Best of LA's Asian Foods...
Coming to LA in about a week for a quick three-day trip. No reason to come except that if I'm in town, I can't stay away from work, so I need to get far away from Portland.
Here's what I'm most interested in: Thai, Japanese, and SE Asian cuisines more difficult to find elsewhere in the US, like Lao, Burmese, Malay, and Indonesian.
Looking to make a cheat-sheet for myself. I'll probably base what we do more on where I want to eat than choosing where to eat based on what I'm going to do. Six meals a day may be the rule. And I'm not exaggerating.
Hard part so far is that I'm not limited in location. Most requests of course are by location or are on single places. So I'm looking for "best of" the whole metro area. I know that's always a bit frustrating, but I couldn't find much in that way. I have copied and will be redacting Erik M's six month post. He was always a great help in Chicago.
I'm always interested in very regional, beyond-the-usual, but still especially good stuff. It's nice if a place serves a great green curry with beef, but it's better if they serve a great khanom jiin or gang hung lay or pad ped sator -- at least for my purposes. I am aware of Jitalda and it sounds great. It's at the top of my list. But beyond that, it gets murky for me. If you don't mind, a top 5 places or dishes that fit the bill, would be very helpful.
Not really interested in sushi too much. Just don't want to spend that kind of money. Maybe two "can't miss" or "best value" sushi places would be nice, as long as I don't have to get dressed up. I plan on being in shorts the entire trip.
More interested in ramen and izakayas, maybe yakimono. From my research, is there much reason to search out anything beyond these three?
Harder to find a comparison of izakayas. I see a lot of disagreement. I like both places sticking to the standards and places that are somewhat fusiony, like you find in Vancouver, BC, a lot. Open late is a big bonus. A top 3 or 5 of these would be very helpful. Always love suggested dishes.
Yakitori Bincho and Gaja sound like leading specialty places that may make the list.
Haven't had a chance to research other cuisines yet. We have a good number of very good Vietnamese places here in Portland, so I'll probably just skip that cuisine. But we have no Burmese, no Indonesian, and only one Malaysian place. I love all three of those cuisines.
Thanks for any and all help.
SA SA YAAAA! HANDS DOWN BEST IZAKAYA IN LA AREA.
Authentic, helpful owner and staff, relaxed vibe and chillin' music...
I have spent a lot of time in Japan and the problem with Izakayas in Tokyo (the real hole in the walls not the tourist Izakayas offering "Japanese tapas") is that they only really like their regulars... So this is really a chance to enjoy a great izakaya and a friendly one too... it reminds me of Osaka... and you will always be welcome... no sushi... Sushi in an izakaya?! That is like serving steak tartare in a vegetarian restaurant. Sure, there are more popular and noisier (Musha which I really like but is far from really great and is not really an izakaya) but if you want a really unusual sake menu at reasonable prices and authentic small dishes then this is it....
So check it out and ask Hiro what he recommends that day...
CAMBODIAN (Khmer) Battambang... Amazing food, an enormous menu, friendly and charming despite its large dining room.... did I mention that it has ballroom dancing to Cambodian karoake?
JAPANESE - Takao. Hide Sushi..... and Sa Sa Ya.... of course.... Kokekoko, Fu Rai Bo.... and on Ursusawa - yes it is unbelievably costly but sublime...
VIETNAMESE - Vien Dong (OC) Nguyen Hoang Restaurant on Valley Blvd in San Gabriel, CA....
KOREAN Soot Bull Jeep
Chinese Chung King (the real one - not the imitator close by....) Mission for dim sum... but I could go on... enjoy exploring our culinary culture in the greater LA area.
Pretty much done with the trip. Really short. Even shorter than I expected because my cohort decided we needed to leave at 6am Sunday morning which didn't even give me the chance to go the farmers market, one of the things I was really looking forward to. Overall it felt like a bad trip, which is mostly my fault for not putting in the effort to do research and figure out exactly what I wanted to do while I was down here. Spent waaaaay too much time driving around finding out places were closed. Still, for only two days, plus one meal Thursday night, we hit a lot. In no particular order:
Jitalda twice with Erik M
ORD with Erik M
Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori
Banh Mi My Tho
Jitalda was clearly the highlight. We focused on unique southern dishes and some of them were the best of their kind we've had, here or in Thailand. Really tasty.
