30% fish, and his history speaks to that obsession. Previously he’d partnered with farmers to expand a unique selection of short-grain koshihikari, to start with in the Sacramento Delta and later on in Uruguay.

These times he’s arranged a agreement with a rice farmer in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan since he thinks the location creates some of the most exquisite and flavorful grains on the earth.

“The ideal rice for sushi will come from Japan. Some people today request me, ‘But what about California?’ I’m incredibly sorry, no contest.”

Not a person to limit himself, he’s also installing his very own rice sprucing device, which will enable him to mill unhusked brown rice at the cafe so it retains greatest moisture.

“Everything below is first,” he reported. “It’s my food stuff, my plates, my vision.”

Regardless of the logistical worries of debuting during the pandemic, Onodera is upbeat about the upcoming of what he phone calls his “dream restaurant.” Need for online pickup orders has currently shot earlier his early anticipations.

And once dining rooms are permitted to reopen, he eventually wishes to introduce people pricey ($300) omakase dinners. For now, he’s just as fired up about serving $5 rice balls stuffed with bitter plum or seasoned bonito flakes.

“I’m 56 many years previous. I under no circumstances feel about retirement. I’m psyched to get the job done and introduce much more people today to common Japanese foodstuff. It can be highly-priced but not usually,” he claimed.

3133 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 522-3993, morionodera.com