Category Archives: Japanese

Marion Crepes – Pop-up Store @ Torrance Mitsuwa

21515 S Western Ave
Torrance, CA 90501
 

Marion Crepes, the famous patisserie from Harajuku in Tokyo, has a pop-up store inside the Torrance Mitsuwa for a limited time!!!  I chanced upon it while I lunched at the food court last week, and vowed to be back during the weekend when I had more time.  The pop-up store will run until 3/30/2014, and there’s a 30 minute break daily between 4pm -4:30pm.

The line was pretty long today.  We waited in line for about 15-20 minutes just to place our order.  Once our order was in, we waited another 5 minutes for the crepes to be made.  There are only 2 workers at the pop-up store, so expect a bit of a wait.

 

 

The display case with the model crepes.  There are so many choices!  It’s mostly dessert crepes, with 2 different savory tuna crepes.

 

There’s also the option of adding additional toppings.  Go for the green tea ice cream!

 

All of the crepes are made fresh-to-order.

 

We got the #16 – nutella with banana crepe, and added the green tea ice cream.  The nutella crepe is a warm crepe, so they left the crepe on the pan longer – the result is a wonderful crispy wafer cookie texture.  The green tea ice cream really complemented the crepe – it’s so rich and creamy!  The gooey warm nutella and banana are winning combinations with the crepe.  So yummy!  $7.09 including tax

 

For sure, will be back before the pop-up store closes, so that I can try the other flavors!  🙂

Maruhide Uni Club 丸秀

2130 W Redondo Beach Blvd
Torrance, CA 90504

(310) 323-2864

http://www.yelp.com/biz/maruhide-uni-club-torrance

 

Maruhide Uni Club started as a store that sells uni (aka sea urchin)… many varieties of uni at that.  In order to introduce their uni to more customers, Maruhide Uni Club launched its restaurant business earlier this year, in May.  The restaurant is located in a small shopping plaza, across the way from Target.  Parking lot is a little small, so try your luck at street parking (shouldn’t be too hard to find) if the lot is full.  The restaurant itself is medium-sized, and we didn’t have much of a wait for a large party on a Saturday at noon.  However, it filled up pretty fast, and by the time we left, there were a few parties waiting.  So, best come earlier!

 

The store front

 

You can also buy the different uni choices to go!

 

From the store’s website — it’s the only factory-direct uni restaurant in the US! And now an omakase (chef’s choice) menu is offered, but must be reserved 7 days in advance.  Tempting…

 

   

The menu

 

The uni cream pasta —  one of my friends ordered this.  It tasted pretty good, there was a lot of uni and the pasta was relatively light.  However, if you like more uni flavor and stronger taste, go for the one at Marugame Monzo in Little Tokyo.

 

The rest of us opted for the nigiyaka bowl – which is basically a chirashi bowl with lots of uni!  And it came with a small side salad…

 

And a bowl of broth, which had a sliver of uni…

 

And the nigiyaka bowl itself!  There’s scallops, salmon, salmon roe, albacore tuna, sea cucumber and 4 different types of uni (fresh uni, marinated uni with squid, salted uni, and uni omelette).  Everything was fresh and the portions were really generous.  I was pretty much uni-ed out by the end of the meal.  I think I definitely prefer fresh uni!  $19.80

I think the nigiyaka bowl is a really good chirashi bowl.  However, if I’m in the mood to just eat good uni, I’d opt for the uni bowl at Nozomi!

Best Chirashi Bowls in LA

Discover Los Angeles has published its top 10 chirashi bowls in Los Angeles list, found here.  I have tried the ones from Maruhide Uni Club and Morizo Sushi Kaisen.  While these are certainly good, I think the chirashi bowls from Akasaka and K-Zo are much better.  I think the author is seriously missing out….

 

Akasaka’s chirashi bowl – overflowing with seafood! What more can you ask for?

 

K-Zo’s chirashi bowl – simple yet fresh

 

Morizo Sushi Kaisen’s chirashi bowl – much more than a take-out sushi place.  The fish comes in huge chunks!

 

Maruhide Uni Club’s chirashi bowl — it’s all about the uni/sea urchin!

 

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

http://www.yelp.com/biz/marugame-monzo-los-angeles-2

 

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!

K-ZO

9240 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

(310) 202-8890

 

http://www.k-zo.com/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/k-zo-culver-city

 

I found this great spot while perusing through the menus during the last DineLA event back in July.  Although reviews were really great, I wasn’t expecting much, since c’mon, how great can sushi be on the Westside when compared to Little Tokyo or South Bay?  But I’m happy to say, it quite blew me away!

