Whether you live on or off campus, it’s good to know that you can have an excellent meal nearby. If you’re just going for dinner with friends, taking a break from studying or celebrating passing finals, there’s great sushi to be had less than 10 miles from UCLA and USC. Here are some spots worth paying a visit to.

NEAR UCLA

Ami Japanese Restaurant - 1051 Broxton Ave., Westwood (310) 209-1994; mybestsushi.com


Another two-story lushly decorated sushi spot, Ami has the best Japanese snapper, scallop, maguro and fatty yellowtail in town. Everything is 50-percent off during Happy Hour – you’ll notice most of the sushi spots near campus are really inexpensive. This is especially evident at Ami, where you can find two additional pieces to bring the total roll of eight pieces for under $5. The bed of seared albacore with crispy onions and sauce may not be sushi, but it’s definitely an Albacore Jungle worth entering.

Asuka Restaurant - 1266 Westwood Blvd., Westwood (310) 474-7412

Offering huge portions and reliably delicious, Asuka has great options that are kind to your wallet like the Tuna Plate. I’ve never been to a restaurant where I can order a plate of tuna with a spicy tuna roll, albacore, white tuna and my favorite, maguro. I couldn’t believe how such a large plate of fresh fish was under $30. Bravo, Asuka. Also try the Nomo and Matsui Rolls.

Echigo - 12217 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste 201, West Los Angeles (310) 820-9787

Should you venture down a little to the heavily traveled Santa Monica Boulevard by Bundy Drive, the best kid on the block is Echigo. The sushi rice is served traditionally – in the warm way – with a few splashes of vinegar thrown in. Nothing is cooked or served in rolls here, and it’s like stepping into an authentic spot in Japan. If you’re looking for edamame or your typical roll, look elsewhere. This is no frills, back-to-basics sushi.

Saketini - 150 S. Barrington Ave., Brentwood (310) 440-5553; saketini.com

Saketini is a girl’s night out type of spot. The menu really focuses on healthy options, and many of the bento box dishes are cooked on lava, yes lava, rocks. The Jade Scallops are pretty big, perfect for a party of four to share, along with an order of Spicy Tuna Over Crispy Rice. The sushi ranges from Lobster rolls to Crispy Whitefish and Crispy Calamari rolls that all pack a punch of flavor. Go for the sushi, stay for the dessert, like the perfectly fried Tempura Ice Cream.

Sasabune - 12400 Wilshire Blvd., West Los Angeles (310) 820-3596; trustmesushi.com

One place UCLA students should experience at least once is Sushi Sasabune, right on Wilshire Boulevard. If you don’t have a car, you can take the No. 2 bus to this tiny spot on the corner of Wilshire and Centinela Avenue. Like Sugarfish, Sushi Sasabune employs a strict rule of “no soy sauce on sushi.” Proper sushi takes great skill to prepare and cut, and a lot of these items should not be spoiled with the likes of the wasabi/soy mix. You’ll find Chef Nobi Kushuhara behind the bar serving up omakase, which is the most popular menu choice. This means you will be trying whatever he would like to serve, usually about eight to 10 dishes. The best sushi I’ve had so far has been the butterfish from this place – an absolute delight!

Sugarfish - 11640 W. San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood (310) 820-4477; sugarfishsushi.com

Even greater sushi, with a higher price point, is found in Brentwood, namely the famed Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa. Campus Circle has covered this spot before (It’s the one where the only fish served is what was caught that day, really ensuring that you get the ultimate in your dining experience.). House-made soy sauce and ponzu are served, but you won’t find California or spicy tuna rolls here. The beauty of Sugarfish is that you completely put your “trust” in what Chef Kazunori Nozawa has in store for you on any given evening. From Oyster Sashimi to Blue Crab rolls, Sugarfish is an adventure for those of you who really take the art of sushi seriously.

Sushi Masu - 1911 Westwood Blvd., West Los Angeles (310) 446-4368

If you’re looking for sushi, not sushi rolls, pay a visit to Sushi Masu. Another heavy hitter with the highest of high fish standards, the Sweet Shrimp is completely memorable. Sushi Masu’s skills with seared items like snapper and salmon will most likely keep you coming back for more. Sit at the bar as it’s a great experience, and if you get talked into ordering the omakase, you won’t regret it.

SushiStop - 2053 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles (310) 473-3999; sushistopusa.com

UCLA favorite Sushi Mac is now closed, but SushiStop quickly filled the void. SushiStop’s Aburi Salmon Belly is really the star here; you can order it with white truffle oil or black caviar. For hot items, I love the Baked Whitefish Roll (baked whitefish smothered with dynamite sauce served on top of a California roll) and Dynamite Roll – go figure, I don’t like California rolls at all, but topped with scallops and dynamite, we’ve got a deal!

Takao - 11656 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood (310) 207-8636; takaobrentwood.com

If it’s date night – sushi style, I recommend Takao. Another Brentwood gem off San Vicente, Chef Takao Izumida’s whimsical yet substantial sushi pairings are unique. The visual presentation is one thing, like the Toro Tartare with Caviar and the New Style Sashimi with Truffle, but the taste is on a whole other level. The Halibut Carpaccio is almost like butter, and the yuzu provides a nice palate cleansing balance. It’s literally a “party in your mouth” with all the options Chef Takao has included on the impressive menu.

Tomodachi Sushi - 10975 Weyburn Ave., Westwood (310) 824-8805; tomodachisushila.com

Fifty-percent off during Happy Hour helps things immensely at Tomodachi Sushi, but it’s really not the inexpensive meal that is the draw. Billed as “Global Fusion Cuisine” Tomodachi has healthy and delicious offerings. The Tuna & Salmon roll is colorful and appealing to your taste buds. The Garlic Albacore Roll and Popcorn Lobster Tempura Roll are very popular. Add a made to order lemonade with green tea mint or ginger or strawberries, and you’ve got a really guilt free meal. Tomodachi has been a UCLA favorite for years, and they even have a roll named the Bruin: sashimi tuna and tomatoes on a spicy tuna roll with a spicy sauce below. If you’re going to order this, make sure you’re visiting Tomodachi on an empty stomach – it’s very filling!

