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Downtown LA Recommendations

I am going to be in downtown LA (New Otani Hotel area) for 2 nights next week on a business trip and would love some interesting recommendations. I know the hotel is near a lot of Japanese restaurants--which ones are good? And what other places in the area for creative food?

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    1. If you want authentic, and I mean authentic, sushi, go to Kappa Ishito on the 3rd Floor at Weller Court in Little Tokyo. I went there on Wed. night this week. It was incredible. But be warned, they don't make rolls. It's strictly nigiri and sashimi as well as other traditional style japanese dishes. If you're a "gringo", the proprietor will be quite surprised as he was when I showed up. It is really only known to the asian community.

      1. Be sure to sample the mochi at Fugetsudo. Also I love the grilled saury pike lunch at Suehiro.

        1. Sushi Gen is excellent
          422 E Second St
          Los Angeles, CA 90012-4209
          (213) 617-0552

          1. Sushi Komasa for sushi and izakaya fare:
            351 E 2nd St
            Los Angeles, CA 90012
            (213) 680-1792

            Daikokuya for authentic ramen:
            327 E 1st St,
            Los Angeles, CA
            (213) 626-1680

            Kokekoko for yakitori:
            360 E 2nd St
            Los Angeles, CA 90012

            1 Reply
            1. re: mintleaves

              Second the rec for Komasa, but the experience is infinitely better if you speak Japanese.

            2. The New Otani isn't all that far from Chinatown either. There you can find pretty good Chinese food in addition to the LA landmark Phillipe's.

              1. I work a block away from the New Otani. If you look out your window we may be able to wave to each other.

                Hope you like Asian food, because this area doesn't have anything good that's not Asian (except Pete's). My favorite lunch spots:

                Sushi Gen: Little Honda Plaza on 2nd and Central. Consistently great sushi, generous slices. Best sashimi lunch deal, ever. Otherwise on the pricier side. The crowds can be maddening, try to avoid at peak times.

                Sushi Gen
                422 E Second St (at Central Ave.)
                Los Angeles, CA 90012
                (213) 617-0552

                Takumi: New spot on the 2nd St. entrance to the Village, sushi bar is headed by former Sushi Gen chef. Nice space. Don't let the emptiness of the restaurant scare you, they're new. They may have a few kinks to work through but it's the first viable sushi competitor to Sushi Gen that Little Tokyo has seen in a while.

                333 E. 2nd Street (at the southwest entrance of Little Tokyo Village)
                LA, 90012
                (213) 626-1793

                Sushi Go 55: More casual than Takumi, less expensive than Sushi Gen and Takumi, almost as good as SG and T but not quite. Some people like it more than SG.

                Sushi Go 55
                333 S. Alameda (3rd floor)
                (213) 687-0777

                R-23: One of the nicest restaurant in area (though it's not right in the area, it's a bit south), nice decor, good cooked dishes but sushi is overpriced. Stick to cooked dishes if you go here.

                923 E. 2nd St.
                (213) 687-7178

                Sohoju: Modern, clean, contemporary (i.e., not the most authentic) Korean in the village. Great service, great food, reasonable prices.

                104 Japanese Village Plaza Mall

                Giggle Giggle: Newer Korean BBQ on the 3rd floor of the Weller court (next to your hotel.) Grill your own meat at your table for dinner; reasonably priced.

                Giggle Giggle
                123 S. Onizuka St., #308
                Los Angeles, CA, 90012
                (213) 613-0996

                Izayoi on Central b/w Temple and 1st. Great bento box lunches, if you get there before noon (limited number of boxes).

                132 S Central Ave (at First St.
                )Los Angeles, CA 90012
                (213) 613-9554

                Best non-asian:
                Pete's Cafe & Bar: Best non-Asian in the area. Hamburgers, pastas, salads, that kind of thing.

                Pete's Cafe & Bar
                400 S. Main (and 4th)
                (213) 617-1000

                Good casual/very casual spots:
                "AOI", "East" and "Korean BBQ", all on 1st, just north of the Village (AOI and East are Japanese
                )TOT on 2nd and Los Angeles (Japanese)
                Las Galas in the village (Japanese/Korean/American)

                To Chinatown:
                Take the "B" line of the DASH to "Chinatown" from the stop on Los Angeles, east of Temple. Stop at Philippe the Original, an LA landmark pastrami place. Go to the last stop for dim sum at Empress Pavillion (though others will disagree that they're the best in Chinatown), in the Bamboo Plaza. Yang Chow on Broadway has famous slippery shrimp that many (although not me personally) are addicted to, try it if that sounds appealing. Full House on Hill and Hop Li on Alpine (at Hill) are also good Chinese (non dim-sum) places.