The restaurant is located right next to the Trader Joe’s in downtown Culver City.  Parking is easy — just park in the same structure as Trader Joes, first 2 hours is free if I remember correctly.  There is limited sushi bar seating, and the restaurant is not big by any means, so reservations are recommended.  Service was quick and friendly.  Food was so good that I went there twice during DineLA week!  🙂

 

 

So here’s what I tried for the DineLA dinner prix fixe ($45):

Loved how the hot tea is served in a pot!

 

Spicy tuna crispy — spicy tuna on baked brown rice cracker .  The rice cracker was a bit too dense, but the spicy tuna was really good.  Supplemental appetizer $7.

 

Oyster Half Shell with Uni & Caviarfresh oyster in half shell topped with sea urchin and caviar (2 pcs).  This was so luxurious that it’s almost sinful, although I couldn’t really taste the caviar.  I didn’t think uni would go well with oysters, but wow, yum yum yum!

 

We also got a albacore salad to share.  6 large slices of tuna with garlic ponzu sauce.  This was very tasty!  $18

 

Assorted sashimi – salmon, maguro and albacore tuna.  The salmon was one of the best I’ve had — just melted in my mouth!  All the fish was really fresh.

 

Lobster roll with asparagus wrapped in soy paper.  The lobster tail is just for show — the meat is all in the roll already.  This was good but not as mind-blowing as the uni oyster or the sashimi.

 

Dessert – I think this had to be the show-stopper!  There was so many ingredients in this dessert, it was almost insane.  It’s vanilla ice topped with taro sauce, mochi balls, fresh mangos strawberries and blueberries, slivered almonds, and finally finished off with 2 Pocky sticks.  The combo worked though and it was awesome!  Not sure if they have this all the time or if it was a DineLA special…

 

And here’s the DineLA lunch prix fixe ($25 per set):

Started off with some miso soup.  Miso soup is miso soup, not bad.

 

Lunch set #1

First course – crab sunomono – crab with cucumber and seaweed in sweet vinegar sauce.  Pretty refreshing.

 

Second course:  deluxe sushi assortment — unagi, shrimp, whitefish, yellow-tail, salmon, albacore and maguro nigiri with a popcorn shrimp with asparagus roll.  I tried a few of the sushi and they were really good!

 

Lunch set #2

First course:  seafood tempura — salmon, whitefish, shrimp and calamari.  The tempura was crispy yet light.  Loved it!

 

Second course:  Chirashi — I think the picture pretty much says it all — it’s an assortment of salmon, shrimp, albacore, whitefish, salmon egg, spicy tuna and egg cake on a bed of sushi rice.  The fish was very fresh and the portion was generous.  Delicious!

 

Can’t wait for the next DineLA to start in January!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best restaurants in South Bay

Discover LA published its list of the best restaurants in South Bay and I think it’s a pretty good one (although with so many great restaurants in South Bay, I’m sure they missed some!):

http://www.discoverlosangeles.com/blog/best-restaurants-south-bay-los-angeles?utm_source=DMC&utm_medium=EMAIL&utm_content=GlESEEhBSlwLWXICWVURWEgHXl8=&utm_campaign=1057:dineLA%20Weekly%20Eblast

 

Here are my posts of the ones I’ve been to:

Al-Watan      http://wanderfoodie.com/2012/01/28/al-watan-halal-restaurant/

Eatalian Cafe:  http://wanderfoodie.com/2011/07/27/eatalian-cafe/

Nozomi:  http://wanderfoodie.com/2011/07/10/nozomi-望/

The Standing Room:  http://wanderfoodie.com/2013/02/25/the-standing-room/

 

I’ve been meaning to try Fishing with Dynamite and Little Sister, both in Manhattan Beach.  Has anyone been?  I haven’t heard of Coni’s Seafood or Mar’sel… I guess they’ll go on the to-eat list now!

[Arcadia] 626 Night Market!

The 626 Night Market will be this weekend at the Santa Anita Park!  There will be over 150+ vendors and food trucks, with entertainment (including Youtube sensation Jason Chen!).  There is an admission charge this time (I’m assuming to cover the venue and the free parking):

ADMISSION: Free Parking
$2 / person 4PM-6PM
$3 / person after 6PM
Free for ages 12 years and younger

And here’s the list of vendors!

http://www.626nightmarket.com/626nm_July_Map_sm-1.pdf

Sanuki no Sato

18206 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90248

(310) 324-9184

 

http://www.sanukinosato.com/en/index.html

http://www.yelp.com/biz/sanuki-no-sato-gardena

 

This place has been on my “To-Eat” list for a while now, since it has a lot of good reviews on Yelp.  Coincidentally, my boss had mentioned that she had good noodles around the area but couldn’t recall the name.  By my powers of deduction, I figured it must be Sanuki no Sato.  So off we went on a weekday for lunch.

