I remember visiting Anju sushi a couple of years back and recall it having a pretty good selection of traditional sushi and a cool ambience, so when a friend raved about her recent visit and told me that it was under new ownership, with a new chef, I was intrigued enough to beat a path back to this cozy sushi bar to savor it for myself.
Located in a larger than average mini-mall at the corner of Gateway Boulevard and Barrington Avenue that boasts a host of eateries, Anju is a super-clean sushi bar whose staff welcome the patrons like members of their own family, with a joy that is akin to a father greeting his long-lost son after a 20-year separation; very charming, indeed.
Although Anju has a selection of tables, including a more intimate section seductively concealed behind a nebulous veil, I felt in a traditional mood and established myself at their L-shaped bar that gave me a perfect vantage point to observe the “slight of hand” mastery of the busied chefs.
As well as having a new owner and chef, I discovered that Anju boasts a revised and extended menu that includes a nod to this part of the world in the form of Seafood Nachos at $10.00 a plate, as well as some daily specials that also reflect some novel territorial culinary fusions.
However, as I had arrived as a Lone Ranger bereft of Tonto, and was on a sushi mission, sushi is what I ordered.
I was immediately handed the sushi sheet and the dinner menu to boot, the latter, although featuring some tempting trophies like the Chicken Teriyaki ($10.00) and Baked Mackerel ($11.00), both served as combination specials that include rice, tofu miso soup and salad, I stayed the course and ordered the Garlic and Jalapeno Albacore ($18.00) from their special sashimi section, and a plate of Philadelphia rolls (cream cheese and cucumber rolls topped with salmon, $10.00) from the chef’s specialty rolls list.
During my languid wait, I took in the scenery and ambience. The sheen of Anju is bright and cosmopolitan, with precise lines accentuating the long, rather than wide, design of the room. There is a large flat screen TV high on the wall, which had more of an ornamental and complimentary quality than any kind of distractive encumbrance. While sipping my refreshing mint and lemon garnished green tea, I chilled to the subtle but intoxicating rhythms of some rather cool lounge grooves that were being gently piped in to the restaurant, that were, at least for me, a perfect sonic compliment.
And then my dream surrendered to the smiling face of the head sushi chef as he handed me my immaculate plate of Garlic and Jalapeno Albacore. Large and symmetrical cuts of albacore splayed out from the center of the bright white china, each one adorned with a nugget of finely chopped garlic and jalapeno paste. This fish was “melt in your mouth” tender, with a freshness that only fine albacore commands, and the garnish suggestive and complimentary. It was a joy to savor.
The Philadelphia salmon rolls were traditional sushi style, with the smoothness of the cream cheese bites pleasantly disturbed by the occasional crunch of the cucumber. Topped with some succulent cuts of salmon, I awakened my gluttonous spirit and devoured all 10 of these refreshing rolls.
Even though I was well satiated, my very respectful server enticed me with a dessert and suggested the house specialty of a green tea crème brûlée, $7.00.
Delightfully presented in an individual ramekin and adorned with strawberry and blueberry garnishment, this was exotically delicious and healthily light, with the caramelized topping concealing a refreshing and tasty green tea crème, that strolled hand in hand along the aisle of my taste buds, creating a perfect marriage of delicious ingredients.
With a new owner, a new chef and a new menu, Anju blessed me with a new experience.
Anju, 11670 Gateway Boulevard, Los Angeles. 310.478.8991