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Japanese 

Thursday, May 5 2005
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Asanebo. It is a pleasure to pull up a stool to the bar, to ­utter the magic word omakase — “Feed me until I burst!” — and to sit back and wait for the food to arrive. Soft, oily salmon, mounded in a bowl, is garnished with caviar; fillets of kanpache, a tiny cold-­water tuna imported from Japan, are arranged into a little fishy Stonehenge. The ankimo (seasonal), cylinders of molded monkfish liver in a sharp ponzu sauce, is fine. 11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-3348. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun. Call for times. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $25–$90. Japanese. JG $$$ Beacon Cafe. Beacon marks the trium­phant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. His current versions of miso-­marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled ­shisito peppers are all good. You’d probably never find anything like Matsusaka’s salad of perfectly ripe avocado dressed with toasted sesame seeds and minced scallions in Tokyo, but the salad follows classical principles, and it is luscious. The hangar steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horse­radish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now. 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m. Dinner Tues.-Wed.& Sun. 5:30–9:15 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. D, MC, V. Lunch for two, food only, $18–$35. Dinner for two, food only, $26–$46. Japanese. JG $ The Hump. This little crow’s-nest sushi bar, named for a difficult Himalayan airway, sits atop Typhoon at the Santa ­Monica airport. Eat kampachi sashimi served on Mineo Mizuno’s ceramics and watch the planes pop on and off the runway. Much of the fish comes directly from the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and the chefs can go as simple or sophisticated as you like. Try the chopped Tataki-style sashimi. 3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Third Floor, Santa Monica, (310) 313-0977. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2 p.m., dinner seven nights 6–10 p.m. (10:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Full bar. Lot parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $35–$150. Japanese. MH $$$ Ita-Cho. Ita-Cho still inspires long lines on the weekends for its country or village-style Japanese cuisine. The food comes out on a series of little plates that can be shared by everyone; and, hey, if someone bogarts the sautéed miso-soaked eggplant, or marinated black cod, just order more. The kitchen and service staff are so swift, you’ll hardly notice the wait, and the prices aren’t punishing. 7311 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 938-9009. Tues.–Sat. 6:30–10:15 p.m. Beer and sake. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $20–$50. Japanese. MH $ Kagaya. Shabu shabu is pretty basic: a slice of prime meat swished through bubbling broth for a second or two, just until the pink becomes frosted with white. If you’ve done it right — and if the quality of the ingredients is as high as it is at Little Tokyo’s superb (and expensive) Kagaya — the texture is extraordinary, almost liquid, and the concentrated, sourish flavor of really good beef becomes vivid. 418 E. Second St., Little Tokyo, (213) 617-1016. Tues.–Sat. 6 –10:30 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Wine, beer, sake. Lot parking. D, MC, V. $35 fixed price. Japanese. JG $$ Kokekokko. The ritual at Little Tokyo’s Kokekokko is to order one of the set menus, either five or 10 courses of grilled chicken flesh and innards: loosely packed chicken meatballs, faintly scented with herbs; grilled skin, threaded onto the skewer in accordion pleats; marinated slivers of thigh, separated from each other by slices of onion. Grilled hearts, served with a smear of hot Chinese mustard, are a little tough, but intensely chicken-flavored. 203 S. Central Ave., downtown, (213) 687-0690. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Street parking. D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30–$50. Japanese. JG $$ Sanuki No Sato. Udon noodles come in all the standard flavors: topped with crisp buttons of tempura batter in a plain soy-enriched broth, or with chewy bits of rice cake, or with exquisitely slimy Japanese mountain yams. Yukinabe udon — served in a rustic-looking iron kettle and buried beneath half an inch of grated daikon, a sprinkling of grated wasabi and a ferociously spiced cod-egg sac — is refreshing in spite of its bulk, an exotic bowl you could eat every day. 18206 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 324-9184. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36. AE, DC, MC, V. Japanese. JG $ Sushi Tenn. The basic sushi platters at Sushi Tenn are pretty good, and a decent value. The omakase menu is also good (though quite expensive), a run through the selection of fish, including extraordinarily mellow yellowtail, aged like a fine steak, the very decent chu-toro, tuna belly, and the crunchy, briny wedge of pale-yellow herring roe. But repeat visits reveal the mastery of chef Tatsumi Hanzawa. Don’t miss the exceptional crab sushi. 2004 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 473-2388. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. No takeout. AE, MC, V. Lunch for two: $20–$60; dinner for two: $50–$150 and up. Japanese. JG $$ Tama Sushi. Studio City’s Tama Sushi is owned and run by veteran sushi master Michite Katsu and his wife, Tama. Katsu himself expertly carves up fish at the bar — it’s both educational and joyous to watch him at work. Start with a plate of assorted sashimi, and you’ll find he cuts fish as a gem cutter works with rubies, accentuating inherent virtues. 11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-4585. Open for lunch daily 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner nightly 5–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Sushi and sashimi, $1.50–$15. Japanese. MH $ Torafuku. Devoted to the Japanese cult of perfect rice, Torafuku is the first American outpost of a small Tokyo-based chain. The restaurant’s rice is warm and fluffy and with a sort of toasty quality that supposedly comes from a blast of heat at the end. It’s the focus of Torafuku’s expensive, luxurious izakaya menu; at the center of set meals, accompanied only by miso soup and pickles; topped with fried prawns or marinated tuna; or as tou-ban-yaki, seared in a superheated clay bowl with bits of seaweed, tiny dried sardines and a lightly poached egg. 10914 Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 470-0014. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner nightly. Set dinners $38; bento lunches $8.50–$12; à la carte meals vary. Beer, wine and sake. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. JG Wabi Sabi. In a neighborhood where artists once rented studios for pittances, a sleek new commercial district of antique stores, design offices and high-end restaurants has evolved — including Wabi Sabi, a skinny storefront refashioned into a Matsuhisa-derived sushi bar/Pacific Rim dinner house. Drop in for a big bowl of Cal-Asian style bouillabaisse, or linger through a multicourse meal of small plates. But sushi, here, is the real stunner — which, given the prices, it should be. Don’t miss the lobster roll. 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 314-2229. Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $12.50–$18. California/Japanese/Pacific Rim. MH $$ Kotohira. Kotohira is one of the few places in the United States that still makes udon by hand: thick, white and long, diminishing to squiggles at the ends, clean in flavor, with the bouncy resiliency of elastic ropes. Whether dunked in fish soup or anointed with curry; hot in a bowl or cold on a mat; or dry in a bowl and garnished with ginger, green onion and wisps of freshly shaved bonito — the wheaty sweetness of the noodles, set off by the clean smoky smack of the dried bonito, is among the most delicious things you have ever eaten. 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 323-3966. Lunch and dinner, Wed.–Mon. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and sake. Takeout. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15–$19. MC, V. Japanese. JG $

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