One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is how internationally we can eat, even within a reasonable driving distance. This extends to morning fare as well, as one can start the day with any kind of breakfast — for example, a traditional Japanese breakfast, made up of several small dishes.
Despite the wealth of Japanese options in Sawtelle and Little Tokyo, you won’t find a traditional Japanese breakfast in either of those two communities. For that, you’ll have to head to Fukagawa, in the South Bay city of Gardena.
First, a little history. Gardena has a strong Japanese-American presence, dating back to the 1900s, when Japanese immigrants began farming on marginal land muddied by tidal wetlands that stretched to the harbor. After internment during World War II, many Japanese-Americans returned to Gardena. Until 2014, the city had the highest percentage of Japanese-Americans in the county.
Which brings us back to Fukagawa. The restaurant is hidden from view, tucked into a space beyond a corner of the Pacific Square Shopping Center. The breakfasts are served in four different combinations. Combo A is pescatarian (not vegan): a bowl of rice, miso soup, cold tofu with scallions and bonito flakes, pickled vegetables, a sheet of nori (seaweed) and an egg. You have one of four options for your egg: sunny-side up, raw, scrambled or dashimaki tamago, a style of egg that should be familiar to those whose sushi bar experience extends beyond ordering only California rolls.
Combo B adds the notorious fermented soybeans, natto. Considered by many to be a truly acquired taste, natto does appeal to those able to get past the gooey texture and strong aroma to discover a nutty flavor. It’s served in a small bowl, topped with scallions and a raw quail egg, with a smear of wasabi along the edge. Stir it together, adding as much wasabi as you wish. Combo C subtracts the natto and adds your choice of steak or fish (mackerel, salmon or Spanish mackerel). There’s nothing fancy about the fish, which is simply salted and then grilled. The fourth and final combo, D, includes both natto and the choice of steak or fish to provide the largest breakfast option.
Breakfast is served all day, though the restaurant is closed between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
At night, Fukagawa serves a wide range of Japanese items, including shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot), but it’s the traditional breakfasts that are the attraction here. With the restaurant being part of the community for more than 30 years, it’s the kind of place that attracts regulars. Japanese is the language most commonly heard, and a TV in the corner plays Japanese programming. Fukagawa might not be shiny and new, and would never make any hip or trendy list, but it’s yet another reason to love the options we have available.
1630 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena; (310) 324-4306.