Category Archives: *Downtown LA

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Tailgate!

One of my new favorite food finds is Lawry’s tailgate!!!  I love eating at the restaurant in Beverly Hills and did not know that they throw a catering tailgate at every USC home football game until this year.  I think they now have it for all UCLA home games as well.  So for all of you guys who love the restaurant experience, you will also love the catered tailgate as well!

The USC tailgate has grown in size, so now it is under a massive tent, near Gate 1 at the Coliseum.  I had gone to the homecoming tailgate, and it was around 30 tables.  Reservations must be made and paid in advance through Lawry’s.  Seats do get sold out so be sure to make reservations in advance!  Reservation details can be found on Lawry’s website.

The check-in table and the crowd by the open bar.  Line moves pretty fast though!


Tailgate is $75 per person.  However, it is ALL-You-Can-Eat and All-You-Can-Drink (including alcoholic drinks)!  Food is just like what they serve at the restaurant – prime rib and turkey carving stations being the staples.  The rest of the menu changes, by the theme/state of the opposing team.  The menu can be viewed through the Lawry’s website – it’s usually available 1 – 2 weeks before the game.


For the homecoming game, there was the usual prime rib, with Lawry’s famous creamed spinach and potato au gratin.  There were also buffalo wings, and a refreshing apple salad.  The prime rib is more thinly sliced than the restaurant portion, so that people could make sliders, if they wanted to.  Since it’s AYCE, go for seconds or thirds!  🙂


Save some room for dessert too!  Double Rainbow Ice cream was the dessert at the homecoming game and let me just say, the coffee flavor even beats the Haagen-Daz version that I love.  Nom nom nom….


Lawry’s Tailgate is such an awesome experience and not to mention value.  Will definitely be back for more next year!

Marugame Monzo もんぞう

329 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Neighborhoods: Downtown, Little Tokyo

(213) 346-9762

Mon-Sun 11:30 am – 2:30 pm

Mon-Sun 5 pm – 10 pm


I first read about Marugame Monzo from Discover LA’s Best Japanese Noodles list back in July.   I was sold when I heard that they have a uni udon pasta with glowing Yelp reviews.  Even Jonathan Gold went to try it!

Marugame Monzo is right next to the well known Daikokuya Ramen in Little Tokyo.  Its small facade is certainly easy to miss.  And since it’s next to Daikokuya, you might mistaken Daikokuya’s notoriously long line with Marugame’s (although I’m sure Marugame has, by now, gathered quite a large following).  The star of the show at Marugame Monzo is the udon, fresh handmade udon.  Come early or prepare to wait.  The restaurant is small with hardly any ventilation — we arrived 15 minutes after the restaurant opened for lunch on a Saturday and was lucky enough to sit at the last empty seats, at the counter, with a front-row view of the udon-making. Street parking, as many of you know, is tough in Little Tokyo.  So, go for one of the parking lots!


The store front.  It’s quite small, so look for the sign.  There was a long line by the time we left.



Size of the restaurant.  Yes, it’s just a few tables and a few seats at the counter.


Watch udon being made!  It is really quite impressive.


The menu


Mentai bowl – spicy cod roe over rice.  The mentai was really fresh and went great with the warm rice.  $4 with any udon order.


Uni cream udon – it was an off-menu special, but I think it’s on the menu now.  There was so much uni in the udon, and lots of uni flavor in the cream sauce!  Loved it!  The udon was kind of al dente and went really well with the sauce.  I do have to say though, portion is generous, and by the end of my last noodle, it was a bit too rich and creamy for me. $16


Will definitely be back to try the traditional Japanese udon!

Sushi Gen

422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 617-0552


I’ve heard about the awesome sashimi lunch special at Sushi Gen for a long time.  Unfortunately, since the lunch specials are only during the weekdays, and I don’t work anywhere near Little Tokyo, I’ve not had the chance to go until the recent 3 day weekend.   Much of the hype is true – expect about an hour wait for lunch.  It’s not because the restaurant has slow service; the restaurant is actually really efficient and fast in turning the tables.  But there are just SO many people during lunch time!  Parking is a bit tough in the Little Tokyo area, so go for one of the paid parking lots.


The store front


The lunch menu – page 1.  The menu is very simple and does not contain much description…


Lunch menu – page 2


The appetizers that came with the sashimi lunch special:  warm soy-sauce marinated tofu, and pickled vegetables.  I loved the tofu!  So soft and full of soybean flavor.


