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Even though Sushi Gen is probably my favorite place for fish, their location and popularity requires advance planning. Maki & Sushi is a good Plan B, located in a strip mall with easy parking and easy freeway access. They have the usual combination boxes with teriyaki, tempura, and sushi, but I chose the chirashi, a generous bowl with some upscale ingredients like amaebi, scallop, and unagi. The octopus salad on top was an unusual bonus topping, and because I requested no salmon, my bowl was nearly all white fish. Miso soup came with the meal and for $23 this was a good value. The cuts and presentation were not spectacular, but the service was efficient.

 

Church and State was one of my favorite places to go for French food before I left for France, so I wanted to go back and see if they would be able to maintain their rank on my list. The short answer is, maybe. I chose their salad niçoise with seared yellowtail for $18. The presentation was very nice, and the piping of tapenade around the plate added a nice punctuation to the salad, but as you can see the circles of tuna were tiny morsels for what was supposed to be a main course salad. The vinaigrette and vegetables were top notch (organic). They do have a prix fixe menu at $23 for 3 courses at lunch that is a bargain, but for a la carte considering the other options in town at that price point, I won’t be rushing back.

Fish King is a market, a fishmonger, a cafe, and a family owned and run pillar of the community since the 1950’s. It’s a beautifully clean, neatly organized, and pleasurable place to shop. The fish will be better than at your local chain supermarket, Whole Foods included, but don’t expect any bargains for the quality. Since I was too hungry to cook, I chose to have them prepare my halibut cajun style with a side of vegetables and coleslaw. At a little under $15, this was a big healthy meal, but I was disappointed that a fish cafe overcooked the fish filet and undercooked the vegetables. Even with the large assortment of condiments, I couldn’t fix my plate. I would happily buy fish or sushi from them, but I won’t have them cook anything for me again.

At this point, you may be wondering if I found any good places, but I saved the best for last 🙂 Fanta  Sea Grill is nearly hidden in a complex with a large Rite Aid, and the only reason I saw it at all was because I was going to the drugstore. They are a wholesale seafood importer, so they procure fresh fish at excellent prices, and as they proudly proclaim, they use no butter or msg in their preparations. I chose the garlic shrimp to go, and they not only included a large portion of prawns, but delicious vegetables, rice, and salad with citrus ponzu, all for under $20. The prawns were cooked perfectly, with easy to peel off shells, swimming in a garlic broth that I used over the rice and vegetables for an added savory burst of fun. This was so good, I literally licked my fingers after peeling the shrimp!

Tender Greens only has tuna on their regular menu, but sometimes their daily specials are fish, and one day I lucked out with Artic Char. All their fish is sourced from responsible fisheries, so no worries about healthy sustainable fish on their menu:) I paired the perfectly seared filet on top of quinoa with an arugula salad, making my taste buds dance in happiness.

Los Angeles may be the City of Angels, but traffic is a nightmare; the freeways are constantly clogged in every direction, for every possible reason, ranging from rain to a game. Using the Metro as often as possible is my way of lessening both my carbon footprint and preserving my sanity.  I’ve used the Metro nearly every time I’ve gone downtown and it’s been the most efficient and least stressful method (and no I’m not being paid by them in any way to say this)!

The Miyako Inn is only one block from the Little Tokyo metro stop and in the heart of Little Tokyo. I had of course come to visit this neighborhood and have eaten here before, but it’s a much better experience to stay overnight rather than drive 30-60 minutes (depending on traffic) to get home. To top off the treat of not needing my car, the room was a gift from a friend who left town in the afternoon and asked if I wanted it for the night. YES!

Because of its location in Little Tokyo, the room is done in a very zen style, with clean lines and neutral tones. If I had chosen to drive instead of take the metro, the parking rates were extremely reasonable for downtown, at only $30 for guests with unlimited in and out access. Free Wifi was also included in the entire hotel to guests and visitors alike.

The bed was super comfortable with the most heavenly pillows and one of the most remarkable features of the room was that the windows OPENED! There was a mini fridge, a safe, slippers, and a coffee / tea maker all included in the room along with an ironing board and iron. As an impressive touch they even had organic green tea as one of the in room complimentary choices. Water was a reasonable (for a hotel) $2 a bottle.

 The toilet was a fun Japanese one

 with bidet controls for temperature, water pressure, and direction 🙂

 I found these inside the nightstand top drawer!

 This view lit up at night,

 but the brightest light was the full moon.

I love Seoul Sausage Company‘s brick and mortar location near Sawtelle, and I found that they have a location in Little Tokyo, so I headed out for happy hour and their famous KFC: Korean Fried Chicken. Crisp, sweet, and slightly spicy with bits of pickled radish, this is great bar food, or you can get a full order of 6 for a meal. If I lived in the area I would probably come by here every night for a bite and a drink 🙂

Being in Little Tokyo meant ramen places were just across the street from the hotel. Daikokuya usually has lines out the door, but since I could the literally see the place from my window, I just peeked out until the line was shorter 🙂 I got the miso ramen, and although the noodles were great and the broth was flavorful, it did not have the complexity of the broth at Tsujita.

