To understand Chiba, you have to experience spotting the hulking, standalone building off in the distance while driving up Lankershim. A 10-car valet line snakes out of their parking lot at 1pm every day of the week like it’s La Cienega Boulevard on a Saturday night. And yet, you’re surrounded by warehouses, smog shops, and discount sporting good stores. This isn’t even Noho’s bar-lined Arts District or nearby Ventura Blvd’s sushi row.
Did you end up at the wrong place? Are you witnessing an optical illusion? No. This is Chiba, a North Hollywood sushi institution where you wish you could spend hours bopping around to different tables, asking everyone how long they’ve been coming here and what they usually order.
After parking your car (skip the valet line, there’s plenty of street parking on Lankershim), you’ll step inside the multi-room restaurant with its dated carpet and maroon pleather booths and into what feels like the social event of the year. Local neighborhood watch groups are celebrating birthdays and housing specialty rolls, studio workers are making their way through the omakase at one of the two sushi bars, and little old ladies with giant handbags are sipping tea and bragging about their grandkids. Yes, it’s a mixed bag, but that’s what makes this casual sushi emporium so special. That and the opportunity to eat some of the freshest fish north of Ventura Blvd.
Chiba’s menu is objectively overwhelming. Eight different sections offer everything from albacore salad and octopus sashimi to broiled black cod and tempura rolls. Here’s how to prioritize – stick mostly to the a la carte sushi (the red snapper and salmon are highlights), throw in a few appetizers if you’re with a big group, and no matter what, save room for tremendous hand rolls at the end. There’s also a very good off-menu omakase for about $50. If you go that route, make it a point to sit at the smaller bar in the front, where the chefs have been around longest.
There are plenty of really good sushi spots in this town where people go to be seen with D-list celebrities and drunk talent agents. Skip all of that and head to Chiba, where you’ll eat at a table next to a local alderman and three ladies inspecting each others’ rounded-edge bobs. Which will probably be more entertaining anyway.
If you’re not in the mood to make any decisions today, Chiba’s omakase is a good option. For around $50, you get nine premium cuts of sushi (everything from red snapper to jumbo clam) and a spicy tuna hand roll.
Lightly fried, but still perfectly soft on the inside, this dish is like biting into a savory cloud. If you get an appetizer, make sure it’s this one.
Baked Scallop Roll
We endorse coming to Chiba and only ordering handrolls. They are that good. But if you have to choose just one, get the baked scallop. It’s savory, well-balanced, and packed with as much perfectly baked scallop as they can fit inside.
Chiba’s rolls are all solid, but we wouldn’t recommend going crazy on them. The one you definitely need to make sure hits the table, though, is actually off-menu. It’s called the Rufus Roll and it comes wrapped in cucumber and topped with scallop, lobster, crab, and shrimp. Rufus is rich and slightly sweet, but still light enough that you can eat other stuff afterward.