Miso soup also came with the sashimi lunch special


The star of our lunch!  The sashimi lunch special has a variety of different sashimi on a plate – tuna, yellowtail, squid/ika, chopped tuna with scallions, crab meat and spicy tuna.  There’s also a piece of grilled salmon and some braised eel.  The sashimi are all really fresh, but my favorite was the spicy tuna – it had the right amount of kick and flavor!  This is 1 order and comes with a heaping bowl of rice.  $15

Aburiya Toranoko Sushi Bar & Izakaya

243 S. San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Neighborhoods: Downtown, Little Tokyo

(213) 621-9500

Wanted to try a new restaurant during the DineLA restaurant week last month, so I started reviewing all of the different menus.  This restaurant’s menu sounded pretty interesting and the prices seem reasonable, so off we went!
The executive chef hails from Nobu!  Street parking can be a bit of a challenge, since it’s in the heart of Little Tokyo.  So play it safe and park in one of the nearby lots!  The DineLA menu was $35/person for dinner, which included appetizers (3 item plate), sushi or NY steak, and green tea pudding for dessert.  There was also an omakase menu ($45 for five courses and $65 for six courses).  We decided to order one of the DineLA and a $45 five course omakase, just to see the difference.  Both comes with miso soup.  Not sure if  omakase is available all the time, but it’s a good value!
Toranoko means the tiger’s son…
Soy sauce came in a little tea pot.
Uni goma tofu – sesame-flavored tofu topped with uni, caviar and gold flakes.  This came with the $45 omakase.  Stand alone order is like $9.  Tasted luxurious – I really liked the sesame tofu!
The 3 item appetizer which came with the DineLA menu.  From left to right:  squid sashimi salad, uni gelee topped with caviar (pretty similar to the uni goma tofu, except without the tofu), and monkfish liver in raspberry sauce.  I had a taste of all three – never had cooked monkfish liver before (always had it sashimi style), but it went surprisingly well with the raspberry sauce.  All three were yum~
Sashimi appetizer – salmon and hamachi carpaccio.  This came with the omakase.  The fish was really fresh!
Teriyaki chicken wings.  This also came with the omakase and was the only cooked/hot item of the meal.  It was good, but compared to everything else, it didn’t stand out.
The main entree – sushi!  This came with the omakase.  The DineLA one is very similar, except that it also included ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) and octopus.  Like other sushi restaurants, Toranoko serves the shrimp head, fried on a separate platter.  The sushi was great – rice was perfect and fish was fresh.  Yum yum…
Green tea pudding with caramel sauce.  This came with the DineLA menu.  Sooo good!
Chocolate lava cake with coffee ice cream.  This is the omakase dessert.  This was delicious too… and I couldn’t decide if I liked the green tea pudding or this more.  Both are good!

Downtown Artwalk

The downtown artwalk occurs every second Thursday, between 2nd to 9th Street and Broadway to Main Street.  Lots of temporary galleries pop-up in the vacant building spaces, not to mention some of the permanent galleries are also open just for the artwalk.  It’s a very informal way to enjoy art.  There is no admission or dress code, and you can just pop into any gallery you’d like, which is why I think the artwalk has gained such popularity.

Food trucks also contribute to the artwalk experience.  The food trucks have been spread across different parking lots and there would be at least 30 food trucks in total on artwalk nights.  However, the city has imposed sanctions due to the fatal accident last month, so all of the food trucks were gathered at 2nd and Main for this month’s event.  It will probably be this way next month.  Food truck reviews are available on Yelp, so if you’re not sure if a particular food truck is worth trying, Yelp it!  There’s also a good selection of food at the Grand Central Market.  During artwalk nights, Grand Central Market is open until 9pm.

Some of the historical theaters in downtown have also started hosting guided tours on artwalk nights.  Might be great photo ops for you photographers out there.  I think I’ll try it out the next time I go to the artwalk.

All in all, the artwalk is a great way to experience a different side of LA.  Lots of people watching, lots of different kinds of art, lots of different food.  Many of my friends have compared it to the Asian night-markets.  Check it out if you haven’t already!  Please note that there are a lot of police around on artwalk nights, and they WILL  issue jaywalk tickets ($194 is pretty hefty).  So don’t jaywalk!


Downtown at dusk


Pop-up restaurant at Grand Central Market.  The people running it said that they’re only around on artwalk nights.


I ordered the pork burger – which has a ground pork mixed with chorizo patty.  Good!  $8


Fish market inside Grand Central Market. Also sells food — menu  and prices are on the board.


Scallop taco from the fish market.  The scallops were succulent and fried in batter. There’s actually quite of bit of scallops in the taco.  Great deal for $2.50 each


The food trucks


The mime that we saw during previous visits.  I wonder where he went this month…



Different kinds of art


Artist at work (the guy with the gray hair)

Japanese Village – DTLA

335 E 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

This is located at the corner of 1st and Alameda.  It’s not really a village – more like a cluster of restaurants and shops.  Love coming here ever since my college days.  There are so many delicious Japanese foods, ranging from sushi to ramen, in Little Tokyo.  Today I’m sharing my must-have treats when I’m in the area.


