Category Archives: Japanese

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!

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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

Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden

1618 Cravens Ave
Torrance, CA 90510

(310) 328-1323

http://www.ichimiann.com

http://www.yelp.com/biz/ichimi-ann-bamboo-garden-torrance

 

I’ve heard lots of good things about Ichimi Ann – it’s one of the few places in LA which makes and serves fresh soba and udon.  According to Ichimi Ann’s website, the buckwheat and flour for the noodles are imported from Japan, and the noodles are made daily.  Ichimi Ann is a fairly small restaurant, with only a few tables.  Thankfully, service is fast so the wait for a table is not long.  It’s easy to find street parking in the area.  Ichimi Ann is CASH ONLY though, so make sure you come prepared!

 

From the restaurant’s official website, it looks like they also have a location in Rolling Hills, which specializes in tempura.  So I’ll give that a try soon!

 

There is no English sign for the restaurant, so here’s the signage to help you out  🙂

 

The menu – prices include tax.  Besides soba and udon noodles, Ichimi Ann also has different rice bowls (curry, unagi, chicken, etc).  Place and pay for your order first, before seating.  The server will then bring your order to your seat.

 

Besides table seating, there is also counter seating along the sides.  Condiments include soy sauce and shichimi seasoning (7-spices).  Water, ice barley tea and extra soba sauce are all self-serve near the cash register.

 

The una-toro soba (#20).  Soba noodles in hot broth, topped with grilled eel (unagi) and grated mountain yam.  The texture was really interesting – the soft soba noodles combined eaten with a bite of the rich unagi… and the mountain yam kind of melds the flavors together.  So good!  For those of you who have not tried mountain yam before, it’s a bit gooey and bland.  Ichimi Ann’s soba is lighter in color, compared to the soba that you buy at the stores.  The soba broth is light but has enough flavor.  Just a note – portion wise, it’s a bit small, so consider one of the rice dishes along with this!  $11.40

 

Kakiage soba (#11) – soba noodles in hot broth, topped with a fried shrimp, onions, seaweed and scallions.  I heard this was also pretty good, but again, portion size is a bit small.  $8.75

 

The noodles are served with red pickled cucumber.  It’s crunchy and a bit salty, typical of Japanese pickled vegetables.

 

Loved the soba noodles here.  Will be back to try the udon and rice dishes next!

Torihei

1757 W Carson St
Ste A
Torrance, CA 90501

Hours:  Mon-Sun 5:30 pm – 12 am

(310) 781-9407

 

Torihei is a really great yakitori/izakaya restaurant in Torrance.  Izakaya restaurants are Japanese beer houses, featuring small dishes.  Yakitori is basically meat or vegetable on skewers.  Torihei is only open for dinner, and since the restaurant is on the small/medium side, reservations are highly recommended to avoid a long wait!  Torihei is located in the same center as Musha and Nozomi – so parking is a breeze.

My last visit here was New Years Eve, which is one of the very few times that Torihei does not accept reservations.  Even so, the wait wasn’t too bad – it was about 45 minutes.  When you sit down, you’ll have a few different order forms!  One for the yakitori items, 1 for the oden items, and 1 for the yakitori.  Don’t be daunted!  Take a look at what other people have ordered… and also take a look at what we ordered:

 

Started off with some apple shoju.    Shoju is basically flavored sake.  Torihei uses chilled small apples to be served as shot glasses for the shoju.  So cute and ingenious!  This is the regular size at $8.99.  You can also order a large for $12.99.  The apple shoju is a little sweet but wonderful flavor!  I could hardly taste the alcohol…  mmm….