                Philippe The Original
                1001 N. Alameda St. (at N. Vignes St.)
                Los Angeles, CA 90012
                (213) 628-3781

                Empress Pavillion
                988 N. Hill (2nd floor of Bamboo Plaza
                )(213) 617-9898

                Yang Chow
                819 N. Broadway
                Los Angeles, CA 90012
                TEL: (213) 625 - 0811

                Full House
                963 N. Hill St. (at Bamboo Lane)
                Los Angeles, CA 90012
                (213) 617-8382

                Hop Li
                526 Alpine St. (and Hill St.)
                Los Angeles, CA 90012

                Places to avoid: the restaurant, buffet or whatever it is now at the base of the New Otani, the Tempura Bar atop the New Otani (nice but VERY overpriced), Wyland's Brewery, anything in the village other than Sohoju, Las Galas or Takumi.

                4 Replies
                1. re: chowmominLA

                  I disagree about Weiland's only because I'm a sucker for happy hour. Love $2.50 microbrews (try the amber) and $3 chicken quesadillas.

                  Also, Philippe's isn't known for pastrami. It's supposedly the home of the French Dip.

                  1. re: MeAndroo

                    Oops, my bad re Philippe's. I guess I had Langer's on the brain.

                    Also, I hear the Wyland's/Weiland's by or in the Arco Plaza is more consistently good, but I've found the one near Little Tokyo to be very uneven.

                    1. re: chowmominLA

                      There's absolutely nothing wrong with Langer's on the brain. I'd rather have a pastrami there than a french dip at phillipe's.

                      I actually didn't like the 5th/Flower Weiland's. There much less traffic which means less scenery, and the service was just as slow as the one in Little Tokyo...which is inexcuseable considering the lack of customers. I've only been to the one in Arco once, but even when I go to the 24 hour fitness there, it's never been busy. If you're looking for a quieter time, then it's probably better.

                      Just to qualify, this has nothing to do with the actual food. I go mainly for the beer and appetizers.

                  2. re: chowmominLA

                    Agree with many of these suggestions. The lunch deal at Sushi Gen cannot be beat and for good Chinese Yang Chow is a nice Chinatown option.

                  3. chowmominLA has a good list. I especially endorse the rec's for Takumi, R23 and Sohoju. Sushi Gen is also good but the crowds are off-putting.

                    If you're wandering farther, toward the bank district, Water Grill is among the best restaurants in LA.

                    1. Azalea in the hotel is nothing special, but they do make Monte Cristo sandwiches. Not bad.
                      In Weller Court (behind/adjacent to the Otani) is Mako which has good sushi and particularly good sushi lunch specials--like about $10. If you want cuban sandwiches, Cafe Central is nearby. If you're after fish tacos, find Senor Fish over on First near Alameda. Next to R-23 is Cafe Metropole which has good salads, sandwiches, etc. Some have mentioned Pete's which has it moments, but next door to it is Banquette Cafe which is an easy place to hang particularly if Monica the owner is around. She always has a story or two of interest.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mc michael

                        I don't believe Mako is open for lunch anymore -- dinner only.

                      2. Don;t forget to get a couple of cocktails at the Edison which is in the basement of the Higgins Building on 2nd and main the entrance is in the alley which is Harlem place you can also order food.
                        Then there's Hama Sushi on 2nd street down the street from the hotel.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: afs

                          Ditto the rec for Edison. Should go just to check out the scene if nothing else.

                        2. It's definitely worth a cab ride over to La Serenata de Garibaldi, 1842 E. 1st St., for upscale Mexican, especially seafood.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mc michael

                            Do you really like LSG that much?

                            I've never found that place all that compelling ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I guess I'm a sucker for the homemade tortillas and the different sauces/salsas. Plus I like the vibe of the 1st Street branch.

                          2. Agree with most of the above recs. I'd add Haru Ulala, an izakaya on 2nd street a couple of doors W of Central. Dinner only, but open pretty late.

                            1. +1 for Sushi Gen but, in China Town, I'd rec. Hop Li over Yang Chow.

                              1. If you don't mind walking a bit (and if the weather is nice), going to Grand Central Market is a really fun adventure. You can get great Mexican food (sopas, burritos, tortas,etc), as well as kebabs and other things. I definitely think it's worth the trip, and it's really only a few blocks away. http://www.grandcentralsquare.com/

                                1. 1000 Cranes, right in the New Otani is very good. It's on the roof, and enjoys a nice outdoor Japanese garden. The food is Japanese (surprise), and quite tasty.

                                  1. I'd like to add Kokekokko for the yakitori. One of the best. See if they have the smoked chicken salad. To die for.

                                    Chicken hearts is amazing. Sounds gross but tastes great.

                                    1. Hamagawa on 2nd and ??? (kitty-korner from Office Depot) is very fresh sushi, right next door to Kokekokko in fact. Their blowtorched shiro maguro tataki is very, very good (this was the foot in the door that convinced my wife to eat Real Sushi), and of course if you sit at the bar and ask the chef what they recommend from that day's offerings, I have never found that to leave a palate wanting.

                                      Very tasty (not cheap, but you get what you pay for). Their country-style small Japanese dishes are good, and (according to my brother who works in Sapporo) authentic too.

                                      Daikokuya goes without saying (or at least it should) but for some reason people do not bring up Hamagawa as often. This perplexes me; it is as good as any sushi I have had, and I've had a lot.

                                      1. Another vote for Sushi Komasa here (and I don't speak a word of Japanesed!) The place rocks.