Other highlight was Asa. Some of the best ramen I've had in the US. Loved the noodles, loved the broth, loved the fried chicken.
Most disappointing were Musha and Renu Nakorn, though I wouldn't say either were BAD. Just not good. Worst kanom jiin I've ever had at Renu. Worst khao soi as well. And I'm not just comparing them to Thailand. These are two of my favorite dishes and I get them whenever I see them on a menu, which is pretty often with the latter. Other stuff was just average. Musha had some tasty stuff, like the scallop carpaccio. But most of it fell pretty flat. Very disappointed with the fried chicken, which tasted of burnt oil and was a bit dry.
Thanks for the suggestions. Good or bad it's always an adventure.
I like the place, and i didn't contribute to the thai discussion here, but -yes it's good, but I think sanamluang on santa monica, yai on hollywood, and some of the places on sherman way in the valley near the Wat Thai are as good.
New respect for Jitlada, I guess.
It may depend on what you're getting. Thai restaurants tend to have ginormous menus and if you're just sticking to a few favorites at each, perhaps you're not eating to their strengths. I don't know. Don't know what you ate.
However, I have eaten at Sanamluang -- only once -- and got some recommended items and thought it was decent, but not especially good. But then again, their specialties aren't among my favorites. The stuff we had was really good: green curry with duck egg stuffed fish balls, raw crab and mango salad, kanom jiin nam ya, turmeric fried fish, turmeric fried chicken, khua kling, curry with tea leaves, etc.
The Southern Thai menu at Jitlada is a definite yes. After that Thai restaurants do get murkier but I would try Yai on Hollywood Blvd just east of the 101 for larb, papaya salad, a very strong fermented bamboo shoot salad, sticky rice, etc. (reminds me of Lao/Isaan food).
I would drive out to the San Gabriel Valley, not so far away, for authentic Chinese. If you've never had authentic Szechuan, try Chung King (two locations, near each other, about the same) or Yunnan Garden. For Shanghainese, try Green Village. For Hunan, Dong Ting Spring. These are some of the most interesting restaurants in LA, and the SGV has to be mentioned in a thread with this title, even though you didn't mention Chinese.
I believe Burmese food is definitely worth checking out if you've never tried it, but if you're going to do it, I think you should do Golden Triangle in Whittier, a fairly long drive out of LA.
I'm not sure this is really a great city for Malaysian/Singaporean.
We have very good regional Indian restaurants in Artesia. Don't know if that counts as "Asian." You may or may not have had these cuisines before.
two that you didn't ask for, but here they are because this is a good thread and a resource for people.
1. Curry Bowl - sinhalese/sri lankan. Order it extra hot and die.
19662 VENTURA BLVD
jaggery cake is good
2. Eight Cafe - guilin style noodles (guangxi province
110 E GARVEY AVE
sour, can be hot - thick rice noodles, similar to udon but the broths are nothing like japanese food. table condiments are unusual - one was unique. You haven't had these in Portland.
3. In Artesia - for the variety, and nothinglike you find elsewhere, surati farsan house. it's indian - but india is huge, varied and over a billion people. this is on its own special exotica level (for non-Indians)
SURATI FARSAN MART
11814 E 186TH ST
These are great. (also, soon tofu at korean -beverly soon tofu on olympic blvd, and the panchan at Sa Rit Gol - including mook (sp?) made from acorns)
SA RIT GOL
3189 W OLYMPIC BLVD
BEVERLY SOON TOFU
2717 W OLYMPIC BLVD #108
For Izakaya, try:
1. Nanbankan on Santa Monica in West LA
2. Yakitoriya on Sawtelle in West LA
3. Sakura House on Washington in Marina Del Rey.
For Thai food, try
1. Sapp Cafe in Thai Town, North Hollywood. They have excellent boat noodles.
2. Ruen Pair in Thai Town. There are 4-5 thai restaurants in the same plaza, including a thai dessert place
You didn't name Filipino but it's related to the other things you mentioned so I thought I'd add. The best full restaurant is in Eagle Rock, Barrio Fiesta. That's also closer to LA proper.