 

This is one of Torihei’s most popular dishes: chopped cucumber with sesame oil.  The cucumber is wonderfully seasoned with the sesame oil, and mixed with the tomato.  It’s both crunchy and refreshing!  $5.95

 

The cabbage salad is also one of the most ordered items.  It’s a simple cabbage salad tossed with scallions, in sesame dressing.  It’s also light and refreshing, especially to balance out the yakitori meats!  $5.95

 

This is also one of Torihei’s specialties:  half-done egg.  The eggs are immersed in the oden broth, while covered with salmon roe.  For people who love runny eggs, this is a must order!  $1.95

 

Grilled squid!  The WHOLE squid is grilled, then lightly brushed with yakitori sauce and is served with a side of mayo.  The squid is juicy and tender, and you can really taste the squid’s natural flavor!  $5.95

 

Chicken wing – the skin is crispy while the meat is juicy inside.  It’s just seasoned with salt,  simple yet so tasty!  $2.50

 

Asparagus with pork – it’s literally pork-wrapped asparagus.  The pork is a little crispy, and drizzled with a curry sauce.  Yum!  $3.95 for an order of 2.

 

Bacon-wrapped okra – perfect blend of meat and vegetable.  This is also seasoned with just salt, but so delicious!  $2.50

 

I love the “robata” rice balls at Torihei!  The rice balls are lightly covered with soy sauce, then grilled, so that the rice is crispy with a slightly burnt taste.  Just a warning – this make take up to 30 minutes to prepare, so make sure to order them during the first round!  Comes with the yellow pickled radish, and pickled mustard.  The rice balls are pretty sizable so 1 per person is more than enough.  $2.20 per rice ball.

 

Grilled shrimp!  It’s seasoned with salt and served with a dollop of mayo.  I didn’t try this but my friend said it was really good.

 

The Korean short-ribs.  We did not expect the plate to be so generous!  This is just 1 order.  The meat tastes a little sweeter than the traditional Korean version, but nonetheless, it was very soft and tender!   I think it was $5.95 or $6.95

 

Torihei’s chicken meatballs are also really tasty.  The meatballs are a good size, are lightly grilled with a yakitori sauce, and yet so juicy!  $1.80 per skewer

 

Torihei’s chicken meatballs are so good, but covered in cheese, they’re even better!  $2.50 per skewer

 

Chicken breast skewers!  You can select from 3 different sauces – spicy cod roe (the bottom 2), plum sauce (the middle) or with wasabi (the top two).  I liked the spicy roe version the best!  $1.80 per skewer

 

This is the fried pumpkin with cornflakes.  Little did we know it’d be a dessert sort of item.  The pumpkin is actually kabocha squash.  Dip the fried pumpkin in the accompanied vanilla ice cream, and you get the best of both worlds (hot and cold!).  YUM!  $5.95

Akasaka Restaurant

14926 Clark Ave
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

(626) 336-0871

http://www.yelp.com/biz/akasaka-restaurant-hacienda-heights

 

Akasaka is located in the middle of a residential area in Hacienda Heights, seemingly out of place for a Japanese restaurant.  But, don’t let that fool you.  This place has been around for over 40 years.  It’s best known for its HUGE chirashi bowl (one order serves 2-3 people), which has all sorts of seafood and fish.  All of the menu item portions are pretty generous too.  Just a warning, their sushi rolls are 3 times the size of regular sushi rolls.

Food is always consistent.  Service is pretty great and fast.  Make a reservation, if you can, otherwise sometimes the wait could be horrendous.  Parking wise, Akasaka does have a small adjacent parking lot.  Once that’s full, there’s usually lots of street parking available.

Regardless of what you order, everyone at the table is served with a small salad and miso soup.

   

 

The famous chirashi bowl – it has spicy tuna, salmon, eel, scallop, uni, albacore tuna, monkfish liver, yellow tail, salmon roe, tobikko, squid, octopus, sweet shrimp, tuna tataki.  The sushi rice beneath the mountain of seafood is really yummy too!  $38.50 per order

 

Rainbow roll with tons of fish.  $28.50 for 8 pieces and $18 for 4 pieces.  This is the 4 pieces order, like I’ve said, the portions are huge!  The fish is so fresh and melts in your mouth….

