QUESTION: I returned from a weeklong business trip in Japan truly loving one dish: yakisoba. Something about the curry flavor and savory noodles tapped directly into the “spaghetti section” of my Western-trained taste buds. With so many Japanese restaurants, I don’t know where to turn first. Where in Los Angeles can I find this dish? (Extra bonus for meatless renditions . . . ) —Jeff, San Pedro
ANSWER: Like the cheesesteak and the chiliburger, yakisoba — Japanese-style fried noodles — is an oily, raffih concoction best consumed after midnight, a foodstuff you don’t want to observe too closely in the making, a dish you will probably regret in the morning.
I have tasted upmarket yakisoba, garnished with shrimp and lobster instead of cheap scraps of meat, glazed with delicately spiced demiglace instead of some ungodly tincture of Worcestershire and cheap tonkatsu sauce, tossed with fresh baby vegetables instead of rotgut dried seaweed, and I actually prefer the supermarket kind sauced with what tastes like pure MSG. I don’t even want to think about the yakisoba crepes served at Crepe in the Grip.
Since I was a teenager, I have been scratching my yakisoba itch at the magnificent Little Tokyo dive Suehiro, where the noodles are always a little greasy, a little intense, and wholly satisfying, especially if you dose them with a lot of the dried seaweed condiment. I’m sure they’d prepare it without meat if you asked nicely. Suehiro, 337 E. First St., Little Tokyo; (213) 626-9132.