Hillcrest's 'toughest' block to get new eatery

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 20:43:58-04

A stretch of Hillcrest has recently become a revolving door for restaurants, but a new sushi eatery is looking to reverse that trend.

D Bar, Freebirds and Amici's Pizza are just a few of the restaurants to depart from their respective spots between Washington Street and University Avenue, on Fifth Avenue.

"It's one of the toughest blocks ever," said Gustavo Rojas, who lost his job at D Bar when the restaurant closed in December.

He added, "When you stop at University and look to the end of the street, you see the hospital and the parking signs. You don't get to see signs sideways."

An all-you-can-eat, Los Angeles-based sushi restaurant called H20 Sushi and Izakaya is about to start remodeling D Bar's old space. Construction could start next week for a summer opening.

"We did a lot of research in the area. We went there, visited many times, and I think we’re a fit for the location," said Jinhee Le, the restaurant's marketing director.

Le said the all-you-can-eat model, plus an offering of small plates, is a unique concept.

Benjamin Nichols, who directs the Hillcrest Business Association, said the restaurant business is tough everywhere, but he also said Hillcrest presents its own challenges.

"We don't have that residential density that Little Italy has," he said. "We need some of these apartment buildings, we need some condo towers, we need that so people don't have to find parking because they live here."

However, Nichols said that people will make their way to restaurants they connect with, such as the brunch restaurant Snooze next door to where H20 Sushi and Izakaya will go.

Rojas said he wishes them success.

"I just wonder what's going to be in there in order to be a successful restaurant," he said. "I just wish them the best of luck because it's going to be tough."