Todd Murakami has been cutting fish for me since 1987. We spent an extended time together when he was a young sushi chef at Iroha in Studio City CA. I followed him to Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills briefly and then met up with him again when he opened his own place on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in the late 1990s.
Murakami in West Hollywood was one of the hottest sushi restaurants on the west side of Los Angeles for nine years. Then Todd sold the restaurant and moved to Japan for several years.
He reappeared in L.A. with a small restaurant on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood. It became a lunch time magnet for the employees of the shops and offices on Hollywood Boulevard. Residents of the apartment buildings north of Hollywood Boulevard flocked to the restaurant for high quality, inexpensive take out. While sushi and sashimi was available, the restaurant specialty was a series of bowls in which generous portions of gorgeous fish sat atop perfectly prepared sushi rice. The Chirashi Bowl, a build your own offering, was particularly popular.
In late September 2013 Murakami on Wilcox closed suddenly. You could call the restaurant quaint if you wanted to be kind. Fact is the building was a wreck and Todd decided to move on.
Enter the next iteration of Murakami, which he opened on Melrose Avenue in mid-December 2013.
The sushi bar seats about a dozen customers; there are about half a dozen four-top tables and a small outdoor area in the front. Behind the bar, Todd runs the show with two assistants and a hot item cook. The recipes have followed Todd through the years and are as good as ever. The halibut Carpaccio was a Todd invention in West Hollywood. Versions of it can be found here and there around town, but none can match the original as served up at Murakami.
As for the fish for the sushi and sashimi offerings, the quality reflects the care and expertise Todd has brought to each of the places he has owned and operated; the portions are more than ample and the prices are extremely reasonable by west side of L.A. standards. This isn’t the high rent area, but it isn’t slumming either.
Soon after he opened the Melrose Avenue restaurant, I mentioned to Todd that the chefs at some of the other restaurants around town were surprised when he closed the Wilcox location and were anxious to know what he would do next. He seemed surprised that any of them knew or cared. I teased him about being famous in the world of sushi chefs. He shook his head and said, “I’m not famous; I’m not on TV.”
No, he’s not on TV, but he is famous. In the close knit world of some of the city’s better sushi chefs the name Todd Murakami means a great deal. He is respected for his success in the business and the integrity with which he runs his restaurants and he is liked as a very nice man. To hungry fans of excellent sushi the name Murakami means dependably high quality fish, well prepared and offered at very fair prices.