Turning Japanese: Keeping Track Of The Katsuya Craze

Katsuya Uechi may be single-handedly keeping sushi cool in L.A. long, long after its trendiness has died down. The man behind the eleventy-billion restaurants in LA bearing his name clearly has no need for sleep. How else could he open two or three new restaurants a year? Some of them are quiet places dedicated to the food, others are full of scenesters and cocktails. Two new restaurants will be opening in the coming weeks, including a quiet food temple and an addition to the L.A. Live monolith. Because we live to serve you, the reader, here’s the BlackBook guide to telling them all apart…

Sushi Katsu-ya (Studio City): The first, the original, and some would say still the pinnacle. Katsuya-san made his first big mark here with a mixture of Japanese classics and Californ-ish twists that has become his trademark. This is also where you might find a classy celebrity, like George Clooney, as opposed to…well, keep reading.

Sushi Katsu-ya (Encino) – While the Studio City location has a prime “Sushi Row” location, this one is slightly off the beaten track. Foodie-wise. Listen…it’s even farther north in the Valley, okay? Which means it’s never going to be as sexy as the other locations. But it is the most neighborhood-y of all Katsuya’s joints, which means reservations aren’t necessary, there is a minimum of distracting star sightings, and the food is just as good.

Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya – This is where all the non-George Clooney types come. J. Simp, Dane Cook…those celebrities. Of course, the food is still pretty good, with all the grilled items and small bites made just for enjoying with beer. But that’s not really why people come here: it’s all about scene, scene, and service that doesn’t know its ass from its elbow, but they do bring the beer quickly.

Katsuya Brentwood – Chef Katsuya’s first SBE collaboration marked a big step towards world domination. SBE is a nightlife powerhouse in L.A., and with Katsuya they’re making moves toward dining pre-eminence as well. The Brentwood location is kind of an elder statesman at this point. After all, it’s been around longer than a year.

Katsuya Hollywood – While Philippe Starck designed all the Katsuya boites, this one hadthe most influence. Perhaps because of its club-hopper location and star-studded opening weeks? Huge pictures of geisha parts and knives suspended in clear boxes surround the fabulous people nibbling at sashimi and downing many large, brightly colored drinks.

Katsuya Glendale – The most recent addition to the SBE group, the least sexily-located, and the one that’s struggling the most. The plus side of all that struggle is that this one is a little different than the others: loungey, music-y, yet completely relaxed during the day. Because it’s in a mall. An outdoor one, but still.

Katsuya Downtown – Chef Katsuya’s upcoming projects show the two sides of the man. This one, set to open any day now, will be another SBE-backed, Starck-designed bonanza, with a built-in audience (anyone going to a game or concert at L.A. Live) and a lot of flash. It’s probably a big moneymaker…

Kiwami – Whereas this quiet, upscale sushi bar currently under construction in the Valley looks like a chance for Katsuya to get back to his culinary roots. It will be simple in construction and presentation, with food that challenges the palate without being flashy or at all like fusion. It’s getting your grub on, expensive-style.
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