I couldn’t leave without sushi, so the next day I went to the famous Sushi Gen 30 minutes before they opened and waited in the line that was already a block long. It looked like every table ordered the sashimi deluxe lunch, but it was a massive plate of food and there was no way I could have eaten it all, so I opted for the chirashi which came with miso soup.

This bowl of chirashi was the freshest and biggest I’ve ever enjoyed. It may look like a regular bowl, but underneath the fish you see is ANOTHER layer and the bits that look like bites are actually much larger  than they seem. I would gladly wait an hour or more for this and many people did. Those who arrived when they opened and after noon may not have been able to get seated before they closed between lunch and dinner service. They are famous for a reason; I’ve never paid such a reasonable price (under $20) for such high quality sashimi anywhere in the world.

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.

Nanban-Kan on Urbanspoon

Sake House is one of those lucky places that has a great location, just two blocks from the ocean and one block from the popular Third Street Promenade, so they are pretty much guaranteed business if they serve halfway decent food. That would be exactly how I would describe their sushi; halfway decent.

The ginger was fresh, but the crab meat was fake and those two facts were harbingers for the quality of sushi found here. I went for happy hour, a daily special menu with most menu items and drinks under $6.

We began with a seaweed salad which was about on par with most standard seaweed salads. The addition of micro sprouts and some radish were nice touches.

I ordered a spicy tuna handroll which came with fried onions and fresh scallions. As far as handrolls go, this was middle of the road for a sushi place. There was too much spicy mayonnaise and the fried onions overwhelmed the balance even though they added a nice crunch.

The sashimi plate had a decent selection of sushi and the fish was fairly fresh, but not outstanding in any way, and the presentation left much to be desired.

The crunchy onion tuna sashimi was a very basic combination of tuna, ponzu and fried onions. It was fine in the same way that a woman might say everything is “fine” when she has nothing better to say and tries to be polite.

We had a Monster roll of eel topped with spicy tuna which was the favorite of the evening, but again presentation was lacking and the spicy tuna was overworked with too much mayonnnaise.

I had the house sake, which was palatable, and they offer artisanal sakes for up to $147 for 750 ml, so I suppose if I had upgraded my drink, it may have made the food more palatable as well.

They say in Real Estate that the only thing that matters is location, and at Sake House it seems that rule does seem to hold true since the food is definitely not the draw.

Sake House by Hikari on Urbanspoon

What would be more apropos than to go eat sushi and have 100% of the profits from your meal help the victims of the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan? Because several of the people at Takami Sushi have family and friends in Japan, they are donating all their profits to the Japanese branch of the Red Cross with no end date for this generous act of charity as of this post.

If you want to help and either don’t like sushi or don’t live near downtown Los Angeles, you can buy a piece of art here and 100% of the profits will go towards charitable organizations in Japan. Pieces range from $15 to $1000 so get one or get several.

To update yesterday’s post, T Mobile, Comcast, and Time Warner have finally joined AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in offering free calls (and texts) to Japan for prepaid US subscribers; better late than never, and that applies to sending aid as well.

I had lunch at Sashi in Manahattan Beach right after they opened, but it was time to try them again for dinner with sushi aficionado Cindy. It was a cold night at the beach (50F) with the fog rolling in, but we sat in the (heated) cozy patio and had a great dinner.

Cindy wanted only sushi, but when I saw they had a Miso Grilled Wild Alaskan Sea Bass ($6) on their robata selection, I had to order it. When I bit into the delicate fish I felt as if my mouth had taken a blissful bite of heaven. Cindy agreed that it was the best skewer of fish she had ever eaten.

Cindy ordered the spicy tuna roll ($12), made with avocado and she declared it the best she had ever eaten.

We ordered aji (skipjack), albacore, and tai (red snapper) ($6 per order) and every type of fish was delicate, fresh and delectable.

Cindy ordered the bikini roll with shrimp tempura, asparagus and crabmeat ($16). it was beautiful and tasty, but too rich for either of us to finish.

It’s always good to find a restaurant which does a nice lunch also does a nice dinner; it’s even nicer to share it with a friend.

Sashi: sushi and sake lounge on Urbanspoon

My friend eating partner Mika is back in town, so when I asked her what she wanted, her answer was “real Japanese food, made by Japanese people”. Since most places are closed between lunch and dinner, we were prepared for our food craving to go unsatisfied, but since the Korean place we were going to was closed on Thursday (?!?!?!) we looked up and down Sawtelle to find something open.

