Last week, Sawtelle’s sushi specialist Kiriko Sushi announced on Facebook that it would be closing after 23 years in business. Chef-owner Ken Namba told Eater that he sold the business and a new restaurant with a different name will take its place. Last night, August 30, was the restaurant’s last night of service.
Namba said that following an upcoming hand surgery, he will likely open a new restaurant. “It’s been a long career, and I’ve used my hands so much,” said Namba. “If I can, we will come back with a new and nearby restaurant.”
Kiriko was nestled on that popular slice of Olympic Boulevard near Sawtelle. Namba set up shop there in 1999, well before Sawtelle Japantown/West LA became the buzzy stretch it is now, and earned a loyal following over the years. He did so by creating consistently delicious sushi and sashimi at approachable prices. A nine-piece omakase with fresh fish cut by Namba himself cost only $60; two other omakase options were equally reasonable.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear Namba’s own friendly voice answering the restaurant’s phone. That affable component only elevated Kiriko’s status within sushi-competitive Southern California.
Regulars came from all over the city, treating Kiriko as their own neighborhood spot. They kept coming because Namba — who began his career as a sushi apprentice in 1974 and earned Michelin recognition in 2021 — has long trusted newcomers to sample lesser-known fish like buri (amberjack) or firefly squid. But he would never judge if a customer ordered a California roll.
Namba posted the following on Kiriko Sushi’s Facebook page: