Shikibu chef is expert in his craft

(Photo by Brett Callwood)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – there is no shortage of quality sushi joints in the Los Angeles area. Outside of Japan, L.A. might well have the best sushi in the world. So the sushi chefs here really have to know what they’re doing. Fortunately for Shikibu, they have Chef Thomas Kato.

Kato was the “first child to parents who owned a liquor store in Nagoya, Japan,” reads his biography. “He used to cook a meal for his family instead [of the] busy parents.”

Kato became a chef at 20 years old, and worked in a restaurant in Nagoya. He relocated to the United States in 1997, initially in New York. He arrived in L.A. in 2007, and opened Shikibu in 2010.

“His hobby is cooking, his skill is cooking and his job is cooking,” reads the bio.

Luckily for Kato, he is a really excellent sushi chef. His ingredients are fresh and exquisite, and his preparation is meticulous.

We opted for the Dragon Roll, from a section of the menu called “Cooked Fancy Style.” How much fancier this was than the items on the “Cooked Fish Roll” section, we may never know. But it was certainly fancy enough. 

The Dragon Roll is an avocado-wrapped cucumber roll with eel, and eel sauce on the top. Visually, it’s stunning. The colors are vibrant; the greens of the avocado shimmer when blended with the dark, rich eel sauce. What could be a mess in lesser hands is immaculate here.

When we were done staring at the artistry of the food though, it was time to take a bite and we were in no way let down. Each slice of the Dragon Roll was a taste sensation – a delicious combination of flavors that reveals more and more as you chew.

As is so often the case with sushi, the rice is cooked perfectly. It has to be room temperature – bullet-hard, chilled rice kills a sushi roll. But Chef Kato knows what he’s doing and his rice provides the perfect frame for the cucumber and eel. 

The fresh crunch of the cucumber compliments the rich, meaty texture of the fish. Meanwhile, the ratio is spot-on too. Too much fish, especially eel, can damage the complex blend. But it’s magnificently dealt with, and the avocado and sauce on top ties the whole thing together.

In Southern California, there’s always room for another awesome sushi joint, and Shikibu fits the bill.

Shikibu is located at 10834 Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232. Call 310-837-3733 or visit