Grab quick, affordable sushi at 11 of the best hand roll bars in L.A.
The Los Angeles hand roll is delicious, populist sushi. Fresher than supermarket sushi without the commitment of omakase, the hand roll is the perfect fish-and-rice fix. Sudden craving for hamachi? Want a light, sit-down sushi lunch? A quick weeknight temaki dinner? The hand roll bar is the answer, and there are ever more of them — they seem to be multiplying by the week.
The hand roll bar as we know it is the brainchild of one of the city’s most legendary sushi chefs and an entrepreneurial partner who so precisely dialed in a sushi-for-the-people format that it completely changed the way L.A. eats raw fish with vinegared rice. A simple cylinder of crispy seaweed is wrapped around warm sushi rice and seafood, popularized by the blue crab temaki that famously punctuated Kazunori Nozawa‘s omakase at his erstwhile Ventura Boulevard spot Sushi Nozawa.
This is your guide to what the best sushi city in America has to offer, from the ultimate California roll to spectacular omakase.
KazuNori, when it opened in 2014, translated an intimate sushi experience into a quick-service concept with $15 to $30 set menus that has since reverberated throughout the city (and the country). The U-shaped counter was inspired by the Apple Pan’s, according to Nozawa, and allows maximum chef-to-customer interface. Because that’s the point of the hand roll: A sushi chef should hand it to you immediately after it is made — it also should be eaten right away — so that the rice is at the proper temperature and the nori remains crackly-crispy.
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Nearly a decade after KazuNori’s opening, hand roll bars are embedded in the culinary fabric of L.A. Many hew to the same restaurant layout and set-menu format — though they might shape their temaki as cones or cylinders or simply fold them in half, like home-style hand rolls — and offer both classic and creative fillings for all your sushi cravings. Here are 11 hand roll standouts, from Studio City to Fountain Valley. — Betty Hallock
It’s a hand roll party: This is an easy guide to making temaki sushi at home. Pile on the avocado, carrots, cucumbers, radish sprouts, spicy mayo and/or raw or tinned fish. Don’t forget the salsa macha.
KazuNori: The Original Hand Roll Bar
Omakase by Osen
Rice & Nori
The regular roll selection includes the usual suspects — spicy tuna, yellowtail, salmon — and the premium roll category (you get two of those in your set) includes blue crab and baked lobster shrimp. I would have liked slightly crisper nori on my rolls, but I left satisfied overall, particularly with the bay scallop and negi toro.
ROL Hand Roll Bar by Kei Concepts
Seaweed Hand Roll Bar
Executive chef Jesse Herek will steer you toward the yellowtail, bright and herbaceous, the chopped amberjack coated in yuzu sauce with razor-thin sliced green onions. The king crab hand roll features not only black truffle but white-truffle butter for a warm and indulgent option, while the signature seaweed hand roll, just as showy, tops negitoro with uni and a small mountain of ikura. Take a seat at the Glendale restaurant’s large, U-shaped counter and order a selection of hand roll hits, or look for the more takeout-friendly outpost in Canoga Park’s new Topanga Social food hall.