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Courtesy of Little Sister

Where to Try Sake and Seafood in Los Angeles

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You already know that sushi and sake are a match made in heaven, so it’s no surprise that this specialty rice brew also pairs beautifully with all different kinds of seafood. Sake’s wide range of aromas and flavor profiles find an occasion for almost every type of seafood, from briny oysters and pan-seared sole to umami-sweet black miso cod and brightly red steamed lobster.

Nancy Cushman — a certified Advanced Sake Professional for o ya, Covina, Hojoko, and more in her restaurant group that she co-owns with her husband Tim, her business partner and a James Beard Award-winning chef — knows a thing or two about this overlooked sake pairing. “Sake is a delicious and perfect pairing with many seafood dishes well beyond just Japanese sushi and sashimi,” she says. “From East to West Coast oysters to Gulf shrimp to Baja snapper, there is an unexpected sake match out there to be explored and enjoyed.”

Not sure how to pair sake with seafood? Start by familiarizing yourself with the different categories of sake. Sake categories are most easily differentiated by how much of the rice grain has been polished away. Junmai sake, for example, is polished to 70 percent of the grain, which gives it a rich, full body and imparts some umami flavors. The more grain you polish away, the lighter, and more elegant, the sake becomes; for example, honjozo, ginjo, and daijingo sakes are polished to between 70 percent or 50 percent of the grain.

With Cushman’s help, who has sampled sake from coast to coast, we’ve found the sake and seafood pairings in Los Angeles you’ve never thought to try before — until now. Skip the white wine and shake up your usual order by trying a glass (or two!) of different sakes, like a clean and delicately floral junmai daiginjo with raw seafood, a rice-forward junmai with brothy shellfish, or even a supple unfiltered nigori alongside similarly buttery and meaty white fish. Here are the 11 restaurants to head to this weekend and try an unexpected pairing, led by Cushman’s sake expertise.

Learn more about sake and seafood pairings at foodandsake.com.

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Shin Sushi

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Shin Sushi proves it really does run in the family: Its sushi master Taketoshi Azumi opened this Encino location as an ode to his father’s original Shin Sushi in Tokyo. His shari (rice made for sushi) has the unique addition of sake lees vinegar, and his sushi presentation is similarly distinctive with pieces like baby barracuda with a touch of yuzu, the rare isaki (three-line grunt), or hyper-seasonal firefly squid and smoky braised whelk. The sake list is succinct but well-chosen to pair with chef Take’s sushi for the day, and you can also bring your own bottle for a corkage fee.

The Joint Eatery

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Part fish market, part specialty shop, part coffee shop, The Joint feels like the love child between Eataly, the former Tsukiji Fish Market, and Blue Bottle. There’s plenty of open space and communal tables to park up for many hours, moving through the day from espresso to wine and caviar. Lunch, brunch, and dinner is served at the restaurant, from millennial favorites like squid ink avocado toast to luxe options like truffle ponzu oysters, while the seafood market offers a variety of dry-aged fish, local catches, and specialty imports. There’s sake by the glass and bottle, but also a sake cocktail for those interested in trying something new.

Sushi Note

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Cozy Sushi Note just passed its one-year mark, and the enthusiasm behind the collaboration between sushi chef Kiminobu Saito and partners Dave Gibbs and Silvia Gallo (of Augustine and Mirabelle wine bars) show no signs of slowing down. The approach to pairing sushi and drink here is fun and open-minded — no choice is off-limits, and the beverage list certainly reflects that with a range of offerings like the Sara Sara nigori from Dewazakura to the Heavensake x Dassai specialty bottle of junmai daiginjo. Don’t sleep on the peppered albacore nigiri or the excellent madai (red snapper from Japan), and make room for the cheekily listed local Sherman Oaks tamago (egg omelet) at the end.

Courtesy of Sushi Note

Hinoki & the Bird

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Ultra-sleek and airy Hinoki & the Bird has become a bustling culinary destination in Century City since it opened in 2013. Its menu is loosely pan-Asian inspired but rooted in a Californian ethos, with dishes like wild salmon over sakura- (cherry blossom) scented rice, buttery lobster ramen, and uni baguette with local honey and ricotta. Even the sake list boasts a regional, Berkeley-based sake from Sho Chiku Bai alongside first-rate bottles from Japanese brands like Kirinzan’s Junmai Ginjo and Flying Horse Junmai.

Little Sister

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Dine al fresco at this relaxed Manhattan Beach eatery where Southeast Asian flavors make up the backbone of dishes like chile-salted baby octopus with rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), claypot prawns with lardon, and salt & pepper lobster with the holy trinity of shallot, chiles, and garlic. Echoing the restaurant’s fun vibe, there’s flavored sakes like cucumber junmai — great for soothing the spicy condiments available — alongside classics like the Endless Summer session sake from Tensei.