 

Crunchy roll – with avocado and tempura shrimp.  It’s coated with tempura crumbs.  Yum!  $18 for 8 pieces, $14.50 for 6 pieces

 

Spider roll – fried soft-shell crab sushi coated with masago.  So good!  $18 for 8 pieces and $12 for 4 pieces.

 

Tempura udon – big bowl of udon accompanied by assorted tempura (shrimp, eggplant, italian squash, sweet potato).  My friends said this was pretty good!  $11

 

We were there for a birthday.  Just when we thought we were done with dinner, the waitress brought out a big cake, on the house!  Not sure if they make it in house, but the cake was really moist and tasty.  What a great surprise!

 

We also ended up with some sushi-shaped lollipops, compliments of the house.  These are so cute!

 

Kotosh Peruvian

 

2408 Lomita Blvd
Lomita, CA 90717

(310) 257-1363

http://www.kotoshrestaurant.com

http://www.yelp.com/biz/kotosh-lomita

 

Kotosh is a bit of a fusion restaurant, but it’s not your average fusion restaurant. The restaurant serves Peruvian food and Japanese sushi with a Peruvian twist. Tucked in a little plaza, across from the popular Gaja okonomiyaki restaurant, it is very easy to miss. There is limited parking spots in the plaza – make sure you don’t park in the adjacent lots, otherwise you will be towed! If in doubt, check with the restaurant server.

The restaurant is separated into 2 parts: the front has the sushi bar and seats smaller parties; the back section seats 3 large tables/parties. Reservations are recommended! Sometimes you can find Kotosh deals on Restaurant.com , so check before you go and maybe save yourself some $$.

Now onto the food!

 

No trip to a Peruvian restaurant is complete without starting off with some ceviche! There’s 2 varieties to choose from: all fish ceviche or mixed seafood. This is the all fish version – the fish is marinated in fresh lime juice. Comes with roasted corn, hominy and sweet potato. Nice and tangy! $13.50

 

This is also a must order – spicy tuna salad. The name is a little misleading, as it’s only the tuna that’s actually spicy. The assorted lettuce is tossed with spicy tuna, masago and sesame/ponzu sauce. $14.25 for the large size.

 

The papa rellena is also pretty good. This is 2 orders – it’s mashed potato stuffed with seasoned ground beef and onions. Crispy on the outside, yet nice moist potato texture with the filling inside. Mmmm… Only available Fri – Sun! $3.95 per order.

 

We also tried the fish chowder during our last visit. There’s also a shrimp version. It’s a creamy concoction of fish, corn, egg and rice, with a bit of saffron. Yummy! One order was enough to split among the 7 of us. $12.25

 

The Peruvian standard dish – lomo saltado. Stir-fried beef with tomatoes, onions and french fries, served with rice. Your choice of chicken, beef, fish or mixed seafood. We usually order the beef version. The other dishes easily outshines this one. For great lomo saltado, look to El Rocoto in Gardena or Marios in Mid-Wilshire! $11

 

Chicharron mixto al ajo – fried seafood (shrimp, squid, fish) in special garlic sauce, served with rice. The seafood coated with the sauce is so tasty! $15.25

 

Acebichado roll – one of Kotosh’s special menu items, it has shrimp tempura, crab mix, cucumber and avocado, wrapped with halibut and topped with special ceviche sauce. The sauce is a spicy creamy sauce, which goes really well with the sushi. You’ve never had sushi like this! $12.75

 

Macchu Picchu Roll – shrimp tempura and avocado topped with tuna and special spicy mayonnaise sauce . This rolls is also really good, especially for tuna lovers! $13.25

 

Halekulani Special – tuna, salmon and avocado, topped with spicy masago. For people who are not fans of shrimp tempura, this is a great choice! $12

 

Food portions are pretty generous. Between the 7 of us, we still had plenty of left-overs!