Dear Mr. Gold:
Can you recommend a good place for lunch in Little Tokyo? I seem to be around there a lot lately.
--B. Mullins, Los Angeles
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Dear Ms. Mullins:
You mean other than Lazy Ox? Well, you should try Daikokuya for ramen, of course, if not the cult spicy-ramen shop Orochon, and stop by Izayoi for a quick, relatively bargain-priced izakaya lunch, although the kitchen seems to have slipped a notch lately. (The izakaya Haru Ulala is cheap and fun, especially after midnight, but is not open for lunch, unfortunately.) The pricey shabu shabu at Kagaya is wonderful, as can be the modest Shabu Shabu House in the walking mall.
For sushi, Sushi Gen is probably as good as it gets in this part of town, the kind of sushi you can imagine a brusque, prosperous businessman eating for lunch. Go Sushi in the complex on Third at Central is also pretty good -- creative, if a bit spotty. The chirashi sushi at Oomasa -- fish on sushi rice in a bowl -- is a great lunch, although I'm not sure it would be my choice for a full sushi meal. I will totally deny this if you try to attribute it to me, but I have a grudging soft spot for Mitsuru Grill, where the white guys eat sushi at the counter next to the 80-year-old Nisei OGs eating tuna salad sandwiches.
But as long as I'm back to the old-school pleasures, I might as well mention Suehiro Cafe, a great Japanese dive, open until 3 a.m., whose waitresses have been there since the early Reagan administration, and whose rotating A Lunch and B Lunch specials are full-course meals that include things like chicken tonkatsu, sanma with cold tofu, crab croquette, ginger beef or salt-grilled mackerel, with pickles, salad, macaroni salad, miso soup and tea, all for about the cost of a Happy Meal. Much of the clientele is, as it should be, Japanese kids who barely look up from their manga when their food arrives.