Courtesy of Little Sister

Aburiya Raku

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The late Jonathan Gold named Aburiya Raku one of his top five izakayas in Los Angeles, and his review of the West Hollywood gem still rings true today. Specialty fish such as Japanese red sea bream and alfonsino are flown in for the daily sashimi offering from Toyosu Fish Market (the new location of the inner Tsukiji Fish Market), while the regular menu consists of opulent bites like poached egg over uni and ikura (salmon roe), fried ice fish, and grilled salmon skewers with ikura and daikon oroshi (grated daikon). You can’t go wrong with the sake selection here as there is a bottle for every taste, with lots of jizake (“local sake,” or a microbrewery), plus you can choose your own ceramic sake cup from their collection.

Courtesy of Aburiya Raku

Providence

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The menu at two-Michelin-starred Providence is chef Michael Cimarusti’s love letter to the sea, through and through. More than a decade old, it has become an iconic LA destination for those able to splurge on carefully sourced fish and shellfish, like shimmery-shelled abalone or Santa Barbara spot prawn. Each course is impeccably garnished, with just enough to catch the eye without being distracting; dishes currently in season include silky pieces of California troll-caught king salmon — perfect with a crisp junmai daiginjo — and celtuce with long-necked geoduck and top-grade osetra caviar. Request a sommelier to help guide you through their many premium sake options for an extra-special evening.

Jakob N. Layman

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

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Koreatown hotspot EMC brings in a crowd that’s as diverse as the city: sports fans watching TV at the bar, families digging into a whole lobster piled on top of garlicky noodles, couples feasting on spiny live uni, after-work colleagues gathered for happy hour. It’s also a late-night favorite — it’s open until 2 a.m. most days — so there’s no excuse to not sneak in some extra oysters and crispy smelt over a liberal pour of cold (or hot!) sake. If you and your crew are feeling rowdy, there’s always sake bombs to keep everyone at the table fully occupied.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

Tsubaki

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Living a little closer to Tsubaki and its sister sake bar, Ototo, is reason enough to move to the east side. Chefs Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan’s izakaya-style menu has a decidedly West Coast mindset, featuring Pacific catch like Dungeness crab, Alaskan king crab, California abalone, and Baja diver scallops. Much of the sake list is organic or biodynamic, and chef Kaplan offers helpful “sake translation” tips for those who may be interested in trading in their usual SoCal IPA or juicy red wine for a glass of sake.

Wyatt Conlon

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

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The only West Coast outpost of Virginia-based Rappahannock Oyster Bar, the LA version is a fitting addition to the ROW DTLA’s modern take on the former produce terminal where chefs and farmers mingled over Southern California’s bounty. The restaurant is focused on sustainability, ethical sourcing, and local ingredients; fresh oyster varieties from the Rappahannock farm in Chesapeake Bay fill the raw bar, while hot options like the classic tuna melt brings back nostalgic vibes of summer days spent by the water. Nab an oyster and sake flight for a stellar representation of what shellfish-sake pairings can be, or, if you’ll be staying a while, choose from their many bottles available on the beverage list, which comes complete with hand-written notes from wine director Jonathan Hood.

Courtesy of Rappahannock Restaurant Group

Sushi Komasa

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There’s almost always a wait at Sushi Komasa, a classic, no-frills sushi counter nestled on one of Little Tokyo’s main thoroughfares — and for good reason. The sashimi is expertly cut, thick, and generous, the nigiri menu packed with the usual suspects — amaebi (sweet shrimp), toro, local uni — and specialties like ankimo (monkfish liver) affordable enough for newbies to take the plunge. The sake options are easy to choose from: a creamy nigori, a crisp junmai, or a hot carafe to warm you up on an (infrequent) rainy day.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Shin Sushi

Shin Sushi proves it really does run in the family: Its sushi master Taketoshi Azumi opened this Encino location as an ode to his father’s original Shin Sushi in Tokyo. His shari (rice made for sushi) has the unique addition of sake lees vinegar, and his sushi presentation is similarly distinctive with pieces like baby barracuda with a touch of yuzu, the rare isaki (three-line grunt), or hyper-seasonal firefly squid and smoky braised whelk. The sake list is succinct but well-chosen to pair with chef Take’s sushi for the day, and you can also bring your own bottle for a corkage fee.

The Joint Eatery

Part fish market, part specialty shop, part coffee shop, The Joint feels like the love child between Eataly, the former Tsukiji Fish Market, and Blue Bottle. There’s plenty of open space and communal tables to park up for many hours, moving through the day from espresso to wine and caviar. Lunch, brunch, and dinner is served at the restaurant, from millennial favorites like squid ink avocado toast to luxe options like truffle ponzu oysters, while the seafood market offers a variety of dry-aged fish, local catches, and specialty imports. There’s sake by the glass and bottle, but also a sake cocktail for those interested in trying something new.

Sushi Note

Courtesy of Sushi Note

Cozy Sushi Note just passed its one-year mark, and the enthusiasm behind the collaboration between sushi chef Kiminobu Saito and partners Dave Gibbs and Silvia Gallo (of Augustine and Mirabelle wine bars) show no signs of slowing down. The approach to pairing sushi and drink here is fun and open-minded — no choice is off-limits, and the beverage list certainly reflects that with a range of offerings like the Sara Sara nigori from Dewazakura to the Heavensake x Dassai specialty bottle of junmai daiginjo. Don’t sleep on the peppered albacore nigiri or the excellent madai (red snapper from Japan), and make room for the cheekily listed local Sherman Oaks tamago (egg omelet) at the end.