 

The restaurant is in the same shopping center as Asa Ramen and Bonjour Bakery (both are really great btw), so parking can be a little tough at times.  The restaurant itself is pretty big, and has a few private rooms for large parties.  It was quite busy during lunch time but we didn’t have to wait.  Sanuki no Sato is well known for its noodles, so half of the menu is dedicated to hot and cold noodles.

 

The store front

 

The menu

 

Iced barley tea is served in place of water.  Mmmm…

 

Calamari salad is also on the lunch menu.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect… but it really is fried calamari on a salad. The calamari was light and crispy.  The dressing on the side was awesome – it was a wasabi in a ponzu/tangy type of sauce.  Yum!  $7

 

Nabeyaki udon was huge and did not disappoint.  It was loaded with veggies, seaweed, fishcake slices, egg, chicken and 2 large shrimp tempura on top.  The udon itself was soft and chewy.  The broth was light but flavorful.  Nabeyaki udon basically means udon in a hot iron pot, so the noodles and soup remains hot/warm for a while.  Sanuki no Sato’s version was really good… although I could’ve done without the chicken – just too many toppings!  $14

 

Kakiage udon – shrimp and burdock tempura fritters.  Two of the fritters come in an order.  The udon bowl is loaded with scallions/ green onions.  The kakiage itself was excellent – the natural flavors of the burdock and shrimp really shine through.  It was also light and crispy.  My boss loved it!  $12

 

I’ll be back to try some other noodle dishes!

Otafuku

16525 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90247

http://www.yelp.com/biz/otafuku-noodle-house-gardena

 

Otafuku has been on my Yelp bookmark list for a few years, but with so many Japanese restaurants in the South Bay area, there’s simply too many choices that I didn’t have the chance to try it out until recently.  Boy, I didn’t know what I was missing!!!

First of all, it’s a little tricky to find the restaurant.  It’s very unassuming if you’re just driving on Western – it’s very easy to miss.  Trust your GPS.  There is a small parking lot in the back of the restaurant – by small, I mean, it’d be hard for full-size cars to get in and out of the spaces.  Street parking also seems pretty easy.  Also, the entrance to the restaurant is through the BACK!  Now once you’re in the restaurant, it’s actually pretty spacious inside… and looks like a modern Japanese diner, with an open kitchen.  Portions are generous, food is great and service is pretty fast.

The lunch menu is simple but really good value.  The dinner menu encompasses the lunch menu (although $3+ more per entree than the lunch price), and also has sushi and yakitori items.

 

 

The lunch menu is a good deal – on the front page, choose between cold or hot noodles.  If going with the cold noodle option, you get to choose between 4 different noodles.  Then, you choose between the type of ingredients in your noodle.  There’s also the option to add a mini shrimp tempura bowl for $3.50 or horse mackerel bowl for $4.

 

Flip over the menu, and you’ll see that Otafuku also offers rice dishes, sides and dessert.

 

The only condiments at the table are Chinese spices (left) and mountain peppers (right).

 

The horse mackerel bowl wasn’t at all what I had expected.  It’s slivers of raw horse mackerel with fresh sprouts, on a bed of warm rice.  The mackerel had a great al dente texture to it.  It was actually really fresh and refreshing.  $4

 

Cold seiru noodles (made from the heart of the buckwheat seed) with sea eel and vegetable tempura — mix the scallions and wasabi into the sauce, for dipping the cold noodles.  Sea eel seems to be the trendy tempura item of late – it actually tastes more like fish than the eel (unagi) that many of you have eaten.  The piece of sea eel was huge and perfectly fried; it was more than enough for 2 people.  The other tempura was good too.  I’ve never had seiru noodles before and had expected it to taste like soba noodles.  However, the texture more resembles rice vermicelli.  I’m not a big fan of rice vermicelli, so I will opt for the regular soba noodles next time.  $13.50

 

From the waitress’ recommendation, we also ordered the hot udon with fish cake tempura.  Do not let the name mislead you – it’s actually a large piece of fried shrimp and scallop goodness!!!  So yummy… and the hot udon with the broth was great too.  I think I’ve found my new favorite comfort food.  $10

 

Sushi Gen

422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 617-0552

http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-gen-los-angeles

 

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