Dear Mr. Gold:
We only have one night in town, but we were hoping to do an izakaya crawl. Suggestions? Not in Torrance, please. If we've drunk as much as we hope to drink, it's a bit far to drive.
—Lisa, San Francisco
I know that there's something of a fad for the small-plate, alcohol-oriented pubs called izakaya at the moment, and a lot of new Los Angeles restaurants are starting to resemble izakaya too, but I sometimes yearn for the huge variety of places that used to flourish in the South Bay before the Japanese crash. (Is the U.S. recession affecting the bar scene in Yokohama at the moment? I'd guess so.)
And it's too bad you're against going to Torrance — Shin, Yuzu, Kan are all quite decent.
But there is no shortage of decent izakaya here, from the glossy Izayoi in Little Tokyo to the venerable Honda-Ya, to the pleasantly seedy Haru Ulala, which is simple, has a young crowd and is open late. The new Fu-ga is a decent bar, but the food is mostly sushi rolls and modified American bar food. On the Westside, Wakasan on Westwood is definitely real, but tends more toward hearty Japanese home cooking than drinking food. Musha, if not exciting, is a decent third stop. Ita Cho, on Beverly near Mozza, is one of the older izakaya on this side of town, very popular with Hollywood people, always crowded and fun. Orris on Sawtelle is a kind of fusiony izakaya that I like, Japanese in spirit if Mediterranean in cuisine, with plenty of good sake.
Still, these days I'm actually preferring the Korean izakaya equivalents, which are legion, funky, plentiful and kind of great — OB Bear and Hite, DwitGolMok and Mazinga, Heu and Soju Town. Am I going to send you to Dan Sung Sa? You know me far too well.
DAN SUNG SA: 3317 W. Sixth St., L.A. (213) 487-9100