Getting Happy at Hokusai

The space is special to me because I used to come when it was the bar formerly co-owned by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon called The Continental. And that was something special you could say about the nearest bar to your first post-college, entry-level job in Los Angeles. Hokusai now occupies the remodeled bar-restaurant and is one of a billion Japanese restaurants in L.A. that is continually toeing the lines between Japanese, Californian and Fusion. The good news is, I can’t get enough of that sort of thing - so I’ve decided to go with it instead of fight it. Would I like to eat fresh food? Absolutely. OK so of course the real reason is that Hokusai is just a few blocks away from where I work. A posting of theirs caught my eye. They offer $7 take-out bento boxes for lunch. Though likely to leave most hungry, it left me satisfied with a small filet of salmon atop rice with 3 tiny sides and salad. I decided to see about their happy hour. Maya of ShopEatSleep and I should know our neighborhood spots, anyway. And I think we were pleasantly surprised. When you see a $1.99 - $4.99 bites menu, usually you expect literal “bites.” But you can choose out of tuna, salmon, albacore or fresh water eel sushi for $2.99 and get two pieces. They aren’t huge but actually respectably-sized. I especially liked their crispy rice tacos (above), which were kind of a modification on the california roll but with crispy rice as the “wrap.” The seafood cigars ($2.99) were a hit - because c’mon, who doesn’t like fried anything filled with seafood?

Drinks weren’t bad, either. The bartender did a good job making sure my drink was strong, not too sweet and chilled. Their happy hour special is basically a house martini in one of ten flavors including cantaloupe, lychee (above), Yuzu lemon drop, Yuzu basil mojito, Oishii sugar plum, fuji apple and others. Asian-inspired, indeed. I get it. And kinda like it. All house martinis are $5.

One appetizer that did sound interesting for next time is Tako Pops (sliced octopus sashimi with chili oil) for $4.99. At the same price point was rock shrimp tempura atop a leafy salad - available in a creamy spicy or plain sauce. We sampled the spicy, which was a mayo-based kind of tasty.

Overall, a really good value for the menu. As follows…

  • $1.99 - Crispy rice ball, spam onigiri, hiya yakko (cold tofu w/ginger and scallion), edamame
  • $2.99 - LSD wrap (mixed vegetable wrapped w/rice paper), french fries, seafood cigars, cucumber sunomono, chicekn karaage (crispy Japanese chicken), gyoza
  • $3.99 - Shishito peppers, baked eggplant, crispy rice taco, onion rings
  • $4.99 - Fried calamari (cajun flash fried), rock shrimp tempura, tako pops, crispy spicy tuna (spicy tuna on a rice cracker w/avocado)
  • Hand rolls are $1.99
  • Sushi is $2.99
  • Beer and sake are $3 or $6 for small or large sizes, respectively
  • Well drinks are $5

So come to Hokusai. I need this place open for my own nearby, post-work fix!

Hokusai 8400 Wilshire Blvd Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (323) 782-9717