But if you have time to drive out a half hour east of downtown LA, you can explore and snack at the intersection of Azusa Av and Amar Rd in the city of West Covina. Myriad of restaurants both fast food and sit down, bakeries, supermarkets. I haven't eaten in the restaurants in a while (prefer mom's) but I remember the pork bbq skewers (in tasty garlicky marinade) was so yummy at Toto's Lechon Manok.
And the baked goods (ensaymada, mocha roll, etc) are great at places like Goldilocks or Valerios.
Some of these bakeries have other LA locations, but you get a more complete experience if you go to West Covina.
I know MSG doesn't really dig Filipino food (and I've tried), so that's why I didn't bring it up. And while Portland doesn't have the largest Filipino community around, Vancouver is only a weekend trip away.
Toto's Lechon Manok gave me a really irksome vibe when I walked in. It seemed like more of a catering outfit than anything else.
About a year and a half ago, my husband and I went on a 2 week sampling of every Malaysian place in the LA area. At each place, we'd order Satay, Roti, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, and Ice Kachang if they had it. Not surprisingly, every place has its strengths and weaknesses, and depending on what we are craving, we'll pick different restaurants.
Several folks have mentioned Belacan Grill, and it's pretty decent. Some items are very similar to what you get in Singapore, and others strike me as just meh. I never walk away thinking they had the best version of anything, but I also have never had a bad meal there.
My favorite is Little Malaysia in El Monte. Everything we order there is great, especially the Tofu Goreng, which you cannot get anywhere else. They also have stingray curry on the menu; however, I've heard that it is just so so. If you choose to drive all the way out there, make sure you get there well before their close time. We got there once about 20 mins before closing and they had already closed their kitchen. Normally that would be a huge ding against a restaurant in my book, but the food is too good and their place remains our favorite.
Avoid Singapore Banana Leaf at the Farmers Market unless you want truly authentic Ice Kachang. Theirs is the best in all of Los Angeles. Fling off the jackfruit that it comes with and it tastes EXACTLY like the ones you get at the hawker stands in Singapore. Good good stuff, especially now that it is warmer. I believe they also are the only place in town to serve little rice cubes with their satay like they do in Singapore.
My memory of Yazmin is fairly weak. It was the first place we tried and we only went there once. I remember that we weren't crazy about one dish in particular, but everything else was fine. General consensus was that we'd go back if we were in the neighborhood, but it wasn't worth the drive.
I've only been to Penang Malaysian once, and it was pretty good. They had the second best Ice Kachang of all the Malaysian places. However, it's a little too far for us to make the drive on a regular basis. And if we are going to drive that far, I'd rather go to Little Malaysia.
The most recent place we ate at was Singapore Express, which is a tiny, hole in the wall off Marina del Rey. It's very hit and miss, and their menu is a mix of different Asian dishes. They have the BEST soup, and I generally loathe soup. Their Char Kway Teow was amazing last time we were there. Chicken Rice is passable, but it's very difficult to get the sweet soy sauce that most places serve it with. I had to ask several times and they seemed surprised by my request.
One little find was Laksa Malaysian Cafe, in Artesia. I was pleasantly surprised by the assortment of dipping sauces they brought out, including the fresh ginger dipping sauce. Their chicken satay was deep fried though, which was very disappointing. Note: One reviewer on Yelp mentioned that it is now closed, so I'd double check before going.
My favorite place for Satay and Roti is Tropika. I like my food slightly sweet and their satay delivers charred, sweet goodness! They also have two different versions of roti which was nice. I've brought friends there and they have been only ok with the Thai offerings on the menu. It's one of the nicer looking places of all the Malaysian ones, and service is always good, but I don't remember being blown away by anything else on their menu. It was very difficult for us to find it, even with a map, so bring their phone number and be prepared to get lost.
The one place we've found but haven't eaten at yet is JC Cafe in Chinatown. We only ever go there for their Strawberry Green Tea Smoothies with boba, which I swear, they lace with crack. It is amazing! I've seen food on their menu and noted that everyone in the kitchen was Asian; a fairly good sign.
Savoy Kitchen gets a lot of hype for the Hainanese Chicken Rice. It slipped past our radar because we were looking for Malaysian, not Singaporean places, so we haven't been there yet. My experience has been that if you do not already love Hainanese Chicken Rice, then you may be disappointed. Friends who try it for the first time universally describe it as bland and tasteless.
