Sawa is an omakase restaurant serving a creative sushi experience in an intimate setting. The best part is their personalized sake and Japanese-inspired cocktail pairing with the meal. This was where I learned how sake and cocktails can enhance the dish’s flavor.
arriving to sawa
Sawa is located in the basement of the Kajima Building in Little Tokyo (Downtown Los Angeles). When you make a reservation, they will send you instructions to park at a specific parking structure (takes card only), head to the lobby, and take the elevator to the basement. Sawa is tucked in a windowless environment.
When you enter the lobby to Sawa, you’re greeted by the front desk. You have the option to order a drink while you wait for the experience to start.
In all honesty, there was a funky smell in the lobby. We thought it was fish that was left out for a while or crab was being cooked. As soon as you enter the actual restaurant, the heavy air conditioning filters out the smell.
Special thanks to Mario for finally taking me to Sawa.
the cocktail and sake pairing
It is highly recommended to pair your sushi experience with spirits (unless you don’t drink). You have the option to do a sake pairing, which comes with a canned list, or a cocktail pairing, which allows you to pick three of the many choices within the menu.
You can also order a drink a la carte as well. They have wine that went over $200, and the Dassai Beyond sake for $1100. They’re not messing around here. We went for both the Sake and cocktail pairings.
the sawa experience
Dining at Sawa is a very intimate experience, meaning the chefs are more attentive to the guests. They explain where the fish or ingredient came from and what they did to prepare it. For example, some of the fish have been dry-aged for a few days to enhance certain flavors. Or they marinate something by wrapping it in wakame for a few days. Sawa really takes pride in their creative experiences.
We started the course off with a bowl of crab soup. I think the smell from the lobby came from the crab cooking. We were also given shrimp cakes to enjoy as well.
The main course kicked off with wagyu nigiri and an eel handroll. Kazunori has nothing on this handroll.
I didn’t realize how popular monkfish liver is in omakase experiences. This monkfish tasted a bit more rich, and was paired with a cocktail. Then we started getting into the different types of fish, mostly imported from Japan and regions throughout the world.
I really enjoyed the uni nigiri, as it melts in your mouth… You can tell the difference in taste between the nigiri here and other sushi restaurants.
You can tell that the experience is coming to a near end when the chefs start calming on the nigiri and move on to different types of dishes. The skinny soba dish was the cutest because of the tiny chives. The experience is wrapped up with a slice of cheesecake and hot tea.
I enjoyed my experience at Sawa. The price is a bit hefty, so this is not an everyday sushi restaurant. You can tell a lot of effort was put into curating these dishes. Everything was very calculated for each guest, and the staff were amazing.
Sawa has different themes, like the following night featuring crab and uni. The ingredients are very seasonal, so it’s best to go once in a while to try out different dishes. However, for what it’s worth, I was still hungry after and joked about wanting a slice of pizza from Shins.
You’re not here to get full. You’re here to enjoy the taste of food. That said, I would still prefer going to Sawa over an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. I’m also at the point in my life where I prefer quality over quantity.
Dine in during a special occasion. The hype is there.
111 South San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012