Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheapest Sushi Happy Hour in L.A.? - Octopus Japanese Restaurant

If there is a better and cheaper sushi deal in L.A. please let me know! For now I will have to settle for the half priced sushi Happy Hour at Octopus Japanese Restaurant in Downtown -- a few steps from the Metro's 7th Street subway station.

Stepping through the front door, loaded down with my tripod, camera and the L.A. Weekly (while waiting for the sun to set so I can shoot more of my Restaurant Nocturnes Series), I find tables and window booths filled with well- dressed, rowdy office workers, just belched out of skyscraper elevators, slamming down 22 oz. bottles of Kirin Beer. To add to the cacophony, the L.A. Lakers are heading to another championship, playing out on an overhead flat-screen at one end of the almost empty sushi bar. It's only six p.m. on a Thursday.

I sit at the bar, where I am quickly handed the Happy Hour menu, and request the first special of the day: an ice-cold 12 oz. bottle of Sapporo beer for $2.50. For this tasting review, I decide to order only sushi that costs less than $2 -- there are almost a dozen varieties to choose from, including: whitefish, surf clam, mackerel, shrimp, crab (fake, or 'krab'), squid, scallop, bean curd, egg (cooked), smelt egg and quail egg (raw). That's plenty for an excellent and varied sushi experience. If you want to indulge in Uni (sea urchin), you'll have to pay the full price of $6.50 (for L.A.'s best Uni deal I suggest you watch my Chasing Sea Urchin video by clicking here).

I start with Scallop (Hotategai), Smelt Eggs (Masago), and Mackerel (Saba) Sushi. Each order comes with two pieces and cost $1.98 per order -- that's 99 cents per piece! My Scallops are piled high -- plump pearls that spill over a deep green, Richard Serra sculpted, nori-wrapped wall. A light mayo mixture, with a sprinkle of sesame seed, complements their soft texture and mildly sweet ocean flavor. There are enough small bay scallops for plucking out with your chopsticks, and luxuriate in, before scarfing down the whole thing. It's a great start.

Next up is fluorescent orange Smelt Egg Sushi, which releases pop-rock-like mini-explosions of salty fish pellets with every bite.
Compared with caviar, smelt eggs are so much smaller and subtler in flavor. It's fun to press the tiny grains against the roof of your mouth with your tongue to savor all the briny/sweet flavor.

I'm happy to discover that Octopus also serves an excellent Mackerel (Saba) Sushi, always a favorite. It comes in two large silvery slices, the pungent, fatty marbled dark flesh, topped with vinegary minced green onion, laying over and beyond the ovals of white sticky rice. I could stop right here, and I do -- at least long enough to order another Sapporo Beer and watch a bit of the Lakers playoff game. I would come back just for the Mackerel Sushi and Japanese beer.

Plunging on after my respite, I order Whitefish (Hirame) and fake Crab (Kani) Sushi. These prove to be my least favorite bites, but they're not bad. The texture of Whitefish is not as creamy as Yellowtail (Hamachi) Sushi ($2.75) and the flavor is a bit bland. What is there to say about fake Crab? Fine for desperate times. It's not a big loss, as I'm ordering cheap today -- so you win some, lose some.

I finish up with Surf Clam (Hokkigai ) Sushi. So strange looking -- it's like a rubber devil's claw. Clam this large is usually chewy, but I find Surf Clam surprisingly tender and easy to eat. It has a mild taste with a hint of ocean salt. The pieces are almost too large to eat in one bite. It makes an interesting finish to a great Downtown L.A. Sushi Happy Hour. My bill, including 2 beers and tax, comes to $19.65.

At Octopus, all the sushi is made to order, fresh-tasting and well presented in a fun atmosphere. And if you sit in a spotlit seat, you can read Jonathan Gold's "Counter Intelligence"and plan out your next day's entertainment while perusing the freshly printed Thursday edition of the L.A. Weekly.

Octopus Japanese Restaurant
729 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213) 402-1600

For website Happy Hour menu, click here.
Happy Hour: 3-7 pm and 9:30 pm to closing
Select sushi menu is half priced. Sushi rolls are discounted from $2.95 - $5.95
12 oz. Japanese beer is $2.50
Other locations include: Glendale, Burbank, Brea, Encino, and Irvine - call ahead for their Happy Hour details.


fatpinkchicken said...

Wasabi #2 on Wilshire/Vermont. Dollar per piece sushi + $2 beers = happy hour. Also all day happy hour on the weekend.

99 Cent Chef said...

Love an "all day" weekend Happy Hour. Also Fat Fish on 6th Street nearby has $2 per plate conveyor belt sushi for their Happy Hour.

Julia@SometimesLucid said...

2 Die for Sushi (bad name, good (not great) sushi) in West Hills/Canoga Park also has quite a lot of $1.95 sushi offerings (and are on

99 Cent Chef said...

$1.95 is the winner for cheapest sushi -- so far!

Marielos said...

Thank you for the great review and photos! I love the Richard Serra description. Very cleaver! I am excited to try this place. Wasabi is down the street from me and mediocre... but I have heard great things about this place and have been wanting to try Fat Fish too.

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