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Kana serving a signature plate of sushi at Pacific Palisade's Sushi Don. (photo by John Blanchette)

Although I was raised by Japanese people for a few years when I was a young boy, that doesn’t qualify me as a sushi expert in my family because our daughter-in-law was born and raised in Tokyo, and our second son (not the one married to her) has lived in Japan for about 12 years now. So, my Japanese restaurant recommendations are based, at least in part, on expert consultations from these family members.

I was therefore extremely pleased that our daughter-in-law and our older son, “the doctor,” confirmed my high regard for the sushi at Sushi Don in the Pacific Palisades.

As regular readers may recall, we’ve become disillusioned by the famous Sasabune sushi temple because of the prices. Sushi Don is owned by the same people, but this restaurant offers a limited menu and charges much lower prices. But, amazingly enough, the quality of the dishes is just as high. And the service is much more friendly.

Well, almost friendly. I sometimes find a cultural difference between Japan and the U.S. on customer service. So when I explained that I did not eat raw salmon, and would they please change the salmon on the “combo” to a piece of yellowtail instead, the clear answer was, as printed on the menu, “No substitutions.”

But even with one piece less, either of the combo plates is a terrific deal. On one visit I had the B combo with a bowl of miso soup (I could have chosen a salad instead, and the salads are very flavorful), one roll (cut or hand roll, and five pieces of sushi — all for $12.

Rolls a la carte are about $5, except for the fancy ones, which I don’t recommend, at about $10. Sushi a la carte costs about $2 to $2.50 a piece, but you can get five pieces for $8.50 — about half the going rate in most Japanese sushi restaurants on the Westside.

Personally, I found the “hamachi” — yellowtail — to be perfect in texture and flavor, and the house-made soy sauce was just right. But my “experts” would not eat yellowtail because, they explained, it is now all farm raised instead of fresh caught. I remain skeptical of such urban legends.

There is an adequate selection of the most common Japanese sushi house dishes, including an unusually good blue crab roll.

This restaurant’s surprises include not just the prices, but the quality. All of us thought that the quality was as good as the best sushi houses in West Los Angeles — and certainly some of these places offer some mighty fine competition.

We didn’t try the green tea ice cream for dessert, but it looked good.

We now go to the restaurant often. And we see a lot of local people stopping for take-out. I think this restaurant, even without a beer and wine license (because the rest rooms are not in the restaurant itself but located upstairs in the center) is here to stay.

If You Go

Sushi Don

970 Monument St., Suite 118

Pacific Palisades, Calif.

90272

(310) 454-6710

www.sushidonppl.com

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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