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I used to literally live around the corner, so Yabu was always one of my go to places for lunch and dinner since it was walking distance and served very good Japanese food. Now that I live driving distance away, it is still on my restaurant rotation albeit not as much of a regular stop as it used to be. I realized it’s been nearly a year since I last ate dinner there, so one afternoon, I went with a friend who had never eaten there for lunch.

I chose my usual chirashi set that includes sashimi, sushi rice, and your choice of soba or udon (hot or cold) for $17. I had not eaten breakfast, so I devoured everything you see below:) The fish was fresh and the hot udon was springy in a light flavorful broth. The portion was perfect for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with the added bites of pickle.

I wanted more pickles, so ordered the assorted pickles side for $8 to finish my sushi rice from the chirashi. Everything on the pickle plate was perfect, and I highly recommend the side if you love pickled vegetables.

My friend wanted something lighter and ordered the Seaweed salad that includes three kinds of seaweed and mixed greens for $10. It was a big bowl of greens and any vegans or vegetarians would enjoy this green feast.

It’s always heartening to find old favorites still around providing the service and quality that made them an old favorite. I may have to put this back on my revolving lunch rotation no matter the driving distance 🙂

With holiday visitors flying in and out of LAX, Kanpai has two locations on major streets that are great alternatives to taking the 405 Freeway going south towards the airport. I went to the one on Lincoln for a late night light bite after picking up an East Coast transplant. They serve everything from sushi to ramen, with choices ranging from a $30 tempura set to a $170+omakase. I am sure that your appetite and your wallet will find something to please both.

The shitake mushrooms for $8.80were beautifully presented and lightly handled with a special soy.

Baked eggplant for $7.50 with ginger, green onion, and bonito flakes, which looked like a banana until we realized they had peeled it!

Every component of the basic chicken teriyaki dinner with steamed broccoli and potato salad for $28 was fresh, lightly cooked, and flavorful.

Miso black cod for $28 was a beautiful tender rendition, and a thick filet, so even though it was pricey for the portion, the quality of the fish was fair for the price point.

Both locations are open until 1am so whether you want something light, healthy, or just a good old fashioned Japanese place with pages of options, Kanpai is a great option on either Lincoln or Sepulveda.

My Parisian friends craved Japanese food so we tried Moshimo near the Gare de Lyon. It was very reasonably priced for a Japanese place that served a bit of everything so close to a central transportation hub. It was a decent choice to fulfill a craving, but I would not go out of my way to find the place or go back. Compared to choices in Los Angeles, it was definitely limited and lacking in many aspects. As you can see from the sashimi platter for 16 Euros, the choices of fish were very limited and the presentation was not skilled.

They offered potstickers for 5 E 50 that were on par with ones that you could buy frozen and make yourself.

The avocado and tempura dragon roll for about 10 Euros was drizzled with unagi sauce ?!?!?

The standard tuna and avocado roll for 5 E 50 was a much simpler and better choice.

We also tried the yakitori skewers, ranging from salmon to scallops and shrimp, averaging between 4-6 Euros per pair. All were slightly overdone and not very flavorful.

 

 Even the grilled zucchini were bland and boring with no seasoning.

The highlight of the meal were the coconut balls of mochi that were likely store bought, but offered a nice sweet ending to an evening spent with friends.

Favorites from the past sometimes morph into sad shadows of formerly vibrant flavors, but other times they not only retain their vibrancy, but they improve on it! Yabu has been a steadfast outpost for homemade soba for decades, and when I lived around the corner, it was an easy choice for quality Japanese food.

I’ve become addicted to good pickles, so to clear my palate, this plate of napa pickles with home made nukazuke was the first order for $8.

One of my favorite sushi is the aji or horse mackerel and their version for $8 continues to be an excellent rendition.

The only slightly disappointing dish was the asparagus with butter and soy for $8. This was my favorite asparagus dish in Los Angeles and I frequently ordered 2 because I could not get enough of it. Sadly four of the bites were too woody to eat, and the recipe has changed enough to have lost me as a fan. It’s still a decent vegetable side dish, but nothing to rave about anymore 😦

The fried calamari for $8.50 was tender and lightly battered; theirs is a good version of the ubiquitous appetizer.

The Albacore tuna tataki for $15.50 was spectacular! Lightly seared, served with an assortment of seaweed, grated ginger, scallions, spicy radish, and garnished with fried garlic, it converted a non albacore eater into a fan 🙂

Sometimes you can come (close to) home again and find old friends and favorites are still as heart warming as your memories of them.

Trying to find a Japanese place to eat that is open in those hours between lunch and dinner is a challenge in every city; Japanese restaurants are one of the few who actually close between service here and worldwide. I did a search for nearby places that were open and luckily found Harajuku Taproom nearby. They have not been open long, but from what I’ve tried, and from what seems to be a steady local clientele, they will have an appreciative audience.

