Sushi restaurant The San Fernando Valley
Sushi restaurant The San Fern...

Sushi restaurant The San Fern...

A popular sushi restaurant in an extremely competitive area
By Keiko Fukuda

The San Fernando Valley is located just north of Los Angeles County. On Ventura Boulevard that runs miles east to west in the southern valley, there are so many sushi restaurants. A lot of people in the movie and music industries gather in the area, and everyone has his or her favorite sushi place.

In such a competitive area, there is one place which will soon remarkably have its 15th anniversary: that is the restaurant, “4 on 6”. The location is kind of hidden at the very end corner of a mall, but their regular customers love to go there. They go there to have sushi made by the owner/chef, Kiminobu Saito who has 30-some years of experience. 99% of such customers are Americans.

Chef Saito’s method is brilliant and clear. He says, “The taste buds of Americans and Japanese are different. Japanese who are familiarized with sushi since childhood have better sensitivity to the delicate tastes. Americans cannot quite tell the slight differences of tastes in sushi. So, in order to express such delicate differences, I use the help of additions such as yuzu, daidai, natural salt, delicious dashi, etc. to make it easier to differentiate each taste. I need to let them taste those to open their eyes first. The key ingredients of such additions are salt and reduced soy sauce. My sushi is served pre-flavored, so you don’t need the small soy sauce plate for dipping.”

The most popular sushi dish is nigiri-sushi called “Gravlax”. The top is Chilean salmon which is scrubbed with salt, pepper, and sugar, and then marinated in Vodka with dill, etc., for 3 days. Sour cream and chopped wasabi are added to the salmon topping. The sour cream looks more like cream cheese, and the wasabi looks like yuzu pepper. However, once you put it in your mouth, you will be surprised how well each ingredient works with one another; the sour cream plays a sort of nice buffering role to the richly marinated salmon, and the wasabi gives a nice accent.

“The other day, a group of 4 customers ordered 12 Gravlax at once - 3 for each!” Mr. Saito says. It surely tastes good, as you want to eat one after another.
Many of their fish come directly from Japan. One day, when Mr. Saito was watching a Japanese TV program, he saw a fresh fish-delivering service in Japan. He inquired for the possibility of such a service in the U.S. with the local food industry people, and succeeded to realize it. They receive fresh seafood directly aired from Japan twice a week.

Mr. Saito’s career as a chef started in Los Angeles in 1982. After working as a chef at “Sushi on Sunset”, and “Genmai”, he went back to work in Japan for 2 years. After he came back to the U.S., he worked at various places from extremely busy to high-end places including Inaka in Palos Verdes, Shibuya in Calabasas, and Nobu in Malibu, exclusively as a sushi chef to prepare for the opening of his own place.

He finally opened his own place in December of the same year as9-11. He loves Jazz, and the name, “4 on 6”, came from the title of a famous jazz guitarist, Wes Montgomery’s numbers. That might be the reason why their customers include Larry Carlton.

The reason for the popularity of his place among their many regular customers, famous or not famous, seems to be not only Mr. Saito’s ingenuity as mentioned earlier, but also his hospitality. He says, “I keep the customers interested from the moment they sit down in front of me until they leave. I try to manage and take care of the good flow of the food orders so the customers will remember the sushi bar experience as a whole.” It seems to be similar to a live musician’s performance to charm the audience. He has also been striving for the familiarization of Japanese sake culture among Americans. He used to offer 6 big bottles of famous brand sake specifically chosen by his friends in Japan for his customers for free for the New Year’s celebration in the early days.

Lastly, I asked Mr. Saito about his future prospects. He said, “I would eventually like to change my place to be a small sushi bar for only 6 customers or so.” It sounds like “4 on 6” is headed for a new phase.



そのような寿司激戦区にあって、オープン15周年を迎えるのが、4 on 6だ。モールの一番奥に位置し、目立たない場所。しかし、常連はここを目指してくる。彼らのお目当ては、職人経験30数年のオーナーシェフ、斎藤公信(ルビ:きみのぶ)さんが握る寿司だ。その客の99%はアメリカ人で占められている。





斎藤シェフの職人としての人生は1982年、ロサンゼルスでスタートした。Sushi on Sunset、Genmaiで寿司シェフを務めた後、2年の日本での生活をはさみ、再渡米。その後は寿司一筋。パロスバーデスのInaka、カラバサスのShibuya、そしてマリブのNobuと、超多忙な店からハイエンドな店までカラーが異なる店で、独立までの経験を積んだ。

そして同時多発テロが起こった年の12月、今の場所に店を開けた。店名の4 on 6はジャズの名ギタリスト、ウェス・モンゴメリーの曲のタイトルにちなんだ。ジャズファンである斎藤シェフの店には、その店名が引き付けるのか、ラリー・カールトンも寿司を食べに来る。


最後、今後の抱負を斎藤シェフに聞くと、「6人くらいのお客さんを相手にする小さな寿司バーに業態を変更したい」と答えた。4 on 6は次のフェーズに向かおうとしている。

The San Fernando Valley
4 on 6
16573 Ventura Blvd
Ste 14
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 501-7191

Tue.-Fri. 11:45-14:00,17:30-21:30
Sat.& Sun. 17:30-21:30
Monday closed