By Lindsey Styrwoll

As Angelenos know, there is a certain cachet to a spot lacking a visible sign. In the absence of more obvious visual cues, we search for small placards adorning valet stands or the velvet rope outside popular haunts. Directly across from the Pacific Design Center, Nishimura lacks any hint of the culinary greatness inside. Instead of a neon sign or fussy d & #233;cor, Nishimura reels them in with its exquisite albeit pricey cuisine.

Despite the unremarkable facade, Nishimura is a perfect fit for the PDC's stylish neighborhood. The center is the go-to spot for contract and residential furnishings, drawing flocks of designers to its 130 showrooms spread across a 14-acre campus. Though the center is home to three restaurants (two Wolfgang Puck ventures and a more informal cafe), Nishimura's Zen vibe is the perfect place to escape the bustle of commerce.

Given its proximity to the West Coast's premier design center, Nishimura's white-on-white decor seems like an ironic jab, or maybe just a welcome respite from the visual clutter. A half-dozen tables occupy the austere dining room and the only art adorning the walls is a rendering of flaming asteroids furiously crashing into a Martian landscape. However, its clear the minimalist theme is more device than default as the concept extends beyond the furnishings.

Looking at the single page of menu items accompanying the standard do-it-yourself sushi ballot, we realize that Nishimura doesn't offer any cooked food, just raw fish. While this certainly pares down its audience, chef Hiro Nishimura's mission is clear: This is not a place for sushi dilettantes, but rather sashimi supplicants. With a mere dozen options divided into usu-zukuri (thin slices of sashimi) and yaki-jimo (seared), chef Nishimura has a very clear vision of the experience he is bestowing upon his patrons.

Though not on the menu, the traditional starters are still offered at Nishimura, as our server explains in halting English. The tofu soup is excellent with its smoky, salty broth. Though beautifully presented, the seaweed salad is a letdown. With colorful mounds of wakame, hijiki and aka tosaka seaweed atop a bed of greens and red onion, it's not the traditional version we are hoping for. The dressing is too sweet and heavy, and we are shocked to see on the bill that the rather unremarkable dish costs an exorbitant $15.

Thankfully, the cold plates of sashimi do not disappoint. Fanned out delicately across the platter, the portions are tiny and the presentations spare, but it is all about the delicately balanced flavors. Unlike American-style sushi joints peddling monstrous rolls doused in eel sauce and filled with cream cheese, Nishimura offers a more refined sensibility. The yellowtail or hamachi gets the conventional treatment with serrano chile and a citrus dai-dai sauce, but it is also dressed with a dab of minced garlic and cilantro. The wild Sockeye salmon is bursting with flavor but still benefits from the same chile and garlic garnishes. The seared tuna is good as well, but the flavor of the fish is lost under the mounds of ginger, garlic chip, soy and olive oil. Perhaps it is just too much of a good thing.

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