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Sawtelle dining

I'm moving from the Southbay to the Westside (right off Sawtelle). Can anyone please tell me about this street and what it has to offer or what it may be missing? THANKS!

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  1. You can get some kickass Japanese noodles!

    1. Its all Japanese food. and a chinese place that isn't bad.

      1. Welcome to the neighborhood. As mentioned above, the Sawtelle strip itself is almost all Japanese food with a few exceptions (Ketchy's II, Little Hong Kong Cafe, whatever one would call Orris, the hookah place near Santa Monica Blvd.). The Japanese places are fairly well, and repeatedly, covered on Chowhound. Just do a search. Some of the places most often mentioned:
        Restaurant 2117
        Blue Marlin
        Sawtelle Kitchen (currently undergoing a remodel)
        Hurry Curry
        Curry House
        Asahi Ramen
        Mizu 212

        But the greater neighborhood also includes Mexican places such as:
        Tacomiendo, Juquila and Monte Alban

        other Japanese places such as:
        Sushi House

        mediocre diners:
        Cafe 50's

        mediocre Vietnamese:
        Red Moon

        and great early morning donuts:

        Thai that gets mixed reviews, at best:
        Chan Dara

        ditto for Indian:
        Bombay Cafe
        All India Cafe

        too pricey, IMO, Italian:
        Il Moro
        Il Grano

        and chicken that some rave about:
        Zankou Chicken

        Just off the top of my head.

        Not a great area for truly hidden gems because the 'hounds are scouting it all the time.

        18 Replies
          1. re: igj

            Great list, but I would add Talpa on Pico near Barrington for Mexican.

            1. re: Jwsel

              I would too actually. My Mexican rotation is limited pretty much to Tacomiendo, Monte Alban and the Talpa. It just slipped my mind, probably because I haven't been there in about a month.

              In the "I just don't get it, but apparently I am the only one" category, there is also Don Antonio's next door to the Talpa.

              1. re: igj

                You are not the only one!
                Don Antonio's is mediocre! People seem to like it because it has a full bar. The Talpa towers above in the food department, serves beer and (yucky) wine and the family that has run it for the past 40 or 50 years always makes everyone feel right at home. The salsas are incredible; the guacamole is always generous and fresh, with none of the horrible lettuce hiding beneath it; they make a great chile verde; their enchiladas with rice and beans, the chiles rellenos--excellent. In fact, you really can't go wrong with anything here, as long as you stick to the Mexican food.
                To the Japanese restaurant list I'd add the yakitori joint on Santa Monica on the corner of Corinth: Nanbankan. Especially if you eat on the early side, the chefs will make sure your food comes out in a good order.

                1. re: bridgetj

                  The mentions of Talpa got us there last night. It has been a long time since we were there last and we have been regulars at Don Antonio's for the last couple of years (we went to DA's sporadically before we became regulars).

                  The good things about Talpa. Really nice service. Attentive and very pleasant woman who kept coming by and making sure that we were fine. The food however was just okay.

                  I had the pork in spicy tomatillo sauce. Not really very spicy at all. A plus for Talpa is that they bring you a LOT of tortillas. I had the corn tortillas. The downside is the tortillas weren't very good. They tasted a bit on the stale side.

                  The guacamole is a very generous helping and has no filler, but it also had little, if any taste. I ended up salting it liberally to bring out whatever taste could be found. Same situation with the albondigas soup. Very bland. And the meatballs were bland and just too firm. The albondigas at Don Antonio's is far superior in taste, (both the broth and the meatballs).

                  My wife's crispy ground beef tacos were good and the rice and beans they serve with the entrees were also fine. The do have a wine and beer license and I had a Negro Modelo, and was some folks in front of us were drinking what looked like wine based margaritas.

                  All in all it was serviceable, but not a place I'll rush back to, (even the salsa they bring with the chips lacked taste).

                  With one beer, two cokes, one small soup, two main courses and the order of guacamole the check was $44 plus tip.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    I've been going to the Talpa...well, since I was about six months old. I've never had a problem with blandness -- I actually think their salsa is one of the better ones that I've had at hole-in-the-wall Mexican places.

                    Favorite dishes are the cheese tamales (I think you can only get them when corn is in season), gallina en caldo (great for when you're feeling under the weather) and albondigas (I don't think it's bland). And enchiladas, chiles rellenos, yadda yadda yadda.

