Reviews

AHI SUSHI
by Elmer Dills


Ventura Blvd sometimes it seems to boast more Japanese restaurants offering sushi, sashimi, tempura and sake than in Tokyo. Lots to choose from but here’s one that for me stands a bit out from the others.

It’s the Ahi Sushi on the corner of Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Blvd in Studio City. I had a good feeling for the minute walked in and saw an always busy sushi bar to the right that never seems to have empty seats. Behind the sushi bar is Jimmy Wu who I remember from the now closed Sushi Zawa in Burbank. I knew I would be in good hands with Jimmy in charge. By the way, just so you know - Jimmy is Chinese but he sure knows sushi, sashimi and the rest.

If you prefer tables to the sushi bar, which is my choice - I find it more conducive to private conversation. On the other hand, the sushi bar is more fun and the chance to sometimes meet interesting people. And you can’t miss the giant hand painted mural with its showing men and women by a lake and mountains. A very soothing peaceful scene. All in all I find the Ahi Sushi has very eye pleasing decor.

There’s a patio surrounding two sides of the restaurant. One side with an exciting view of the parking lot. The other offers a fascinating look at the trucks, buses and cars rolling by on Ventura Blvd. As soon as your seating you’ll be handed a list of 45 to 50 sushi and sushi rolls selected by Jimmy Wu with fish from different regions. An that’s just the beginning of your adventure here.

Another list of today’s fish market specials with a dozen or so dishes priced from $8.95 to $14.0 with most under $10. There’s also a regular printed menu with lists of appetizers, salads, soups and entrees. all in all, a mind bogglin ious possibilities.

If all of this leaves you a bit confused, you might ask Jimmy for his suggestions. He’ll be happy to help you out. Should you are at the sushi bar you’ll see Jimmy with his super sharp knife working with today’s fresh food. A very appetizing sight. and when Jimmy says fresh, that’s what he means.

What to drink with the Japanese dishes served here? There’s a decent selection of reds and whites. Also an extensive list of sakes both cold and warm. If you’re not particularly knowledgeable about the extensive sake possibilities here, a waitress will bring some samples to try.

You might also try soju martinis that are different and interesting.

Oh yes - don’t feel you have to leave the children at home. They might just surprise you of quickly how they become sushi aficionados.

The Bottom Line - a large selection of seafood from the waters of Japan, Hawaii as well as local sources. A large number of creative dishes at affordable prices.

NOTE:
A large free parking lot behind the restaurant, a bonus in this area where street parking can be difficult.

Ooohs and Ahi - BY ELYSE GLICKMANN


Ahi Sushi in Studio City artfully reconciles five-star dishes, knowledgeable sushi chefs and a welcoming neighborhood vibe.

If you’re a sushi fan and live anywhere in Los Angeles, you’re in luck. All the more so if you live in the San Fernando Valley, where it seems as if we’ve got more sushi bars per capita. The sheer number of restaurants doesn’t even count fancy steakhouses, seafood restaurants, “Asian Fusion” and “Pacific Rim” spots that just happen to have some sushi items on the menu.

Perhaps this embarrassment of riches is too much of a good thing, making it hard for a sushi connoisseur to venture outside of his comfort zone beyond the one or two neighborhood restaurants he frequents regularly. Ahi Sushi, lovingly operated for the last eleven years by Jimmy Wu, operates on the notion that a precise balance of imagination, ingredient freshness and customer service takes all of the guesswork out for the customer.

“Creating beautiful, delicious food has always been a passion for me, so buying the restaurant eleven years ago was a logical next step,” says Wu. “The food, decoration and people have to create an overall setting of harmony and balance. There are so many sushi bars in L.A. that we have to make sure we continually distinguish ourselves from the competition. While some restaurants focus on portion size or lower prices, we believe real value is achieved through a creative menu that uses the best ingredients, along with high quality service from our staff.”

Wu details that a good sushi bar experience encompasses its chef’s and servers’ efforts to steer customers to try different dishes with flavor profiles that come together in surprising ways. On our recent visit, our sushi chef (John) not only memorized our names and had individual eye contact with each of us, but kept us apprised on where the various seafood elements were sourced from, when to add the sauce and when to eat the sushi piece whole. John stressed the importance of eating every piece in such a way to accomplish the sensation of “umami,” elevating the eater to a higher level of flavor experience.

