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Sep 2, 2008 05:26 PM

Japanese Recs in OC?

I'm at home right now and planning to take my grandmother out to lunch or dinner. I'm looking for a great japanese rec (want authentic).

Prob no sushi as she's not a huge sushi fan. I thought about Santouka as i love that place, but I just remembered we ate there last time. Also was thinking maybe shin sen gumi in fountain valley, but really wanted to hear some other thoughts as I feel like I'm always going to the same places.

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  1. I have never been to Santouka but I do like Ebisu Ramen on Brookhurst in Fountain Valley. You can check out the menu here.

    1. Fukada is in Irvine, he's an ex-Matsuhisa alumni and is known for his soba.

      I tried Sagami, which is an izakaya in an unlikely strip mall food court. You can get the izakaya menu at lunchtime, which is interesting. exilekiss did a great writeup here:

      Honda Ya in Tustin is one of my comfort food favorites, open only for dinner.

      If she liked Santouka's tonkotsu soup, she might also want to try Daikokuya's Costa Mesa location inside the Markuai food court. Personally, I prefer Shin Sen Gumi's ramen to the other two, if you're in the mood for ramen.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Professor Salt

        thx for the recs

        i like santouka the best of the three you mentioned although they're all good

        i'm glad you mentioned honda ya as i've been meaning to try it for a long time although i keep forgetting b/c i'm always trying to go to a whole bunch of places whenever i'm at home

        u think shin sen gumi is better or honda ya?

        1. re: Lau

          I skew toward Honda Ya only because it's closer to my house, and I'm happy enough with their menu. They're both crowded, noisy and you'll eat well at both.

          In comparing Honda Ya to to Shin Sen Gumi, I think that SSG cooks are a little more precise with their mise en place, and I gotta give credit when the cooks take more care to do their job well. In general, SSG's menu is a little more out of the ordinary, and better executed than Honda Ya's.

          I also think that Honda Ya has too much stuff on their menu. Statistically, that means that more items are going to be half-assed. But the things they do well, they do well enough for me not to schlep up to SSG.

          exilekiss says below and I agree:
          "If you and your grandmother prefer Yakitori / Kushiyaki, definitely go to SSG over the Hondas. If you're feeling like Izakaya / Small Plates type dishes, and want something a little quieter, then I'd go to Kappo Honda over Shin Shen [sic] Gumi."

          1. re: Professor Salt

            Well said Professor Salt. :) All the Honda branches have too many items on their menu to do them all well, sadly.

        2. re: Professor Salt

          I second Honda Ya. I've been to both Honda Ya & Kappo Honda and prefer the former to the latter b/c it's closer & the atmosphere is a bit more pub-ish.

        3. Hi Lau,

          Since you've already been to Santouka (and took her there last time), my recommendations for authentic Japanese cuisine (Non-Sushi per your request) would be:

          1. Kappo Hana - Great little authentic and *true* Kappo restaurant. If you plan ahead of time you can even get a Kaiseki meal there(!), but their Kamameshi and various Small Plates are delicious! Here are my thoughts on the place:

          2. Shin Sen Gumi Robata-Yakitori: You already know about this place since you mentioned it, but it's my favorite Yakitori eatery in O.C. :) But it might be too loud and rowdy for your obaachan, but the food is good. (^_~)

          3. Kappo Honda (Fountain Valley): This is directly across the street from Shin Sen Gumi on Brookhurst, and one of my long-time go-to places (my Izakaya Hounds always drag me there or SSG whenever I go visit them :). It's one of the places I still have to do a "retro-review" for (a place I take for granted and never wrote about).

          Professor Salt likes Honda-Ya more (its sister restaurant) in Tustin, but I prefer Fountain Valley more (just slightly). For both places compared to Shin Sen Gumi, I think it depends what you're in the mood for. If you and your grandmother prefer Yakitori / Kushiyaki, definitely go to SSG over the Hondas. If you're feeling like Izakaya / Small Plates type dishes, and want something a little quieter, then I'd go to Kappo Honda over Shin Shen Gumi.

