Sushi places are a dime-a-dozen in Los Angeles, though it’s not every day a high-end eight-seat sushi bar pops up inside a fancy Santa Monica hotel lobby. Soko opened this week on July 28 at the Fairmont Miramar from Masa Shimakawa, who was the chef of Nomi at the Park Hyatt in Chicago and later at Onyx at Four Seasons Westlake Village. The veteran sushi chef has a gorgeous array of nigiri, rolls, and appetizers served at the semi-hidden bar for now, though the Fairmont eventually plans to expand Soko into sidewalk seating and throughout the lobby area.
The name Soko comes from “storeroom” in Japanese, hearkening to sushi’s origins as seasoned rice kept in storerooms to help retain fish’s freshness. Shimakawa has a deep appreciation for fish, with his upbringing in Hokkaido, Japan, plus experience as a PADI-certified diver and avid fisherman. Fairmont creative director Mark Humphrey helped put together the pop-up restaurant, which doesn’t really have an end date, making it less of a pop-up and more like a test run for a sushi place in a prime hotel location.
The actual bar has a whimsical, casual vibe with a paper menu allowing diners to make a custom sushi meal with nigiri priced per piece, miso soup, edamame, and cucumber salad as starters. Options include horse mackerel, scallop, ora king salmon, red snapper, and sustainable kanpachi. There are a few rolls here too, like toro, yellowtail with scallion or tuna. A shareable bluefin tuna platter comes in at $52 to complete the menu. Eventually, the expanded bill of fare will include shareable nine-piece nigiri bento boxes that promise to look pretty amazing for one’s Instagram feed. The bar itself comes accented with traditional Japanese artwork of a fisherman adorned in primary colors.
For now, Soko is walk-in only (no reservations) with service from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.