“We have to keep creating new things because if we were to depend only on soy sauce, wasabi and mayonnaise, our chefs would be limited in what they could create and how we as a team can keep customers surprised,” explains Wu “For example, we’ve brought in some Mediterranean influences, such as Italian olive oil, sea salt, octopus and so on. If everything you eat is covered in soy sauce and wasabi, you are no longer able to distinguish one thing from the next.”

Wonderful items that we refrained from soy-and-wasabi dipping included simply plated Kumamoto and Shigotu oysters, “Octopus Crudo” sashimi accented with spicy sauce and olive oil (almost a Spanish tapas), delicate albacore tuna topped with fried onions and ponzu, to the popular signature “Ginger Snapper” plate with lovely aromas of truffle oil and garlic and King Mackerel nigiri which has the delicate taste and texture of fatty albacore tuna.

Other things we judiciously dipped, as guided by John, included a blue crab roll, the Ahi Garlic Lemon Roll (updating the spicy tuna roll) with house infused garlic oil and pine nuts, The Spicy Oriental Roll, Spicy Salmon Original Roll and the Crunch Roll. While each specialty roll is based on something you think you’ve tried elsewhere, the recipes here call for some sort of unexpected twist, be it a house-made secret sauce, toasted garlic chips or a combination of seafood you never thought would work together.

“Though our sushi bar is very traditional, and one Japanese chef is in charge of all the traditionally Japanese dishes, such as nigiri, and the fish imported from Japan, all of our chefs contribute to a mix that makes our menu an original,” says Wu. “Our secret to success is simple: Use the best quality ingredients, and take no shortcuts.”

Wu adds, the goodness is available to go, and his successful catering operation includes such discerning clients as Warner Bros., NBC Studios and a small cadre of celebrities who, frankly, love the “real world” vibe of the restaurant. However, Wu mentions this too will be upgraded in 2014, with new décor that will incorporate from hardwood floors to granite marble tables.

FRESHNESS AND QUALITY MAKE THE CUT AT AHI


By Larry Lipson, Restaurant Critic

ASK FOR TORO at the new Ahi Sushi in Studio City and you get thick meaty slabs of slightly seared, top-quality belly of bluefin tuna that are so utterly scrumptious you almost don't mind paying $9.50 for the two pieces of sushi.

Ahi Sushi is the latest of the amazing, continuing explosion of sushi cafes on Ventura Boulevard, competition notwithstanding.

Highly visible, it sits next to the long popular, free-standing, art deco coffee shop Twain's at the Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Boulevard intersection, a few steps east of the well-established Iroha Sushi.

Unlike most closed-in sushi bars, Ahi sports a look-in windowed facade and an attractive boulevard patio in front. Inside, it has more of a cafe appearance than much of its competition, with its dining tables seemingly just as important as its actual sushi bar seating.

Chef-owner Jimmy Wu, who gained a following at Sushi Zawa in Burbank, has brought many of his devotees to this location. Here, he prides himself on his global array of sushi fish, which are listed with sources of origin in parentheses on his restaurant's sushi menu. Sit down at his sushi bar and you're likely to get a smiling greeting and a complimentary tidbit that can be as good as a dollop of spicy tuna tartare with a kick served up on a crispy wonton.

But Ahi Sushi is not one of those cut-rate sushi bars by a long shot. Its emphasis on freshness, quality, generous servings, laborious plate artistry and attentive service doesn't allow low pricing. Consequently, be prepared to spend around $65 to $75 per couple before tips for an evening meal.

Even if you order an entree plate -- one night I tried the grilled New York strip steak ($17), which comes forth sliced with teriyaki sauce and grilled onion and tomato accompaniments -- this was more the addition to, rather than instead of, a normal sushi snacking dinner experience.

Of course there's fresh ahi tuna from Hawaii available here as a rule, but so is Atlantic big-eye tuna. They are both ticketed at market price. On two occasions ordered as tuna sushi, the cost for two pieces was $4.90. Both the halibut ($4.80) and albacore ($4.80) sushi efforts arrive well-presented and generally as good as the competitors' equivalents. You can enjoy goodies here like calamari stuffed with blue crab ($6.50) or a tasty grilled yellowtail creation ($7). Another yellowtail offering, this time dubbed a "kaliata roll' ($6.50), is delivered chopped and spiced with jalapeno chiles, coated in tempura batter. Quite delicious. Scallops are fine as a soybean paper hand roll ($5) or as scallop sashimi off the shell ($13). There's a sauteed king crab and asparagus roll ($9.50) that's a real treat.