The variety of pickles was a good indication of the rest of the menu at this craft sake and beer place where the emphasis is on quality and uniqueness, e.g., one of the pickles was pickled eggplant!

The miso glazed sirloin steak was tender and one bite told you that they used quality meat.

Their impossible gyoza are house made with a ginger sauce, and they were addictive.

I like miso, so the eggplant with miso glaze was the next choice and a great way to eat your vegetables!

A beautiful way to tempt your taste buds is to order the shiitake with soy and the asparagus with lemon.

We also tried the chicken breast with yuzu pepper, but we at it all before I could snap a picture 🙂 The only misstep of the evening was the tempura ice cream which had to be redone and still came out looking like a sad child’s painting with a coating that wasn’t nearly crisp enough.

The service more than made up for the dessert, with one of our servers, Gregory, having lived 6 years in Japan, he presented each dish with proper pronounciation and traditional manners; something appreciated by everyone whether they speak Japanese or not. 

Make a reservation, or go for happy hour before this neighborhood gem becomes so popular that you will have to wait in line to get inside.

A small family run restaurant is always my preferred choice Nanban-kan has been a yakitori (grilled skewers) favorite of mine for years, so I was happy to introduce a local to this hidden treasure that almost literally requires a treasure map to find. Most skewers are in the $4 range and include 2, so you can mix and match several to match your appetite and sense of adventure. With choices ranging from chicken hearts and tongue, to the pork belly wrapped asparagus and seabass, I chose a bit of everything 🙂 My favorites were the chicken hearts and sea bass, with the asparagus coming out third, I found the beef tongue a bit tough and dry, but still decent.

My friend ordered the comforting chicken and rice dish since he was getting over an illness. It came with a colorful array of pickles and miso soup, so a perfect remedy for those with sensitive stomachs or a compromised immune system.

 The stuffed shitake mushrooms were filling but not vegetarian since they were stuffed with ground chicken.

We tried the daily special of yellowtail collar and found it a bit over cooked but very fresh. The owner is the hostess who rules the roost with a very fair system and a warm smile, making sure clients who reserved were seated promptly, but those who arrived late were asked to wait. Walk-ins were offered the front tables with the same impeccable service as the main dining room. I was very happy to to found quality and service still prevail in this small enclave of hospitality and great Japanese grilling.

KimBap Paradise is known for their Korean rolls, kind of like sushi rolls but with different fillings, like beef 🙂 However tempting they sounded, I knew that there was no way that I could eat an entire roll, much less one with a bowl of soup or Bibimbop, so I opted for the bowl of Bibimbop alone. Of course it came with soup, rice, sides of kimchi, and pickled radish. The ingredients were all fresh and delicious, especially after I added the umami laden red chili bean paste (not spicy) into the bowl. Nothing on the menu is over $15 so you can experiment with new flavors without exploring going into debt.

I’ve written about Eboshi before, but I went back with a friend who had lived in Japan and spoke Japanese, so it was an “upgraded” lunch experience my second time around. We started with grilled beef tongue, a simple bite that is rare to find in Los Angeles.

My friend ordered the cold bowl of ramen Hiyashi Chuka for $11.50 that he devoured with gusto, saying it reminded him of his time in Japan.

I ordered the fried oysters which were wonderfully crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, and even though they were flown in from Japan, the price was very reasonable. Since I hate macaroni salad, I can’t tell you how that tasted, but it was included with a small green salad for around $6.

Even though I no longer live in the neighborhood, the area around Sawtelle known as Little Osaka, Korean Super is still a good place to stop for a bowl of comfort food like this sweet savory chicken with pickled radish. It’s a hearty portion, served in an easily transportable container, so you can take your leftovers home:)

So many bowls to choose from, where should I eat my next bowl?

I may not have posted last week, but I have been eating! Hopefully this week’s post will make up for skipping one 🙂

I took a friend to Kagura in El Segundo for lunch and she loved the calm minimalist decor while enjoying her bountiful lunch gozen. She was amazed by the quality and quantity of her sushi lunch with tempura and mini side dishes that were all contrasting textures and flavors for under $25.

I ordered the miso black cod because it is one of the few items I had not yet tried on their menu, and it was one of the best I’ve ever eaten! The side of sashimi was an added bonus since I got to enjoy both cooked and raw fish for the same meal.

I finally went to happy hour at Kagura, that is every Monday-Thursday from 5-6:30 PM when they offer a menu of drinks, rolls, and appetizers, all for $4 or less! An amazing deal, especially considering the quality of the drinks and food they offer, like this 16 oz draft Sapporo for $3!

The seaweed salad for $4 was much larger than I expected but a bit overdone with the dressing; it was very tasty nonetheless.

They offer several hand rolls for $3.75, including this yellowtail version which was chock full of yellowtail.

This was the negitoro (tuna with green onion) also $3.75.

