If you've followed the occasional Japanese food fairs at Marukai Market — which can include the appearance of a takoyaki chain from Osaka or a ramen shop from Toyama — you might already be familiar with one of the more popular guest vendors, a Japanese fried-chicken specialist called Tenkatori that seemed to always draw big lines.
It was big news, then, when the first U.S. location of Tenkatori opened in late December as a full-fledged storefront inside the food court at Gardena's Marukai Market, serving one of Japan's most beloved dishes, karaage (deep-fried chunks of chicken).
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If you love a juicy piece of bird, this is the place to be. Choose between regular or sweet-spicy karaage (which arrive in convenient, tender-sized sections) or choose specific parts such as wings, breast-thigh, gizzards or a 1 kilo mixed "Family Pack" for $20. The shop says the karaage's secret lies in an "accretive sauce recipe," which includes a heavy dose of garlic, as well as frying oil that's changed daily to maintain freshness and, of course, chicken that is fried to order, which means you won't see any greasy drumsticks hanging out under heat lamps.
Tenkatori hails from the Oita prefecture, located on Japan's southernmost main island, where it has operated as a single location since 1955. Since then it's garnered accolades including recognition as the No. 1 fried chicken restaurant from the Japanese Fried Food Association (yes, that really exists).
For now, Tenkatori plans to operate its new location until at least late spring, but there's a possibility that it could become permanent with enough foot traffic. Maybe bring home a family pack tonight, then?
Tenkatori Karaage, Marukai Market Food Court, 1740 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena. (310) 627-7822, facebook.com/tenkatoriusa.