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I am an omnivore who likes almost everything except lima beans 🙂  Many of my friends are pescatarians, so finding places that offer delicious fish means more choices for everyone. I’ve heard good things about Urban Plates, so I tried their grilled wild albacore. It was a very generous portion for $13.50 and although all the ingredients were fresh, they were also plainly boiled or unseasoned, and unfortunately the vinaigrette did not perk things up.

After going to another location of King’s Fish House that was very disappointing, it was refreshing to go to the one in Victoria Gardens and find that everything was cooked with deft skills and served with a professional demeanor. The simple codfish and chips (substituted spinach for the chips) for $13.50,

and the grilled ahi with vegetable side and upgraded asparagus side for around $30 were executed perfectly, not overly done, and very generously portioned.

Sonny’s Bistro has a great lunch menu including the crunchy ahi salad for $14 that makes it a bargain for lunch. Because I love sand dabs and rarely find them on any menu, I ordered them here for $22 and devoured the plate along with a side salad that kept me satiated all day.

 

Sometimes all I need is a nice piece of grilled fish for a meal. A friend picked up a bento box for me along with an extra side of mackerel from At Home Kitchen. For only $6.50, this is a great alternative to cooking mackerel at home where you must deal with the smell and splatter.

I can count on one hand the people who are willing to wait for a table at Sushi Gen with me, but the ones who have the patience are rewarded with some of the freshest fish in Los Angeles. I always go for the chirashi at lunch, but if you are more traditional, the sushi deluxe or sashimi are equally good and none of them will serve you any of the crappy salmon that finds its way into most other sushi restaurants, and that alone is worth the wait!

 

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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.

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 🙂

My favorite place for sushi in Little Tokyo is Sushi Gen, but sometimes their hours or wait is too daunting for people who are not as obsessed as I am about food. For a birthday lunch, several of us went to the birthday girl’s choice of Tenno, which is literally one block away and open all day. They have lunch specials under $10 for meals with soup and rice, so Tenno is a good place to stop for a bite on a budget. Please note that the budget prices are because the crab is imitation, and the portions of the fresh fish are very small; you get what you pay for, so if you can afford to pay a bit more and wait, I would highly recommend you go to Sushi Gen.

Although they are a self described fusion restaurant, we stuck to the mainly Japanese sushi and sashimi choices. I ordered the Spanish mackerel sashimi for $16.50, and the fish was very fresh, albeit served very sparingly for the price; I could have easily eaten three orders.

I was glad I also ordered the soft shell crab roll for $11.95 which was enough to share. The batter was more flour than panko, so it was a not light, and for some reason they drizzled a sweet “eel sauce” on the plate.

 One of my friends customized a sashimi bowl with four choices.

 Another customized a seaweed salad with salad greens.

The birthday girl chose a rainbow roll $11.95 (imitation crabmeat)

 

and a pink lady roll $12.95, which was a similar variation with spicy imitation crab, topped with a lemon slice, that you ate after eating the roll.

 

Once we told them it was a birthday celebration, they offered a mochi ice cream dessert with birthday candle to the birthday girl:)

President Thai was recommended by two unrelated food lovers, so I went to to lunches 🙂 The immense building, menu, and long lines, could have been overwhelming, but the service was so kind, patient, efficient, and happy, that I felt as if I was their honored guest. If you are ever in the neighborhood, or simply want to be in a place where you are surrounded by genuine smiles, head over to president Thai.

They start off all lunch specials with either a bowl of delectable soup or a small salad.

The first time I tried their beef because this was their most popular dish. The meat was tender, the flavors were balanced, and the portion was huge! Even as a lunch special for around $10, this was easily enough for two meals; the picture is a bit deceiving because the layers of meat are a bit hidden under the garnish.

I chose the chicken with rice noodles for another lunch and was happy

to add any variety of spice I wanted to my dish. The portion was again very generous and I ate two meals from the one order.

Sushi Roku has many locations, and I have eaten there several times, but I had never tried their Happy Hour until recently. Served only in the bar area (inside or outside), the selections are varied enough for those who like cooked and raw choices. I began with a $5 beer since it was so hot.

A yellow tail and scallion cut roll and a salmon skin hand roll (not crisp) at $5 each started things off,

segued into $5 tempura green beans and another order of the yellow tail cut roll.

The Albacore tacos for $6 were a good choice for those who like fusion.

The hit of the happy hour was the $5 popcorn shrimp with jalapeno cut roll.

At the Thursday night South Pasadena Farmers Market, the longest line is always at Mama Musubi. I braved the wait one day and got three, the beef, the tuna, and the seaweed; my favorite was the seaweed, seen at the right edge of the photo, and apparently it’s also the most popular one:)

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.

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