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A Place Where the Fish and Fun Are Raw

July 19, 1996|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Eiji Katagami is a skilled sushi chef who knows how to make a mean cucumber roll. He slices and dices his fixings and rolls, cuts and serves them before moving on to the bigger, bulkier California roll.

Katagami is an artisan, and when it comes to sushi he serves it up from a big bar where his work is on display for all to see.

But on Saturday nights it's hard for him to concentrate on raw fish and rice, since Club Sushi is hopping. The music is loud, there are people dancing, and it's all captured on a huge multiscreen television that hangs over Katagami's head.

For the most part, the chef is oblivious to the crowd, until one time two brazen women with a taste for tequila catch the eye of the in-house videographer. The cameraman is shooting images onto the large screen and the women are hamming it up. In the end they come close to flashing the camera.

Like everyone else, the chef can't help but look up. He laughs, jokes with customers who are eating his creations, then carries on with his art.

Club Sushi is a splashy sushi bar and nightclub and the latest addition to the bustling Hermosa Beach night scene. Open just three weeks, the funky restaurant is drawing standing-room only crowds seven days a week.

"This place is hot," said Hillary Glaholt of Redondo Beach. "Sushi is usually boring, but this is so much fun."

In addition to sushi, the club serves up kitschy movies and music reminiscent of the days when its crowd, mostly Gen Xers and thirtysomethings, were mere tykes and teens. A deejay on the mezzanine level plays unrelated scenes and tunes from movies.

The "Forrest Gump" clip seems to be the most popular. In one scene, Forrest is being chased by the bullies from school while his pal Jenny shouts, "Run, Forrest, run." Patrons get caught up in the moment and cheer him on when, suddenly, "Greased Lightning" from the "Grease" soundtrack, blasts through the sound system. Forrest is soon forgotten as the crowd mimics John Travolta's slick dance moves atop his dream car.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" gets a good response too. When Ferris and his friends drop in on a parade where the marchers are singing "Twist and Shout," the girls at the club's bar get up on their stools to twist and shout inspiring the rest of the crowd to join in.

There's not much room for movement in the crowded club, decorated with wood paneling, large windows and a metal floor and staircase that give it an industrial ambience. Still, folks get up and dance when they hear good songs.

On the mezzanine level when patrons, who come dressed to kill, are finished eating, the chairs and tables are cleared away so they can boogie.

"We wanted to establish a nice upscale restaurant with a club atmosphere," said co-owner Shane McColgan who opened the club with brother Scott and business partner Greg Allen. "So far it has been a success and we're hoping to be able to expand."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Where: Club Sushi, 1200 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach; (310) 372-5939.

When: Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Cost: Sushi, $4 and up; Sapporo, $4.75; Asahi, $3.50; hot sake, $4.50; chicken teriyaki, $13.25; nature lover's pizza, $7.25.

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