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ISO the Best of Japan in LA/OC

I have a Japanese friend who's moving to LA to teach and study at UCLA, and I suspect that after a while he'll be missing the tastes of home. Unfortunately (and as my cardiovascular system will sadly attest), I know more about our fair city's Mexican food offerings and steakhouses than I do about its Japanese fare.

I've told him about Ramenya on Olympic near Sawtell, and Sushi Gen downtown. (Urasawa is probably not in his budget.) Also mentioned the Murukai Forum in Garden Grove. (It is in Garden Grove, right?)

So, where else should I send him? What are the best places for Japanese grub in Los Angeles and Orange County?

As always, TIA hounds.

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  1. Musha! I really can't say enough good things about it. He might enjoy visiting Little Tokyo downtown and westside Little Tokyo on Sawtelle when he checks out your recs for Gen and Ramenya respectively.

    1. While it's easy to find fantastic sushi here in Los Angeles, it's harder to find the other comfort foods of Japan. I still bemoan the lack of any decent izakaya in Little Tokyo, but am excited to hear that a good one, Honda-ya, will be opening there soon. In the meantime, take him to Musha- the one in Torrance is best but the Santa Monica one isn't bad. They have great Japanese style fried chicken, tofu salad, risotto (strange, I know, but Japanese izakayas have a great mix of Japanese and western fusion food), sashimi, the flame torched saba....it's all good grub.

      There's also some pretty good eatin' (katsu- fried pork cutlet, rice, miso soup, etc + good ramen) at the little places in the Mitsuwa market in Torrance, plus a giant Japanese book store where he can get his magazine and book fix.

      Tuna Toast http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/

      1. My Japanese informant is telling me the Japanese community is moving en-masse to Gardena and Torrance, which seem to be THE places to look for from now on.

        Anybody corroborating this?

        2 Replies
        1. re: RicRios

          The Japanese community has been there since at least Post-WWII. And yes, more and more are moving there because of the existing community, social infrastructure, schools, Japan-based companies, and of course, the food...Lomita has been slowly but surely popping up as a place for great Japanese food as well. Gaja, Chantilly, and Kotosh at Kamiyama are three great places that are at the same intersection, and Il Chianti just down the road on Narbonne... I think the OP's friend will do well if he finds a place in the general South Bay area if at all possible...

          1. re: bulavinaka

            Yup, the en masse thing happened in the 70s and 80s, and that laid the economic foundation for further growth of Japanese businesses to the area, just as bulavinaka describes. Similar thing happened with the Chinese to Monterey Park at about the same time.

            I think the OP's friend will be happy with a place near Sawtelle, since I think the commute from the southbay to UCLA will quickly wear thin. There are plenty of options around Sawtelle to keep him/her feeling at home, although I find Sawtelle (and the west side) geared more towards a younger expat crowd. Frequent weekend trips to the southbay will just enforce the feeling of japaneseness, when necessary.

        2. Marukai, not Murukai, is in Gardena, not Garden Grove.

          There are 3 grocery markets on Sawtelle: Nijiya, Safe & Save, Granada, and 1 on Centinela: Mitsuwa, so no need to drive down to Gardena, although things are a little cheaper at Marukai.

          Sawtelle Blvd. offers an array of fairly decent, if not great, Japanese food: yakiniku, yakitori, shabu shabu, shushi, ramen, udon/soba, curry, pastries.......and it's close to UCLA, so no need to venture down 405 especially during weekdays.

          3 Replies
          1. re: fdb

            I beg to differ about not needing to head down to the South Bay... The breadth of selection and variety down there is amazing... I agree that Sawtelle has great offerings but is only a snapshot of what Japanese and Japanese-Americans look for...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I agree with you on the need to go to the South Bay for good Japanese; I do it as often as possible. That said, I wouldn't recommend finding a place there just for the food options and commuting to UCLA.

              But then again, I'm leaving Silver Lake for Ktown today because I don't want to deal with the northern East-West commute to UCLA...I'm a fan of Olympic and, for that matter, of the Sawtelle area for its relative convenience.

              1. re: PseudoNerd

                In LA, the commute is almost everything... Go Bruins!

          2. I happen to like Maru Sushi in Valencia, CA. I've taken a japanese exchange student friend of mine there and she liked it, so I guess it must be good?

            2 Replies
            1. re: tonicart

              dont mean to be rude, but there are americans who thing mcdonalds is the best burger in the world. Just because one is from japan, doesnt necessarily mean they know what they are talking about when it comes to food. I have not been to Maru however, so im not trying to say its bad...just making a point

              1. re: carln

                agreed, can't tell you how many Italian restaurants are recommended as good because the owners are Italian...
                BTW, Izayoi is a best bet for Japanese food in LA. 2nd and Central downtown.