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Sushi Nozawa closes its doors after 25 years

The bar at Sushi Nozawa was packed, earlier in the day.
The bar at Sushi Nozawa was packed, earlier in the day.
Jacob Margolis
The bar at Sushi Nozawa was packed, earlier in the day.
Trust him. Kazunori Nozawa has been a sushi chef for 47 years.
Jacob Margolis
The bar at Sushi Nozawa was packed, earlier in the day.
Nozawa's sous chef, Antonio Hernandez, preps albacore tuna sashimi.
Jacob Margolis

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The sushi nazi has retired.

After 25 years, Kazunori Nozawa of Sushi Nozawa in Studio City served his last albacore sashimi yesterday. Nozawa gained a national reputation for excellent sushi and strict code of conduct at his restaurant: no California rolls, no spicy tuna, no cellphones, no loud noises, and most importantly, always trust the chef.

He once kicked out actress Charlize Theron after she asked for a fish that was different than what was being served.

Nozawa's fans stood in line in front of his restaurant, located in a strip mall, for one last meal.

Eric Aronson was visiting from Boston, and had to have one last meal at the restaurant. "For me it's a privilege to eat sushi out here. It wouldn't work if it wasn't extraordinary fish done well and presented in a way that you can't say no to. It's going to the mountain, going to the top of the mountain," Aronson said.

Maurice LaMarche is a Sushi Nozawa fanatic. He's visited the restaurant two times every week for the last 20 years. Yesterday, he waited in line for three hours for lunch. "We raised a toast to Nozawa, and I said, 'Out of 2000 meals, this is the best because it's going to be the last,' LaMarche said. Then I got in the car and went, 'Why does it have to be the last … why can't it be the second to last?'"

LaMarche came back to stand in line for dinner, but it was not to be. Chef Nozawa canceled dinner for that evening. Nozawa was exhausted after working at the restaurant since 4 a.m. The crowd was devastated, but once Nozawa came out to apologize, his fans gave him hugs, kisses and gifts. And the chef known for his sharp knife skills and even sharper eye for proper sushi etiquette teared up.

This may be the end of Sushi Nozawa, but a local chain owned by Nozawa's son — Sugar Fish — could replace it. Chef Nozawa will be a consultant and the new restaurant will still have the motto, "Trust the Chef," but sushi chefs nor Nozawa will be behind the bar serving customers. All the sushi will be made behind closed doors.