Courtesy of Sushi Note

Hinoki & the Bird

Ultra-sleek and airy Hinoki & the Bird has become a bustling culinary destination in Century City since it opened in 2013. Its menu is loosely pan-Asian inspired but rooted in a Californian ethos, with dishes like wild salmon over sakura- (cherry blossom) scented rice, buttery lobster ramen, and uni baguette with local honey and ricotta. Even the sake list boasts a regional, Berkeley-based sake from Sho Chiku Bai alongside first-rate bottles from Japanese brands like Kirinzan’s Junmai Ginjo and Flying Horse Junmai.

Little Sister

Courtesy of Little Sister

Dine al fresco at this relaxed Manhattan Beach eatery where Southeast Asian flavors make up the backbone of dishes like chile-salted baby octopus with rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), claypot prawns with lardon, and salt & pepper lobster with the holy trinity of shallot, chiles, and garlic. Echoing the restaurant’s fun vibe, there’s flavored sakes like cucumber junmai — great for soothing the spicy condiments available — alongside classics like the Endless Summer session sake from Tensei.

Courtesy of Little Sister

Aburiya Raku

Courtesy of Aburiya Raku

The late Jonathan Gold named Aburiya Raku one of his top five izakayas in Los Angeles, and his review of the West Hollywood gem still rings true today. Specialty fish such as Japanese red sea bream and alfonsino are flown in for the daily sashimi offering from Toyosu Fish Market (the new location of the inner Tsukiji Fish Market), while the regular menu consists of opulent bites like poached egg over uni and ikura (salmon roe), fried ice fish, and grilled salmon skewers with ikura and daikon oroshi (grated daikon). You can’t go wrong with the sake selection here as there is a bottle for every taste, with lots of jizake (“local sake,” or a microbrewery), plus you can choose your own ceramic sake cup from their collection.

Courtesy of Aburiya Raku

Providence

Jakob N. Layman

The menu at two-Michelin-starred Providence is chef Michael Cimarusti’s love letter to the sea, through and through. More than a decade old, it has become an iconic LA destination for those able to splurge on carefully sourced fish and shellfish, like shimmery-shelled abalone or Santa Barbara spot prawn. Each course is impeccably garnished, with just enough to catch the eye without being distracting; dishes currently in season include silky pieces of California troll-caught king salmon — perfect with a crisp junmai daiginjo — and celtuce with long-necked geoduck and top-grade osetra caviar. Request a sommelier to help guide you through their many premium sake options for an extra-special evening.

Jakob N. Layman

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

Koreatown hotspot EMC brings in a crowd that’s as diverse as the city: sports fans watching TV at the bar, families digging into a whole lobster piled on top of garlicky noodles, couples feasting on spiny live uni, after-work colleagues gathered for happy hour. It’s also a late-night favorite — it’s open until 2 a.m. most days — so there’s no excuse to not sneak in some extra oysters and crispy smelt over a liberal pour of cold (or hot!) sake. If you and your crew are feeling rowdy, there’s always sake bombs to keep everyone at the table fully occupied.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

Tsubaki

Wyatt Conlon

Living a little closer to Tsubaki and its sister sake bar, Ototo, is reason enough to move to the east side. Chefs Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan’s izakaya-style menu has a decidedly West Coast mindset, featuring Pacific catch like Dungeness crab, Alaskan king crab, California abalone, and Baja diver scallops. Much of the sake list is organic or biodynamic, and chef Kaplan offers helpful “sake translation” tips for those who may be interested in trading in their usual SoCal IPA or juicy red wine for a glass of sake.

Wyatt Conlon

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

Courtesy of Rappahannock Restaurant Group

The only West Coast outpost of Virginia-based Rappahannock Oyster Bar, the LA version is a fitting addition to the ROW DTLA’s modern take on the former produce terminal where chefs and farmers mingled over Southern California’s bounty. The restaurant is focused on sustainability, ethical sourcing, and local ingredients; fresh oyster varieties from the Rappahannock farm in Chesapeake Bay fill the raw bar, while hot options like the classic tuna melt brings back nostalgic vibes of summer days spent by the water. Nab an oyster and sake flight for a stellar representation of what shellfish-sake pairings can be, or, if you’ll be staying a while, choose from their many bottles available on the beverage list, which comes complete with hand-written notes from wine director Jonathan Hood.

Courtesy of Rappahannock Restaurant Group

Sushi Komasa

There’s almost always a wait at Sushi Komasa, a classic, no-frills sushi counter nestled on one of Little Tokyo’s main thoroughfares — and for good reason. The sashimi is expertly cut, thick, and generous, the nigiri menu packed with the usual suspects — amaebi (sweet shrimp), toro, local uni — and specialties like ankimo (monkfish liver) affordable enough for newbies to take the plunge. The sake options are easy to choose from: a creamy nigori, a crisp junmai, or a hot carafe to warm you up on an (infrequent) rainy day.

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