Angelenos have been hit by a wave of new vegan sushi options, including the first plant-based omakase restaurant in the city. Opened earlier this month, Kusaki—named after the Japanese word for “plant”—brings high-end, vegan sushi to the city’s west side.
Kusaki boasts an extensive, all-vegan menu featuring sashimi and vegetable-forward sushi rolls crafted by a world-class team of chefs, many of whom previously worked in Michelin-starred restaurants.
Patrons longing for a taste of sashimi can choose between Crispy Garlic Tuna (made with avocado, microgreens, and seaweed confetti); Salmon Shiso (featuring wasabi, crispy onions, and shiso vinegar); and Sailfish Crudo (made with radish sprouts, yuzu kosho, ponzu, and sea salt). Tuna, salmon, sailfish, seared tuna, and calamari round out the restaurant’s vegan nigiri sushi menu.
Matt Herter/Thirty Three Wolves
Angelenos in search of veggie-filled sushi can choose between Miso Eggplant (lemon, soy, miso, and sweet glaze); Trumpet Mushroom (ponzu, sea salt, and wasabi); Butternut Squash (soy, lemon, sea salt, and wasabi); and Eggless Tamago (dashi, brown sugar, and sweet glaze). Sushi rolls and non-sushi items such as the Shishito Burger, portobello fries, and a dark chocolate coconut-pistachio pudding round out the menu for a varied dining experience.
With Kusaki, founder and restaurateur Jade Estrella aims to fill the city’s void for a high-end, vegan sushi dining experience. “As an ethical vegan, it has been extremely difficult, sometimes even impossible, to find amazing sushi,” Estrella tells VegNews.
“When I first tasted [Executive] Chef Dillon [Bolin’s] plant-based omakase, I could not believe that what I was eating was vegan. He really takes plant-based to the next level, and what we have been able to create here at Kusaki is inventive and industry-changing.”
Matt Herter/Thirty Three Wolves
Diners can get a taste for Bolin’s omakase themselves when they opt for the eight-seat omakase bar. Here, they can select from an ever-changing five- or seven-course menu—for $75 and $105, respectively—where Bolin has free liberty to curate each diner’s experience with dishes of his choosing.
Niku Nashi brings more vegan sushi to LA
Like Kusaki, new concept Niku Nashi brings even more vegan sushi options to hungry Angelenos. Opening in February, Niku Nashi is located inside A Plant-Based Bar (APB), a new concept featuring only vegan-certified alcohol, craft cocktails, and a zero-proof happy hour.
Niku Nashi’s permanent residency inside APB is led by Chef Niko Zaragoza. Zaragoza has previously worked as a consultant with Kensho, a vegan sushi restaurant in the neighboring Riverside County that has earned a cult following. Outside of all-vegan concepts, Zaragoza has worked with restaurants to develop plant-based sushi, a spokesperson tells VegNews.
Although Niku Nashi is set to open next month, the vegan sushi concept teased a number of dishes at last year’s Vegandale food festival in Los Angeles. Here, dishes included Tempura Pearl Oysters (fried oyster mushrooms topped with green onions and furikake served with a side of garlic aioli); Tuna Sashimi (konjac-based tuna slices topped with yuzu kosho and plant-based caviar); and the Golden Niku Nashi Cut Roll (a fried roll filled with vegan crab, cucumbers, and avocado topped with sriracha, green onions, spicy aioli, and unagi). Fusion dishes such as Ceviche Tacos (gyoza wrapper taco shells filled with vegan tuna, salmon, tomato, cucumber, red onions, avocado, cilantro, and caviar) were also on offer.
While not yet finalized, Niku Nashi’s menu will include Citrus No-Tuna Rolls and Scallop Sashimi. Following the opening of Niku Nashi’s permanent residence within APB, Zaragoza and partner Brad Saltzman plan to expand the vegan sushi concept with multiple locations under its own name.
Vegan sushi is sustainable
As the human-fueled climate crisis continues wreaking havoc around the globe, the world’s oceans are increasingly susceptible to depletion.
According to a 2010 study published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology, fish essential to the Japanese sushi industry—including tuna, squid, shrimp, and salmon—were forecasted to significantly diminish by 2055. Already, we’re seeing overfishing and the climate crisis impact sealife.
Wasabi, too, faces an unstable future. In 2019, the World Economic Forum reported that a particularly violent typhoon season devastated Japanese wasabi farms. Wasabi is traditionally grown along streams in narrow valleys and is therefore vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. As the climate crisis makes fierce storms and unprecedented temperatures even more common, wasabi production is threatened.
The proliferation of vegan sushi and plant-based seafood, therefore, comes at a critical time when sustainable options are needed to mitigate the depletion of our oceans.