          Good luck! :


          Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen
          18315 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

          Kappo Honda
          18450 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

          1. Adding corrected link for Kappo Hana.

            Kappo Hana
            25260 La Paz Rd A, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

            4 Replies
            1. re: exilekiss

              ah thx for the response...very helpful as always

              this all looks good...i might just go on a japanese binge while i'm home

              1. re: Lau

                Thanks Lau. :) Please report back wherever you end up going. Hope you find something you enjoy. :)

                1. re: exilekiss

                  Ended up going to Shin Sen was excellent overall, was very pleased with the meal. Sat at the bar, which was entertaining b/c of all of the yelling which they are famous for. Very japanese and the atmosphere would've gone really well if I had been drinking. Definitely one of the better yakitori places i've been to in a long time and better than any of the ones in NY

                  I ordered alot of things, but i kind of went on a tonsoku (pig's feet) binge b/c i accidently ordered two different tonsoku dishes (i actually forgot i ordered the first one and ordered a second one) and basically ended up eating all of them myself haha
                  - chicken breast w/ plum paste: also has shredded shiso on it, this was pretty standard, but good b/c the breast was still moist (alot of places tend to be kind of dry)
                  - green chili: i always love this and this was done well as it was nice and charred on the outside and it tasted great
                  - beef tongue: excellent, don't really know how to describe it other than that
                  - tonsoku: very good, but you need to hit it with some soy sauce, but once u do that its quite tasty....that said u need to like the gelatinous and sort of fattiness that is associated with pig's feet (which i do)
                  - gizzard: excellent, chewy as gizzard always is, but great flavor
                  - onion: this was alright, i'm just not the biggest fan of straight onion yakitori
                  - smelt: good although i have a feeling alot of people would not like it as its mainly roe (although i do like this dish)
                  - fried tofu: this was a huge surprise, this was really really good, its sort of charred a bit on the outside and just had a ton of flavor...hard to explain, but definitely the pleasant surprise of the night
                  - meatballs: loved these, nice and tender with great flavor
                  - salmon onigiri: decent, nothing to write home about, just a typical salmon onigiri
                  - sweet potato croquette: another good surprise, super tasty and i love sweet potato...only thing was that it was sort of hard to eat since the sweet potato was so soft that it sort of fell apart, that said i'd get these anytime (they were a special)
                  - tonsoku stew (forgot the exact name): wow this was awesome, it was a bowl with a clear broth filled with tonsoku and leeks...amazing rich and super flavorful broth and the tonsoku itself was delicious, the leeks really complimented it all very nicely...probably one of the better tonsoku dishes i've had in a long time

                  Thx for the recs and I'll definitely be coming back again.

                  1. re: Lau

                    Hi Lau,

                    Very nice! :) Glad you enjoyed your visit.

              1. re: JAB

                tsuruhashi is the bbq place on brookhurst right? u think anjin or tsusuhashi is better? (i've seen tsuruhashi alot of times, but never actually been...ive been to anjin)

                1. re: JAB

                  Oooh, great choice for yakiniku! Tsuruhashi over Anjin, easily. Quality is the same or better, price is lower.

                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    Greetings LA-Washoku-Gumi,
                    I'm headed out to S.Cal as well soon. Any opinions on the SSG yakitori-ya in Gardena? Is this branch any good? It will be most convenient for me location-wise.

                    Or, if there are any nice upscale izakaya or koryouri-ya in the area, I would also be interested. I hate it when out of town places are referenced, but if there is a place like Tsukushi in NYC, that would be best actually. Tsukushi is a casual one/ two man omakase/course style koryouri-ya.


                    1. re: Silverjay

                      The SSG yakitori-ya in Gardena is a fine example of the genre. It gets very, very crowded starting at around 18.30-19.00 as the Toyota and Honda salarymen get off work. You can also go next door and have a chanko-nabe meal in a tatami room if you like.

                      There are plenty of izakaya around but I have not made the rounds so I will leave that to someone else.

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        Konnichi-wa Silverjay!

                        Glad to see you on the So Cal boards, it is an honor. (^_^)

                        The Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori in Gardena is definitely very good and serves great, rustic, "neighborhood in Tokyo"-type Yakitori and Kushiyaki. Depending on when you arrive, here's to hoping that Yakitori Bincho reopens (at which point I'd recommend a visit there before SSG). :)

                        For Upscale Izakaya or a Koryouri-ya in the Gardena / Torrance area... there's one or two options right now, but I don't want to recommend them until I know they're really worth a visit. I'd feel bad sending you to a mediocre koryouri-ya for your So Cal visit. (^_^;

                        I'll post back when I have more info.

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          Thanks for your response EK.

                          If you know of one or two of these type of places I'm looking for, please provide contact info. I'm interesting in trying. Doesn't have to be a recommendation. Cheers.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            Hi Silverjay,

                            Omatase! Sorry for the delay. One place turned out to be a disappointment, another was decent, and finally I just found a place this weekend that fits your requirements: An actual Koryouri-ya that almost feels like one of the nicer ones in Tokyo! It still has problems to work out, but I hope this helps. Here are some thoughts on the place:


                            Enjoy~ (^_^)

                      2. re: Professor Salt

                        I 2nd Professor Salt's comment. Tsuruhashi over Anjin anytime of the day! You are making me have flash back in my mind... kobe beef... and beef tongue!!! ARRRRRG >_<

                        18798 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                        3033 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626