But there may be disappointments here. A clam and mussels soup ($7.50), for example, described as green mussels and Littleneck clams in a buttery sake broth with chopped tomato, sounded alluring one time. "Sorry, we don't have it,' said the apologetic waitress quite a while after she'd taken the order. So I settled for a clear fish broth with a few pieces of Japanese snapper, shiitake mushroom and yuzu skin (4.50). Not bad, but the first choice appeared so much more substantial.

But that's all part of the sushi experience, trying to make everything you order add up to a substantial meal that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Good luck!

Article published by: http://u.dailynews.com

AHI SUSHI
Food: ***
Service: *** 1/2
Where: 12915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Hours: Open for lunch and snacks from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, for dinner and snacks from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, from 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Recommended items: Tuna sushi, spicy tuna tartare, toro, other nigiri sushi (yellowtail, halibut, albacore), blue crab-stuffed calamari, scallops (hand-roll sushi, off-the-shell sashimi), kaliata roll, king crab roll.

How much: Sushi from $4 to $9, special rolls from $6.50 to $15, soups and appetizers from $2 to $16, entrees from $14 to $26. Beer and wine. All major credit cards.

Wine list: Sake and beer are beverages of choice. Cold Sierra sake is $9.50. Large Asahi brew is $5.95. Limited wines.

Reservations: Taken for table seating inside and out.
Call (818) 981-0277.

DAILY NEWS
FRESHNESS AND QUALITY MAKE THE CUT AT AHI


By Larry Lipson, Restaurant Critic

ASK FOR TORO at the new Ahi Sushi in Studio City and you get thick meaty slabs of slightly seared, top-quality belly of bluefin tuna that are so utterly scrumptious you almost don't mind paying $9.50 for the two pieces of sushi.

Ahi Sushi is the latest of the amazing, continuing explosion of sushi cafes on Ventura Boulevard, competition notwithstanding.

Highly visible, it sits next to the long popular, free-standing, art deco coffee shop Twain's at the Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Boulevard intersection, a few steps east of the well-established Iroha Sushi.

Unlike most closed-in sushi bars, Ahi sports a look-in windowed facade and an attractive boulevard patio in front. Inside, it has more of a cafe appearance than much of its competition, with its dining tables seemingly just as important as its actual sushi bar seating.

Chef-owner Jimmy Wu, who gained a following at Sushi Zawa in Burbank, has brought many of his devotees to this location. Here, he prides himself on his global array of sushi fish, which are listed with sources of origin in parentheses on his restaurant's sushi menu. Sit down at his sushi bar and you're likely to get a smiling greeting and a complimentary tidbit that can be as good as a dollop of spicy tuna tartare with a kick served up on a crispy wonton.

But Ahi Sushi is not one of those cut-rate sushi bars by a long shot. Its emphasis on freshness, quality, generous servings, laborious plate artistry and attentive service doesn't allow low pricing. Consequently, be prepared to spend around $65 to $75 per couple before tips for an evening meal.

Even if you order an entree plate -- one night I tried the grilled New York strip steak ($17), which comes forth sliced with teriyaki sauce and grilled onion and tomato accompaniments -- this was more the addition to, rather than instead of, a normal sushi snacking dinner experience.

Of course there's fresh ahi tuna from Hawaii available here as a rule, but so is Atlantic big-eye tuna. They are both ticketed at market price. On two occasions ordered as tuna sushi, the cost for two pieces was $4.90. Both the halibut ($4.80) and albacore ($4.80) sushi efforts arrive well-presented and generally as good as the competitors' equivalents. You can enjoy goodies here like calamari stuffed with blue crab ($6.50) or a tasty grilled yellowtail creation ($7). Another yellowtail offering, this time dubbed a "kaliata roll' ($6.50), is delivered chopped and spiced with jalapeno chiles, coated in tempura batter. Quite delicious. Scallops are fine as a soybean paper hand roll ($5) or as scallop sashimi off the shell ($13). There's a sauteed king crab and asparagus roll ($9.50) that's a real treat.

But there may be disappointments here. A clam and mussels soup ($7.50), for example, described as green mussels and Littleneck clams in a buttery sake broth with chopped tomato, sounded alluring one time. "Sorry, we don't have it,' said the apologetic waitress quite a while after she'd taken the order. So I settled for a clear fish broth with a few pieces of Japanese snapper, shiitake mushroom and yuzu skin (4.50). Not bad, but the first choice appeared so much more substantial.