I love fried smelt; they are the french fries of seafood and I have been known to make and eat an entire plateful (see my Instagram for proof), but to minimize the temptation to overdo it, I ordered them here for $4, and although there were only three, they were big enough to satiate my craving.

I was too tempted by the fried calamari legs to stop eating, so I ordered them for $4, which would have been enough for any normal person (but not a foodie intent on trying everything)! Next time I will order either the smelt or the calamari legs, but not both 🙂

Continuing the Japanese theme, Sushi Roku in Santa Monica ended up being my dinner destination, so I continued the Japanese food theme and I indulged in my favorite Spanish Mackerel sushi while watching as my dining companion ate the standard tempura and tuna rolls, which he remarked were boring compared to what I ordered.

My last plate of the night was the yellowtail with jalapeno and ponzu, which was a very fitting way to end a full day of Japanese food, lightly, purely, and deliciously 🙂

After watching the entire season of Samurai Gourmet on Netflix, I was craving Japanese food, but I did not want to deal with the jet lag of actually going to Japan 🙂
Luckily, Kagura is walking distance. Not only is their service and decor serene and welcoming, but their food is prepared with care and skill befitting the quality ingredients they serve. Even the salad served with the set gozen meals had a perfect dressing over fresh mixed baby greens that whet my appetite for the meal. Most lunch meals also include miso soup and your choice of white or brown rice for around $20, not including tax and tip.

Since they are famous for their Kurobuta pork tonkatsu, I ordered the loin and was so happy with my first bite of the crunchy exterior and moist interior that I used the sauce sparingly, savoring the pure flavor of quality meat. All the small side dishes enhanced the main attraction, and somehow I ate nearly the entire meal! I was pleasantly full but not stuffed with the various textures, tastes, and contrasts of the set meal.

A close up of the pork loin tonkatsu that was the most perfect I’ve ever eaten (disclaimer: I have never traveled to Japan so I can only compare to other restaurants in the US).

On a second visit, I ordered the mackerel and was thrilled to have it perfectly cooked, again with a nice assortment of side dishes that varied only slightly from my previous visit. They also serve black cod and hamachi collar options in their gozen choices.

On my most recent visit, I wanted tempura, so I ordered the hot buckwheat noodles combination for under $15. This set meal was so filling I could not finish it, but I did manage to eat about 80% of it 🙂 As with the pork tonkatsu, the tempura was so light and crisp while retaining the moist interior of the ingredients that it was nearly addictive #JustOneMoreBite…..

They have a happy hour with specials on their beer and rolls, which I will likely go to one day, if I can wait until after lunch to satisfy my Japanese food craving:)

June Gloom usually starts in June, but this year it came in May, bringing Brigadoon like fog, drizzle, and a chill that called for hot comforting soup. Eboshi Noodle Bar is in the same plaza as Hikari, the fabulous Japanese BBQ place. My local foodie friends said it was good, so I stopped by for lunch one day.

Bullet trains are precisely on time in Japan, and Eboshi is true to their posted opening and closing times, so if you arrive 5 minutes early or late, you will not be allowed inside. I appreciate this kind of precision because it translates to the food that is served by Japanese to Japanese (I was one of only 3 non-Japanese in the packed lunch time crowd).

As you can see from the handwritten menu items, prices are very reasonable, and I loved the variety from grilled beef tongue to fried oysters from Japan, in addition to the full page of ramen choices.

 I chose the classic miso spring onion, and it was a gigantic US sized bowl, loaded with so much spring onions, it was almost an even proportion of onions to noodles! The flavor was deep and slightly sweet, with bits of ground pork, and hearty enough that I was full for the rest of the day. I have no idea how the others at the counter ate an entire bowl AND gyoza too! At around $12 including tax and 20% tip, this was also a bargain.

 

The same friends who told me about Eboshi, also said that Ramen Ko-Ryu was their favorite, so that was my next stop.They are famous for their spicy soup with a board of fame for those who have conquered the challenge, but I was just seeking a warm hearty bowl.

I chose the garlic bomb with spicy miso, at under $10 this flavor bomb combined crispy garlic bits with two thick slices of char siu, green onions, and bits of pork in a mildly spiced broth and springy noodles. Around $12 including tax and 20% tip, this was also a bargain, and it came out literally 3 minutes after I ordered it!

My favorite soups are at Din Tai Fung, with locations across the globe, and three in the greater Los Angeles area. Their shrimp and pork wonton soup has the clean flavor of freshly made tender wontons in a consommé broth that is both light and complex as only masters of soup can execute.

My favorite soup of all (so far) is the braised beef noodle with 3 or 4 big hearty melt in your mouth chunks of tendon rich meat, baby bok choy, and perfect noodles in a heart warming broth, all for an incredible price of around $14 including tax, and 20% tip. I could eat this every week, and will probably be back next week for another bowl 🙂

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