Imagawayaki aka red-bean cake 紅豆餅

Mitsuru Cafe

117 Japanese Village Plz Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 613-1028

Back in the college days, we’d stop by this place for weekend lunches.  Nowadays, it seems like the red-bean cake is the main attraction.  Basically, get in line, tell the cashier what you’d like to order, pay and grab your order.  The cafe itself is small, so it’s the only shop in the village that you’ll see a line out the door during the weekends.  The red-bean cake is really moist and chewy, and the red-bean filling is not too sweet.  It’s still good even when it’s not hot anymore!  Yum!

Watch your red-bean cakes being made!


Ice Cream & Mochi Ice Cream


118 Japanese Village Plz Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 624-1681

Yes, this is the Mikawaya of the mochi ice cream fame.  Know the ones that you’d buy at Trader Joes or the grocery stores?  Well, there are a few Mikawaya stores around LA.  The downtown one specializes in the ice cream, gelato (recently added) and mochi ice cream.  The Gardena location sells different types of mochi sweets.  I always make it a point to stop in here if I’m in the area.  The ice cream and mochi ice cream is THAT good.  The mochi on the mochi ice cream just tastes so soft and fresh! Recently, Mikawaya added gelato and mochilado (mochi gelato) but I don’t think they’re as good as the ice cream variety.  This place is CASH ONLY!


The store front


The famous mochi ice cream


The ice cream flavors (in clockwise order from top left): rainbow, green tea, kona coffee, mango, red bean and black walnut.


The prices:  1 scoop $2.55       2-scoops $3.55                  Mochi ice cream $1 each.  There are 2 scoopers, 1 for the ice cream line and 1 for the gelato line.


Our lovely round of mochi ice cream — green tea totally dominated!

Chado Tea Room – Little Tokyo

369 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 258-2531
Haven’t seen some of my girlfriends for a while, so we planned to meet for afternoon tea and settled on this place.  It’s in the heart of Little Tokyo, right next to the Japanese American Museum.  Parking could be hard to find in the area.  So, unless you get lucky with one of the few street meters, you’re better off parking at a lot that charges $3 – $5 a day.
It’s a nice place to spend a weekend afternoon.  The service is good and food is one of the better ones that I’ve had at afternoon teas.  I do wish that they use real flowers at the tables, and stop using any teapots that are chipped!  But, oh well, that’s just me.
According to our waitress, Chado Tea Room has over 250 tea selections
The restaurant also sells tea sets, tea cups, saucers, etc.
The outside seating.  Too bad the flowers were fake!
Afternoon tea set – $18 per person which includes 4 half sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber,curry egg and cranberry chicken), 1 scone, 1 cake and selection of tea.  The picture is the 2 person portion, so double of everything.   I’d recommend getting a few a la carte items instead of going for the set because there is just WAY too much food for 1 person.  There is a $3 splitting charge for afternoon tea sets.
The strawberries with creme is so good on the scones!
Bottom tier:  cakes and cookies
Going a la carte:  1/2 cucumber sandwich and 1/2 Mediterranean sandwich (olive tapenade with goat cheese, yum!).  $7.95
Teas could be brewed hot or iced.  Hot tea is served in a pot while iced teas come in a glass carafe.  This one is the apple mango with hibiscus.  Not too sweet and refreshing!  $2.75

Urth Caffe

Downtown:   451 S Hewitt St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Venice/Santa Monica:  2327 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90407

Beverly Hills:  267 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90209

West Hollywood: 8565 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069


Urth Caffe is a very popular coffee/tea/lunch/dessert spot.  There are four locations, all in LA, all listed above.  All four offer plenty of seating and are nice places to just sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee with dessert.  I’ve heard of celebrity sightings at the Melrose location.  Entourage, the HBO hit show, uses the Santa Monica store quite a lot in its episodes.

Superb organic coffee and teas, great desserts, free wifi, late hours – what else can you ask for in a coffee house?  Oh yeah, did I mention that they can draw whatever shape you’d like on your drink?  🙂

Recommended drinks:  spanish latte, Japanese green-tea latte, all of the teas.  The hot teas come in a kettle, and you can ask them to refill the hot water.  Note on the desserts – the portions are much larger than they seem.  One dessert should be split among 3 people.  Dessert highlights:  pumpkin pie, Bavarian fruit tart, napoleon, green-tea tiramisu, and any of the cheesecakes.


Receipt – they note the design that you want on your drink.  Popular designs include:  Hello Kitty, leaf, bear, swan, etc.


Green-tea/matcha tiramisu – I’ve only seen this at the DT location


Tada!  My green-tea latte and dessert