When we saw the OPEN sign at Hide Sushi, we couldn’t believe a Japanese restaurant was open for business at 4pm! They are the ONLY good sushi place open all afternoon on the Westside that I know of, so anyone who knows of any others, please leave a comment and let me know about any other Japanese restaurants open all afternoon between lunch and dinner.

Since we had eaten hardly anything all day (I ate a peach), we were famished. Mika ordered the combination of sashimi and teriyaki steak, with two sushi rolls of pickled radish and roots (the yellow and brown cut rolls in the pictures. I ordered albacore, halibut, spanish mackeral, and yellowtail sushi, along with a yellowtail and scallion cut roll.

Mika’s combination dinner included the Sunomono (cucumber salad) with shrimp.

The combination dinner also included a wonderfully rich miso soup with tofu and seaweed.

The tuna sashimi in the dinner combination was the freshest I have ever had in a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles; it was amazing that this came with a set dinner with teriyaki for only $14.


I ordered 2 orders of spanish mackeral and this was also some of the freshest I have eaten in Los Angeles. I especially liked that the ponzu sauce was served separately in a bottle on the table, so you could add as much or little as you wished to your sushi. The only fault I found was the fish was not expertly molded to the sushi rice, but for the quality of the fish, this was a superb.


My two orders of halibut and one of albacore were very good, but the pieces were a bit big and once again the fish did not adhere to the rice.


Mika liked her rolls, and I found nothing to dislike about the yellowtail sushi or yellowtail roll with scallions other than the loose rice wrapping. It was also good to see they served fresh ginger that was not commercially jarred.


The least stellar of all the dishes was the teriyaki steak, which would have been good if it had not been cooked so well done.

All in all, this was a fabulous place for fresh sushi if you don’t mind the less than perfect sushi techniques and the overcooked meat. An impressive side note here was the waiter (a Caucasian) spoke Japanese to the sushi chefs and clients. Our entire feast including hot tea came out to less than $58 for BOTH of us, but they only accept cash to keep their prices down, so keep that in mind when you come here because, you will want to come here.

Hide Sushi on Urbanspoon

I have been on a quest to find my sushi restaurant in Los Angeles since the 1980’s (yes, I am old enough to say that). I’ve found several good ones that have changed (for the worse), closed, or where the chefs have moved back to Japan, so my search goes on as I continue on my quest to find my Holy Grail of Sushi one day, and it will stay open with the chef who created the place, for many years.

My latest find is Kaizuka in Culver City. Everything about the place is very pleasant, from the reception to the shaded outdoor patio. The friendly service and the sculptured water fountains added more nice touches to a good experience.

They promote themselves as a fusion place, but they offer all the standard sushi bar fare from sashimi to sushi, with a few interesting twists on classic Japanese cuisine, like their asparagus beef ($7.50), calamari with creamy basil ($8.50), and yellowtail sashimi garnished with jalepenos, yuzu and olive oil ($15). Since I was here for standard Japanese, I decided to go with some classics, like Spanish Mackarel sushi ($6) to start. The Spanish Mackarel was wonderfully fresh and presented beautifully even though it did not adhere to the rice soaked in ponzu.


And their lunch special of tempura and sashimi ($18), which came with a tasty miso soup, steamed rice, and a green salad with a light dressing on field greens. The box lunch set was superior to what is offered in most other Japanese restaurants, with mixed field greens instead of iceberg, home made ginger, daikon and cucumber for the sashimi, and the tempura was a generous mix of shrimp and vegetables in a crisp batter that could have been lighter but it was still a very good version.

This was not my Holy Grail, but it is a very pleasant place, definitely worthy of another visit, perhaps during a dinner with more people so we can travel around the menu a bit more.

Kaizuka Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sushi Roku has several branches all over greater Los Angeles, but their branch in Pasadena is celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a 40% discount off all their food all day starting today through Friday August 27th.

Ten percent of the proceeds for this week will go towards the charity Five Acres which is an organization helping empower families to raise children to become caring and productive adults by building on their strengths and those of their families and communities.

So go eat great sushi at almost half off and help some families while you do it; sounds like a good deal to me.

After going to Happy Hour at Katsuya in Brentwood from 5-7pm, where you can get appetizers and drinks for $7, you might want to stay for dinner tonight. With a robata grill that serves up grilled meats, fish and vegetables, this is a perfect place to take people who want a bit of everything or want that one special thing whether it is lobster or Kobe beef. If you can’t decide, you can go with the tasting menu for $65 or the Omakase for market price that will showcase the specialties of the restaurant that Stark built.

Tonight is their 4th year Anniversary Celebration, so if you mention the “secret” words “4 Year Anniversary” in the Dragon Lounge, you will get complimentary sushi, drink specials and a rock sake shot on the house.

Remembering an anniversary is always a good thing, especially tonight.

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