Enjoy your trip!
Little Malaysia Restaurant
3944 Peck Rd
El Monte, CA
Singapore's Banana Leaf
6333 W Third St Ste 122
Los Angeles, CA
Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant
27 E Main St
Penang Malaysian Cuisine
987 S Glendora Ave
West Covina, CA
4248 Lincoln Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA, 90292
Laksa Malaysian Cafe
11622 1/2 South St
Artesia, CA, 90701
17460 E 17th St
Tustin, CA 92780
843 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
138 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
Ok, I like your ramen list. I personally couldn't eat ramen three times in a short period of time, but more power to you. Of those three, my favorite is Shin Sen Gumi - Hakata Ramen in Rosemead. Really fun environment too...better than the Jtown places on that aspect.
But really, I know your friend isn't a big fan of Korean, but you GOTTA give it another chance. It's really fantastic and not just the Korean BBQ. Try to convince him.
IMO, I cannot recommend several of the Japanese restaurants listed above:
terried sake house
Yakitori Bincho (closed)
I have eaten at all of these restaurants, several times (except for one) and have had sub-par food each time.
For izakaya I can recommend Izayoi, Wakasan, or Sa Sa Ya
132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Mon-Fri: 11:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Sat: 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
SaSaYa Japanese Restaurant
11613 Santa Monica Blvd, West Los Angeles, CA 90025
Mon - Sat 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Sun 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
1929 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Mon-Thu 6:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
Fri-Sat 6:00 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Sun 6:00 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
For Yakitori I recommend:
11301 W. Olympic Blvd, #101, West Los Angeles, 90064
(entrance is on Sawtelle in the area of what people are now calling “Little Osaka”
Wednesday – Monday 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
Without going into exacting detail of every meal I ate at the restaurants I didn’t like versus the ones that I did … I’ll just say that it would be like comparing sub-par poorly executed yucky tasting food in a dingy room vs. very good/excellent quality tasty food executed with care and presented in a pleasing manner and setting.
Your mileage may vary, but I think it's a *horrendous* disservice to claim that Yakitori Bincho was "sub-par poorly executed yucky tasting food."
I have to say Yakitori Bincho was fantastic Yakitori, and Tomo-san's cooking was arguably the best in L.A. for Yakitori.
extramsg, feel free to "Search" the L.A. boards and decide for yourself.
For Indonesian food, you have to stop in at the Duarte Inn weekend Indo street foods fair.
It's every Saturday, from 10 AM to 2 PM, and you don't just get one vendor, there are at least 6 usually. Prices are usually not over $6 for most items.
And as an Indonesian, I can attest that everything is authentic, although some vendors are better than others.
A few favorites:
Gudeg (only one vendor sells this)
Here's more info with pictures on my blog:
Pass on YongSuSan.
Way overrated. Sort of reminds me of a Korean version of Gardens of Taxco, but with slightly better food. It sells a concept, rather than actual good grub.
Instead, if you're ever back in LA, try either Ttu Rak or Keungama. The Kalbitang at Keungama will make you seriously wonder if pho and ramen will soon become obsolete.
125 North Western Ave
3498 West 8th St
My new favorite "standard" izakaya: Izayoi in Little Tokyo (thank goodness because FuRaiBo really wasn't cutting it). My favorite "fushiony" izakaya: Musha in Torrance/Santa Monica.
The Singaporean place in the Farmer's Market, Banana Leaf, is well regarded, but I actually prefer Belacan Grill in Redondo Beach.
I have no idea who you could possibly turn to for Thai. No idea what so ever. ;D
My favorite ramenyas: Asa Ramen and Santouka.
Yeah. At Santouka, there's a menu option for the tonkotsu that puts the pork off to the side.
Keep in mind that there are multiple Santouka locations, if that helps your trip planning: West LA and Torrance are the most likely locations you'd visit. The Torrance location of Mitsuwa has a larger food court, and it's also very close to Asa Ramen, if you want to do a back-to-back tasting.
And in the same complex as Asa Ramen is Sanuki No Sato. Yeah, it's an udonya, but it's also got a large izakaya menu, so you don't necessarily have to do the noodles. Unfortunately, I can't vouch for it in any way as I always just order a big bowl of udon, but just thought I'd let you know.
