One of LA’s most noteworthy sushi chefs, Daniel Son, has acquired the Kanpachi space in Gardena with plans to finally open his own omakase counter by March or April called Sushi Sonagi. Son, previously of Kura Fine Japanese Cuisine, opened casual Japanese convenience store-style sandwich shop Katsu Sando in Chinatown back in July 2020. He and his father Sunny, who originally founded Kura in West Hollywood, closed that restaurant due to the redevelopment of the property into a Frank Gehry-designed project. Since then, the younger Son has been operating Katsu Sando and hopes to expand it to San Gabriel Valley later this year.
But Son’s true dream was to establish one of LA’s best omakase counters, given his sushi training as well as experience at Tokyo’s three-Michelin-star Nihonryori RyuGin and Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma. Son hopes to weave in his Korean American heritage and years of working at Kura under his father’s tutelage into an intimate eight-seat counter that melds traditional omakase with some of his own innovations.
While many of Kura’s customers had come in for saucy rolls and classic Japanese fare, those who knew Daniel would ask for his omakase menu at the counter, where he went largely unnoticed by greater food media and hardcore sushi fans. However, Eater featured his ganjang gejang nigiri in a video, which adapts one of Korean cuisine’s most complex dishes into an elegant piece of sushi.
The word sonagi refers to a short period of heavy rain in Korean, though Son sees the convergence of heavy showers and Southern California’s usually sunny weather as an ineffable expression of water and light. It’s this duality where he sees Sonagi as his unique approach to sushi. Though not Japanese in heritage, Son has always had respect and reverence for LA’s top sushi chefs and restaurants, keeping close contact with many masters and gaining knowledge along the way.
Once Sonagi opens, he’ll feature both prepared dishes and a parade of nigiri, incorporating his aging techniques to enhance the flavor of the fish. In addition, the Gardena space allows him to do a separate dry-aging chamber to develop even more types of nigiri. Son takes over the longtime Kanpachi space next to Torimatsu, one of his favorite yakitori establishments. Kanpachi continues to operate a sushi spot on Western Avenue.
A native of Torrance, Son feels the burden of opening his first standalone restaurant in the South Bay. Now a resident of Gardena, Son feels an obligation to showcase the South Bay’s distinct food culture, an area chock-full of quality Japanese restaurants due to its substantial Japanese community. While there plenty of places for great sushi, the only place operating in the $200-plus omakase realm is Sushi Inaba from chef Yasuhiro Hirano, which earned a Michelin star and has been operating in a Torrance strip mall after its original Manhattan Beach counter shuttered in 2020.
Son hopes to open Sushi Sonagi by March or April, with a reservation-required omakase priced around $200 per person. He’ll also have sake, beer, and other beverages befitting a higher-end sushi tasting.