Nanban-kan is literally steps away from the Nuart Theater so you may be wondering how I’ve managed to walk by this neighborhood favorite for so many years. My answer is simply that I usually watch movies in the afternoon so by the time Nanban-kan opens I am no longer in the vicinity.
I finally went one day because I was stuck on Santa Monica Boulevard at 6pm and my favorite butchers, Lindy & Grundy love it. I figured it was a sign to stop and eat when I was literally stopped at one traffic light for THREE changes and had moved ONE car length. It is not an exaggeration when the news reports that traffic is the worst aspect of life here in Los Angeles.
I am grateful there was so much traffic because I loved the food, service and ambiance at Nanban-kan so much that it is now on my “regular” list of places to eat, i.e., places I go when I am not trying new spots that I write about here on this blog:)
Like my nearby favorite Italian restaurant, Il Grano, this place is quiet, refined, and comfortable, with an owner who cares about every guest and the food on every table. The ratio of servers to diners is nearly 1:2 so my water was constantly refilled, my empty plates were instantly whisked away, and my next course was promptly fired as soon as I finished what was in front of me.
They serve both yakitori and sushi here, and since it was my first time, I concentrated on the yakitori. Most skewers were between $10-$20 and they had specials hand written on a blackboard. I asked my waitress what she recommended for a vegetable and she said the asparagus with bacon was a favorite. I could taste why when it arrived. A thin layer of bacon draped over the grilled asparagus made it a nicely luxurious and meaty bite.
One of the regular menu items was “five fishes”, and if you like fried smelt, you will love these lightly battered, crisp filets.
One of the blackboard specials was the sea bass and it was probably my favorite skewer of the evening with freshly chopped scallions and an almost sushi presentation of grated radish with ponzu.
I don’t know if it was my desire for iron or my love of pâté, but I had to order the chicken livers. They were nicely done but I would have like a bit more salt on them instead of the slightly sweet teriyaki glaze.
I finished with the special grilled quail. It was so simply and marvelously grilled that it needed nothing except my fingers to pick it up so I could clean off the delicate meat from the small bones. If you love quail or have never had it, this is a wonderful place to experience it.
They say that we only use about 10% of our brains, so if I extrapolate that to trying restaurants, I’ve only eaten in 10% of the restaurants in my neighborhood. Living in Los Angeles, the percentage for me is probably more like 1% since I not only walk, but drive. I would never have thought I would be thankful for terrible traffic, but it was due to horrible traffic that I stopped at Nanban-kan and added to that 1% with a fantastic find that I don’t have to test my patience to drive to in my neighborhood.