You might also enjoy Orris, though I'm not exactly sure how to categorize it. French/Japanese small plates, I guess.
Hey extramsg (LOL, I just fully "read" your call sign :),
Here are some recommendations:
*** Ramen ***
1. Santouka Ramen
2. Asa Ramen
Beyond that and the quality has dropped a lot for popular places like Shin Sen Gumi and Daikokuya, IMHO. They're still better than most places around So Cal, but they've regressed. Rameniac will have some great suggestions I'm sure. :)
*** Izakaya ***
2. Musha (Torrance, CA)
3. Kappo Honda (Fountain Valley, CA)
*** Yakitori ***
(Temp Closed :( 1. Yakitori Bincho
2. Shin Sen Gumi (Yakitori side) (Gardena, CA or Fountain Valley, CA) (the Fountain Valley location has the Ramen and Robata-Yaki next door to each other (link below))
*** Okonomiyaki ***
1. Gaja Moc
*** Tempura ***
1. Komatsu (Tempura Specialist - Dinner only)
*** Thai ***
Besides Jitlada for Southern Thai food, I also like:
* Renu Nakorn
* Thai Nakorn
If you change your mind on Sushi, we can provide plenty of recs. :)
11951 Beach Blvd, Stanton, CA 90680
21515 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
1725 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501
Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen
18315 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
2383 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717
Renu Nakorn Restaurant
13019 Rosecrans Ave, Norwalk, CA 90650
Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori
18517 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90248
18450 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
1644 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501
16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA
You should try Vietnamese food in Little Saigon (Orange County). The food there is probably much more comprehensive and tastier than what you have in Portland (it has the largest Vietnamese population in the US). I've had lots of Vietnamese food (courtesy of my Vietnamese wife), and the breadth and quality of the food in Little Saigon is amazing.
Little Saigon is also developing more diversity as well. You can eat at a hole in the wall or you can have a nice meal at a place with a little more atmosphere. I see the same thing happening in Big Saigon too. People want something a little nicer and are willing to pay a little bit more. But I'm thankful you can still go to Banh Mi Che Cali and get 3 sandwiches for the price of 2!
I believe you, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Vietnamese are the second largest Asian population behind Chinese in Portland, I think, and unlike the Chinese have a tradition of serving primarily their own ethnicity and aiming more for quality. There's a surprising number of places serving a good range of quality dishes. I haven't been to Vietnam yet (might go later this year or early next year), but I have eaten at very well-regarded places in the bay area and south bay, along with other cities with quality Vietnamese, and our better places more than hold their own. Plus, my friend prefers Thai, Japanese, Malay, and Indonesian to Vietnamese. Only three days. But I'll keep that in mind if I'm down there.
I've been to Vietnam many times and I think the restaurants in Little Saigon are right up there with the ones in Big Saigon. Give it a try. I recommend Quan Hop on Brookhurst for Pho and really good Rice Cakes. Down the street is a really good Vietnamese french bakery. If you like spring rolls, Brodard is a fun place to take people.
I've had Vietnamese in other cities around the country and OC is the best. San Jose, Houston, SF are all OK, but generally not as good as OC.
I do think you are going to be missing the two Asian cuisines that are best in LA as opposed to anywhere else in North America: Korean and Vietnamese. I know you need to draw the line, but I've been recently to Portland (excellent Chow city, utterly livable, and public transport that actually takes people where they want to go), and there's just nothing like Little Saigon. San Jose comes close but it seems to be mostly holes-in-the-wall -- the "fine dining" renaissance hasn't hit up there yet.
I suggest Xanh or S Fine Dining if you want "nice" Vietnamese (with Western-style service)... if you want holes-in-the-wall, tell us, there are hundreds.
As for Korean... there are more Koreans in Los Angeles than any other city in America, and K-town (and its satellites down here in Orange County) is breathtaking. If your friend is objecting to barbecue, there are so many other things to eat.
For Thai... it depends where you are and what you want. Jitlada I haven't been to but it's on my list of places to go. The Nakorns are always worth the trip -- Thai Nakorn in Stanton (note that addresses in Buena Park and Garden Grove are obsolete -- the only open branch is at Beach and Chapman in Stanton), and Renu Nakorn in Norwalk. I might give the edge to Renu Nakorn there.