                    Talpa isn't a destination restaurant, but if you're craving cheap Mexican it's worth going.

                    1. re: Bjartmarr

                      If you haven't had the albondigas next door at Don Antonio's I suggest giving it a try just to have a basis for comparison. It's always possible that this was an off night for seasoning, especially the distinct lack of salt (at least to my taste buds). But my number one reason for saying everything was lacking salt that night was the fact that my wife thought it was under salted. She is almost constant in her complaints / sensitivity to salt when we go out. I'll try and give it another try and try the cheese tamales (if available) or some of the other recommendations you made here. Thanks for your input.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I forget if they call them cheese tamales or corn tamales. They have both cheese and corn inside them.

              2. re: Jwsel

                Also not too far is Nook and Terried Sake House! YUM!! :)


                1. re: Dommy

                  good call on terried sake house. i was there last night and had a blast.

                  1. re: wilafur

                    Go, if you must, to Terried Sake House, but I would recommend that you instead try SaSaYa Japanese restaurant (which is next or two doors east).

                    SaSaYa Japanese Restaurant
                    11613 Santa Monica Blvd
                    Los Angeles, CA 90025
                    (310) 477-4404

                    1. re: yinyangdi

                      LIke both Terried & SaSaYa (esp. the raw wasabi octopus)...and Nanbankan for grilled lamb, squid...and Furaibo's chicken wings...yum!

              3. re: igj

                Great list! I just moved to the area and now have a plan of attack for Sawtelle! Just wanted to add that I've eaten at Il Grano, which was pricey, but amazing with impecable service and well worth the price for the experience. Next door is La Bodgea, an Italian cafe and market by the same owners with delicious food that is much more reasonably priced. You can eat there or get takeout. Highly recommend it!

                1. re: igj

                  Walking around the neighborhood last night, I also passed:

                  Siam Chan - little to no atmosphere Thai that seems to do a nice takeout business. I have had good tod mun bpla (fried fish cake) from this spot, but nothing else has excited me too much. I am a picky Thai food eater though.

                  Zip Fusion Sushi - I've never been but I've not heard good things either.


                  Javan - Persian place on the corner of Santa Monica and Butler. It was hopping last night.

                  Gr/eats - the artsy cafe/restaurant from the Giant Robot folks.

                  Certainly no shortage of places within a 15-20 minute walk of my place!

                  1. re: igj

                    Yakitoriya is really good, if a little expensive. I like the ground chicken bowl/quail egg, but the skewers are where it really shines. All sorts of yummy chicken parts. They used to do chicken sashimi, but I didn't see it there the last few times I ate there.

                    1. re: MrShoop

                      Yakitori-ya is worth every penny spent. Health Department is to blame for the lack of chicken sashimi no longer being offered.

                  2. re: igj

                    I'd also add SF Saloon for the burgers.

                    1. re: igj

                      Wow Delores get a mention on CH! lol. Sometimes you just want eggs, hashbrowns, bacon and a newspaper

                      1. ditto on the great list igj! what about sushi tenn? i never see anyone, or just few people in there?!?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: food_natzi

                          I am surprised that Sushi Tenn is still in business because, as you point out, it always seems so desolate. I had a set menu there once (they had a few omakase-like options on their menu - I realize that might not qualify as true omakase, but...) and it was good, but not amazing. And it seemed both pricey and a bit too austere, in atmosphere, service and food, for my taste. That said, Jonathan Gold and others have sung its praises. Since I am not a complete sushi purist, Kiriko fits my bill better.

                          I also forgot Hide on my list. Classic by now inexpensive sushi, with all the good and bad that such a label implies.

                          1. re: igj

                            I actually think Kiriko is better for sushi purists. I liked the cooked items I had at Sushi Tenn, but the sushi was forgettable and not nearly in the same league as Kiriko. I was surprised, because I expected a lot from Sushi Tenn after reading Jonathan Gold.

                            1. re: Jwsel

                              imo Kiriko is the hands-down winner for sushi on Sawtelle.

                              1. re: Jwsel

                                That is very good to know. I had no cooked dishes my one time at Sushi Tenn, but often get one or two cooked dishes at Kiriko (plus - GASP - some rolls too). And I go to Kiriko as often as the pocketbook allows, so I know Kiriko has my vote.