Yamato - 1099 Westwood Blvd., Westwood (310) 208-0100; yamatorestaurants.com

A charming space with high ceilings and a view of the sushi bar from the top floor, Yamato offers sushi from the hands of Chef Katsu Hanamure, formerly of famed Matsuhisa. Start off with Black Cod Saikyo Miso Yaki, broiled to buttery perfection with a side of pickled vegetables for a nice sweet and sour contrast. Chef Hanamure’s specialty rolls, like the Soft Shell Crab Roll and the Rainbow Roll, are fresh and surprisingly light. You can’t go wrong with the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno atop tangy ponzu.

*An honorable mention goes to UCLA’s own Hedrick Residential Restaurant. Served twice a week, students come in as soon as the sushi menu is setup. Have you tried this place? Please write in (e-mail food.editor@campuscircle.net) and let us know what’s the scoop on scoring the sushi during the week.

NEAR USC

If you drive about five minutes (or if you don’t have a car, you can take the DASH and get there in 10 minutes) to Downtown, namely Little Tokyo, you will find a maze of sushi spots that are so good, you won’t want to go anywhere else.

Arashi Sushi - 1111 S. Hope St., Ste. 100; Downtown (213) 749-1900; arashisushi.com

One happy hour that’s a must try at least once, is at Sushi Arashi, (Mon-Fri, from 5 p.m.-8pm). Arashi is all about beautiful food through beautiful art. The Lemon Roll, with spicy tuna and avocado wrapped with tuna and sliced lemon, and the robata-yaki are the best. For those of you unfamiliar with robata bars, it’s literally food on a stick. A single bite of goodness ranging from Japanese eggplant to sea bass to chicken and green onions, you can get full off a plate of these, especially during Happy Hour when they’re only $1.

Hama Sushi - 347 E. 2nd St., Little Tokyo (213) 680-3454

Now, Hama is fun. If you sit at the bar with the chefs, you get to yell our your order and have it hand delivered to you. The roast seaweed that envelops your warm sushi rice is a nice touch, as are the hand rolls that have a nice snap to them. Red snapper and albacore sashimi are really top notch here. Make sure to check the board for the daily specials!

Mako Sushi - 123 Astronaut E. S. Onizuka St., Ste. 307, Little Tokyo (213) 613-0083; makosushi.com

On the third floor of the Weller Court Shopping Center – home of the popular Orochon Ramen and Curry House – lies one of Little Tokyo’s hidden gems. The service is exceptional, and all of the selections are simple, yet fresh and delicious. Serving traditional omakase meals that range in price and volume of food, Mako offers a truly Japanese dining experience with dishes like chawanmushi and the heavenly Scallop Grill.

Octopus Japanese Restaurant - 729 7 St., Downtown (213) 402-1500; octopusrestaurant.com

Just off Flower Street, lies Octopus. One thing I like about this spot is the fish is served cold and with really good accoutrements. Octopus is known for their fusion-style specialty rolls like the H.O.T. Roll with spicy tuna, cream cheese, and jalapenos all fried in tempura batter. I like the Ichiban Roll – with spicy tuna and asparagus, wrapped with tuna and shrimp – and the Mexican Roll – spicy crab, avocado and jalapenos. It’s not traditional sushi by any means, but it’s solid and won’t set your pocketbook on fire.

Restaurant Komasa - 351 E. 2nd St., Little Tokyo (213) 680-1792

Second Street in Little Tokyo is home to at least three amazing sushi bars, one being Komasa. This tiny restaurant gets filled up very quickly, but the staff is really nice when telling you how long your wait time will be and taking down your phone number. Once you do get seated, order the uni and yellowtail. You can cheat a little and get the beef teriyaki/sashimi combo … it’s worth it.

Sugarfish - 600 W. 7th St., Downtown (213) 627-3000; sugarfishsushi.com

Downtown is home to another branch of Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa, so Trojans, you too can delight in the wonderful flavors there. (See Sugarfish under UCLA for more details.)

Sushi Gen - 422 E. 2nd St., Little Tokyo (213) 617-0552; sushigenla.com

Rounding out the parade of sushi on 2nd Street is Sushi Gen, which is hands down the go-to spot for Trojans looking for the freshest fish this side of Hollywood. I’ve never had a bad meal here, from the Spanish mackerel to the ankimo (monkfish liver). Make sure to try the octopus sunomono and ask for the specials.

Sushi Go 55 - 333 S. Alameda St., #317, Little Tokyo (213) 687-0777; sushigo55.com

Up on the third floor of an unassuming mall called the Little Tokyo Marketplace lies Sushi Go 55. You’ll want to visit this spot during Happy Hour time for a bit of a price break. If you choose to splurge though, get the omakase, personalized just for you! Chirashi bowl and the Kaki Fry Lunch are the ones to try. The Kaki Fry is panko-crusted oysters over rice – so delicious!

Wokcano - 800 W. 7th St., Downtown (213) 623-2288; wokcanorestaurant.com

Just when you thought you had to go out for your sushi, here comes Wokcano with quick delivery! The menu is similar to Octopus with the fusion style, and they take it up a notch with Spicy Crabmeat Tempura rolls and striped bass sashimi with fried garlic ponzu.

As you can see, there’s almost no end to the sushi that abounds from the neighboring cities to UCLA and USC. You really don’t have to travel far from your campus to get the best!