Sushi Park opened nearly two decades ago in a tucked-away corner on the second floor of a nondescript strip mall along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. It’s an unlikely celebrity hangout, but a scan of paparazzi images shows that the rococo railing in front of the restaurant has become a mainstay of the celebrity press.
Dua Lipa hard launched her relationship with the actor Callum Turner there; Kylie Jenner and Jordyn Woods stepped out together, unofficially calling an end to their acrimonious feud; Kendall Jenner flaunted her relationship with Bad Bunny; Taylor Swift gathered Zoe Kravitz and Selena Gomez for a girl’s night out. Justin and Hailey Bieber frequent the restaurant, and just last month, Jennifer Lawrence was spotted there when she dined with Emma Stone. Same for Angelina Jolie and her son Pax.
Or, as one commentator quipped on X, formerly known as Twitter: “i’ve seen pictures of this balcony more times than i’ve seen my own father.”
“I think the reason why so many famous people go there is that it’s no-frills,” said the musician, producer, and actor Benny Blanco, who once threw his own birthday party there. “You’re getting a high-end meal, but you’re chillin’. It’s not uptight. It’s really small, and no one’s bothering anybody.”
Peter Park, Sushi Park’s chef and owner, eschews the spotlight. (The restaurant declined multiple requests for an interview for this article, saying by text, “Our current focus is deeply committed to our regular customers, and we wish to concentrate our efforts on providing them with the best service and experience.”) The menu is omakase style, which means the meal is left to the chef’s discretion, and regulars are, no doubt, familiar with the forceful sign that greets them out front: “Attention. No Takeout! No Salad! No Teriyaki, Tempura! No Trendy Sushi! No California Roll! No Spicy Tuna Roll! We serve only Traditional Sushi!”
“The draw is that it’s so unassuming, it’s not a scene,” said Chris Gardner, a senior staff writer for The Hollywood Reporter. “You’re not going to go there and see a bunch of people taking pictures on their phones. The presentation isn’t overly fancy, and the décor certainly isn’t. They don’t have a website, or an Instagram.”
Indeed, it appeals to a certain predilection of the famous: the perks of the affluent dressed up in the trappings of the everyday.
When it opened, Mr. Blanco recalled, one could get a meal for about $100. “It was very rare you’d see a famous person,” he said. “Now it’s like, you look to your left and oh, it’s the most famous person in the world and then you look to your right and you’re like, oh, no they’re the most famous person in the world.”
Prices are much higher now, closer to $400 for a meal, and patrons are more likely to be people who grace the tabloid magazine covers available at the nail salon downstairs (other businesses in the mall include a FedEx shop and a chiropractor). It’s unclear exactly why this modest-looking restaurant has captured the attention of the Hollywood elite, but it has become as star-studded — if not more so — as nearby power spots like the Sunset Tower.
“I once had to move tables because Beyoncé and Jay-Z walked in, and in 2012, I sat next to Emma Stone wearing pajamas and house slippers,” recalls Brant Cox, L.A. editor of Infatuation, a restaurant review and news site.
“I was sitting at the bar and heard this British accent, and I look up and I’m like, I know this actor,” said Evan Silverberg, an entertainment manager and producer, “then it dawned on me — it was Harry Styles. He just wanted to chat.”
Naturally, the fashion world has caught on. It had prime placement, in this season’s paparazzi-themed advertisements from Bottega Veneta (starring Kendall Jenner on the balcony in a mint green coat), and a featured role in 2020’s Great Performances portfolio in W Magazine. Saint Laurent flew the restaurant’s chefs to Paris and hosted a 10-day Sushi Park pop-up at their shop on Rue Saint-Honore in 2022.
The restaurant provides a snapshot into the particularities of the Los Angeles dining scene, where a hotspot can be located in a drab, rather mundane minimall. The Polo Bar, this is not.
“I think in L.A. in particular — where famous people aren’t the uncommon entities like they are in other cities — celebrities want to feel comfortable and be treated like a regular person who’s having dinner with their friends,” said Mr. Cox. “Eating in strip malls is a way of life in L.A.,” he added. “And everybody goes to them. It’s why Sushi Park, a $200 per person sushi bar on the second-floor of a Sunset Strip plaza, isn’t an anomaly to Angelenos.”
“If you are a New Yorker who comes to town and who wants the full L.A. experience, eating at a strip mall or finding a ‘hidden gem’ at a strip mall is part of the charm,” Mr. Gardner said. “Because you can’t really get that anywhere else.”