                          2. While you're on Sawtelle, you might want to wander the Nijiya Market and check out its wonderful display of sushi and various boxed, prepared food items. Then, of course, wander back next door to Beard Pappa's and check out their cream puffs!

                            1. Late night option near Sawtelle for Japanese - decent food better than 24 hour Yoshinoya Beef Bowl: New Japan (strip mall Sawtelle and Santa Monica) and for Hookah and late night hummus at Dahab, Sawtelle - South of Santa Monica.

                              1. My personal favorites on Sawtelle and Orris and 2117 for Asian fusion (especially Orris!); Hide for inexpensive, high quality nigiri in a no-frills environment; and Kiriko for more upscale sushi (although if you sit at a table rather than the sushi bar, you can expect service that is even worse than Hide!).

                                1. Ate at Manupuku the other night...way downhill I thought. But maybe I have just been eating at such better Korean places of late that they stayed the same and I went UPhill. Either way most of the food was quite mediocre.

                                  1. I second 2117, it a great little place for good upscale food.

                                    1. just went to sawtelle kitchen last night for the first time in a while. the place was empty but the service was attentive and the food was definitely worthwhile. had the swordfish with butter/balsamic sauce and my dad had the hamburger steak. the hamburger steak wasn't as good as curry house's but not bad either. the swordfish was a well done and decent sized portion. don't know why the place has seemed so dead recently. my dad says they must've lost their good feng shui when they remodeled. ;)

                                      1. I don't find it very useful when someone responds to a query by listing 15 or 20 names of places. What a poster wants (IMHO) is someone to recommend one or two favorite places and explain what makes them special. Having said that I want to mention Tofu-ya on Sawtelle as being one of my faves: tasty food, not expensive and I consider it ethnically edgy for the tame westside. Try the bibimbap with soon tofu on the side. And you get all those little Korean dishes - what's the name?

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: BIM

                                          little korean dishes=ban chan

                                          1. re: tooth

                                            I love everything about mizu 212. Shabu-shabu in a very crisp, casual atmosphere, tasty sauces, good service, all the way from vegetarian to beef to pork to a big plate of seafood, it's fun to cook, healthy and filling without doing much damage to your wallet or your shape.

                                            1. re: deadre

                                              Agree with wanting to like Mizu 212, but it's just not as tasty as KaGaYa, though....

                                            1. re: BIM

                                              Hmm, I don't know. Personally I think it's very useful to have a whole list the way it was broken down. OP wanted to know what was there and what was offered.

                                              When I moved into the area, I found a similar list and it was very handy for exploring.

                                              1. re: Jase

                                                Yeah, you probably right. I take it back.

                                            2. if you're drunk and up around 2 am, join the crowd at big tommy's; no it's not the original, but if you're drunk you won't notice. greasy snacks aplenty.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: lakeshow318

                                                This is the one M version of the imitators. Big Tomy's. NE corner of Sawtelle and Pico.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  They also serve great and cheap breakfasts in the a.m. (but not till after 4:30am). The breakfast burrito, huevos rancheros, and chilaquiles are my favorites. I love their salsa roja--I always get extra and use it on everything at home.

                                                  1. re: chowbee

                                                    i actually think i prefer the imitation better than the original. maybe it's the proximity, but i also like the unabashed "we sell any type of fast food" mentality this place has. last weekend my buddies and i ordered a whole table full of grease including bacon cheese burgers, burritos, grilled cheese, onion rings, and gyros. all of it was pretty good going down...

                                                    1. re: lakeshow318

                                                      If you are feeling the need for grease just order and consume one of their tamales smothered (drowned?) in chili with cheese and onions (and a few of their little yellow hot peppers from the shelf where the condiments are). You won't have that feeling again anytime soon.

                                                      1. re: lakeshow318

                                                        I'm not really a huge fan of chili so I much prefer the one M imitation to the original (with its smaller number of non-chili-topped items). That said, I'm not originally from LA, and didn't realize it was supposed to be an imitation until someone pointed out the similarity of names--the menus are just so different despite some overlap.

                                                2. Arrgh, I liked that strip mall a lot better back when there was a tiny Mexican joint in it called Carrillos. They had excellent and cheap taco, enchilada etc. combos. They were kicked out several years back when the RE owner apparently decided to go with the all-asian theme. Curses be upon him/her...