But that's all part of the sushi experience, trying to make everything you order add up to a substantial meal that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Good luck!

Article published by: http://u.dailynews.com

AHI SUSHI
Food: ***
Service: *** 1/2
Where: 12915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Hours: Open for lunch and snacks from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, for dinner and snacks from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, from 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Recommended items

: Tuna sushi, spicy tuna tartare, toro, other nigiri sushi (yellowtail, halibut, albacore), blue crab-stuffed calamari, scallops (hand-roll sushi, off-the-shell sashimi), kaliata roll, king crab roll.

How much: Sushi from $4 to $9, special rolls from $6.50 to $15, soups and appetizers from $2 to $16, entrees from $14 to $26. Beer and wine. All major credit cards.

Wine list: Sake and beer are beverages of choice. Cold Sierra sake is $9.50. Large Asahi brew is $5.95. Limited wines.

Reservations: Taken for table seating inside and out.
Call (818) 981-0277.

ALL BUSINESS MAGAZINE - AHI SUSHI, STUDIO CITY


When Jimmy Wu opened up Ahi Sushi he had absolutely no experience running a business. While he understood the food aspect of running a restaurant, having been a sushi chef for many years previous, such things as making employee schedules, handling a payroll and paying taxes and licensing fees were alien to him. Luckily for him, SCORE provided Wu with Sam Engelman, a retired restaurateur who had formerly run the successful Nibblers restaurant chain in Los Angeles.

"My skills were only originally those of a chef, becoming a business owner was a very daunting task to me," Wu said. "Then I met (Engelman) and he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes, one by one, step by step. We've currently been open for three years and we're doing really well, especially considering we're in a very competitive neighborhood."

Initially, Wu had wanted to open the restaurant at a trendy location, which Engelman advised against, instead advising him to open Ahi at a location that would allow him to grow the business without excess expense. Engelman also connected Wu with a real estate broker and the three of them visited various sites at various times to study traffic patterns and the competition. The due diligence paid off, as Ahi Sushi quickly became profitable. Currently, Wu is scouting locations for a second restaurant, likely to be located in Calabasas or Thousand Oaks.

L.A. Times


Cyndia Zwahlen:
Small Business Report

Expert Advice Is Served -- for Free
With the help of a business counseling group, a chef rolls out a profitable restaurant.

August 9, 2006

Sushi chef Jimmy Wu could carve a cucumber into a paper-thin scroll, but he knew his knife skills weren’t enough to achieve his dream of owning a sushi restaurant.

So he took the advice of a customer and contacted a former head of the California Restaurant Assn. The retired restaurant executive spent months teaching Wu the ins and outs of restaurant ownership and helping him scout locations.

When Wu fell in love with a chic Brentwood site, his advisor, a member of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, steered him away. He pointed out the lack of parking and the need for expensive remodeling.

Wu took his advice and picked a high-profile but cheaper site in Studio City with plenty of parking.

The advice was free. The benefits, Wu said, were priceless.
“You are desperate to go from employee to boss, so you don’t see clearly whether, as a business owner, your decisions make sense or not,” he said.

His advisor was Sam Engerman. He is one of 70 SCORE counselors in the Los Angeles County chapter, and one of 10,500 nationwide, who volunteer their time and expertise to help clients start or run successful businesses.

Jelly Belly Candy Co., Vera Bradley Designs Inc. and Vermont Teddy Bear Co. are some of the well-known national companies that in their early stages also took advantage of the free counseling available from the nonprofit group.

Wu’s Ahi Sushi is not yet a household name, but his Ventura Boulevard restaurant is profitable, he said. He employs a staff of 25, and he expects revenue to grow about 20% this year to $1.2 million. Opened in March 2003, the restaurant has earned top ratings for its food and service in the Zagat Survey of restaurants.

For Wu and thousands of other entrepreneurs and business owners, the Service Corps of Retired Executives is a valuable, if sometimes overlooked, resource.

In addition to free one-on-one business counseling, it offers low-cost workshops, a growing array of online business tools and resources and online access to 1,300 counselors.

The website, http://www.score.org , which has won several awards since its inception in 1997, was relaunched last month after a redesign that added and reorganized content in response to client input.

The group plans this year to begin podcasting some of its popular workshops on business plans, venture capital, sales strategies and other topics. In the future, counselors probably will be available through instant-messaging, webcasts and Internet videoconferences.

The expanding online presence is meant to meet the changing needs of today’s business owners, said Ken Yancey, chief executive of the national organization.