Plus, if you have a Thai speaker with you, the hidden menus ($2.50) in the restaurants on Sherman Way in North Hollywood's "Thai Gulch" are a treasure trove. An additional destination is Sri Siam on Vanowen and Coldwater Canyon.
I'm just going to throw it out there: Malaysian is not well-represented in LA.
re: Das Ubergeek
Thanks. I'll do my best. The thing about LA is that there are more of EVERY Asian nationality than any other city in the US, plus a hell of a lot of Hispanics. But I'll put some of the highlights in my cheat sheet and see what I can do.
So go ahead and toss out the best 5 or so dishes and where to get them in each, and I'll make every effort.
Indonesian: Simpang Asia... very authentic fare, about as close to the real thing as you can get here in LA. Popular menu items are the Nasi Warteg or Nasi Bungkus, but they have monthly specials usually written on the board or listed on the front cover of the menu. Their Cendol drinks are a bit on the sweet side, but very good.
Recommend you make room for Korean in your itinerary. LA's offerings are probably the best you'll find in the US. Park's BBQ is a favorite of mine.
10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034
It's only three days and the friend I'm coming with isn't a big fan of Korean. Hell, if it was just up to me, I'd be spending half my time eating Mexican, but Mexican is one of his least favorite cuisines -- and I've taken him to all kinds of wonderful spots, from the best Tex-Mex places in Texas to very authentic mid-scale places to top-notch taquerias.
Why so much Ramen and no soba or udon? How about some sticks (yakitori, kushiyaki, etc)?
Exilekiss did a great write up on the amazing Otafuko (soba specialist) recently http://www.chowhound.com/topics/530978.
Kotohira in Gardena is fantastic handmade udon.
Kokeekoko (downtown) and Nanbankan (west LA) do nice stick work
We have virtually no Burmese either, only Golden Triangle in Whittier, so if you ever get to San Francisco there's not much point. I'll leave Indonesian and Malaysian to the experts like Elmomonster, but we don' t realy specialize in those either.
As for Thai, Eric M. has certainly done the research on the more obscure items. In addition to Jitlada, try to get to North Hollywood to either Swan, Sri Siam or Krua Thai.
Your ramen list looks good. If you're in Little Tokyo (Downtown LA), I like the izakayas Haru Ulala and Iyazoi. Do you have any specialized tempura bars in Portland? We have two in the Torrance area that are interesting. (I can find the names if you're interested).
What about Chinese? In my recent extensive research on your site, it looks like the selection in Portland might not be that large.
(I'm coming to Portland this weekend and found your site invaluable, please email if you want to trade anymore info, thanks.)
Yeah, I've hit all the well-regarded Burmese in SF. Quality gets thin in a hurry.
No places that truly specialize in tempura, just places that do it better than others.
I'm not much of a fan of Cantonese. It's fine, but it doesn't really speak to me. Some bolder regional stuff, I like a lot more, but in general it's not one of my favorite cuisines (if you can lump such a broad set of foods into one cuisine).
Check out and contact me through PortlandFood.org. I'm not as good at checking my non-restaurant email these days. SauceSupreme and Erik M both have my contact info, though, probably, if you have theirs.
Izakaya: musha in torrance and terried sake house are delicious. I take all out of town visitors to musha. there's one in Santa Monica, but I like the torrance one better. get the itame somen. get two. If you want some of the most delicious japanese creme puffs you will ever taste (life-changing, i'd say) go to patisserie chantilly on lomita in torrance. black. sesame. creme puffs. get there before 3, they always sell out. i also always take out of town visitors here.
if you want to try okonomiyaki, there's a place next door to patisserie chantilly. it's the ultimate japanese comfort food. (now that i think of it, maybe this is Gaja?).
And on an unrelated note (well, the owners are Filipino)...get yourself to Delicieuse in Redondo. Don't bother to eat there, just get ice cream. Their lavender ice cream is like sex in a carton. i kid you not. if i had to choose between the two...well, let's just say, it would be a tough call. the father of the woman who owns it is always there to teach you about the process of making it, and give you (unsolicited) samples of every flavor. my mother paid 45 dollars to have some shipped on dry ice to Maine. and she's pretty cheap.