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Exploring Sawtelle

Hey everyone,

Since the New Year (part of my resolution) I have been going a whole bunch of new places to eat. I know Sawtelle has plenty of places to go, but I don't really know what to eat at each place. I was wondering if you all can suggest a place or two (or more) and put your top 2 or 3 recommendations at each place.

Thank you all!

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  1. Hide sushi, really good no frills sushi...always very fresh..closed Mondays...cash only
    Asahi Ramen across from Hide I like the shio ramen , sliced pork and gyoza
    Sawtelle Kitchen

    1. Sawtelle restaurants often mentioned on this board from north (starting at Santa Monica Blvd.) to south (ending at Olympic Blvd.):

      Nanbankan** (OK not really on Sawtelle but 1 block west, on Corinth)
      Cafe Dahab* - Fuul
      Bar Hayama** - Lobster bisque
      Mizu 212* - Wagyu beef shabu shabu
      Chabuya** - Zenbu ramen
      Sawtelle Kitchen
      Asahi Ramen
      Hide Sushi
      FuRaiBo* - teba saki
      Place Yuu*** - Mori-san's Osaka style battera, buta kakuni
      Volcano Tea
      Restaurant 2117* - Kobe meatloaf
      Hurry Curry
      Ramen Kinchans
      Crepe Nazi* - read the menu carefully, else you will feel the full wrath of the staff!
      Little Hong Kong Cafe
      Tofu Villa*
      Bear Papa's*/Mousse Fantasy - strawberry cream puffs
      Curry House* - stone bowl curries
      Kiriko*** - Ken-san's omakase
      Cake House*
      Pinkberry - yawn.
      Zip Fusion - ick.
      Daichan Kaiten Sushi* - fun time with conveyor belts
      Yashima* - like Mishima, but it's Yashima
      Crepes Dusigne*** - Grand Marnier crepe, or Nutella crepe
      Ramen-Ya* (OK not on Sawtelle, but a few blocks west on Olympic)
      Raku*** (again, worthy of mention but not on Sawtelle) - tempura shrimp with shiso leaf

      * = I liked it the one or two times I went
      ** = I go often
      *** = I'm putting the owners' kids through college

      7 Replies
      1. re: J.L.

        Great list, J.L.! I am so laughing because I often feel like I am supporting many chefs' families in this town!!!! Sometimes, it's my greatest pleasure, and sometimes not!

        I might mention that I think Orris becomes better with time, and the Robata-Ya next door is pretty good as well.

        Each place you mentioned -- and your list is The Sawtelle Bible! -- offers something different. I would advise the original poster to begin with Nanbankan, #1, and visit all of them! The competition is fierce, and every one of these places is an interesting experience as it contrasts to the places on either side of it.

        1. re: J.L.

          I went to Yashima in October when I was working up on the Westside and was so, so disappointed -- it used to be really, really good (we used to eat there weekly when I worked at Olympic and Purdue) and now it's on the bad side of mediocre.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            I think Asahi Ramen is soo overrated....kind of tasteless....Chabuya's Zenbu broth is far superior.

          2. re: J.L.

            Orris still holds its delicious standard though I think it's gotten pricier fast.

            I like Hurry Curry slightly better than Curry House.

            Absolutely stay away from Zip Fusion.

            Kiriko for simple, clean, dependable sushi. Though again, the last 2x I've gone, they've disappointed me with their simple tuna. How could you mess up tuna?

            Little HK cafe is decent, it rivals Hop Woo a couple blocks down.

            Asahi Ramen... I don't know how this place gets such a cult following. I've been over a dozen times throughout the years and well... it never had a redeeming quality to me.

            Hide's great. Service not so great.

            Have to agree with the little crepe nazi place... it's amazing this place is doing well. It's dirty, unfriendly and most importantly, not even good.

            Mizu is overrated, imo.

            I never could complain about RobataYa but never really felt the need to praise anything either.

            PhoReign, try it if you really must have Vietnamnese and can't drive over to San Gabriel.
            Yogurtland is much preferable to Pinkberry.

            1. re: J.L.

              You seems to have overlooked the "every part but the cackle" Yakitoriya.

              1. re: New Trial

                D'oh! I knew I forgot something... Excuse my omission.

              2. re: J.L.

                Tried Kiriko last night. The sashimi was incredibly fresh and well prepared but *very* expensive. I was a little underwhelmed by the service and setting. The place was practically empty, but the server kept trying to take dishes before we were done and brought out one entree a good 10 minutes after the others. Not sure I'd go back. What is the deal with Pho Reign? I don't recall seeing or reading about this place before.

              3. Hit List:
                Orris-nice seasonal menu, tapas dishes
                Nambankan (flavors and selection is much better than furiabo)
                Mizu- ask for their yuzu sauce!
                Bar Hayama - great date spot
                Hide sushi - expect to wait. they don't take reservations
                Beard papas - strawberry puff is my favorite

                Miss List:
                Hurry curry
                Any of the soon tofu places
                Sawtelle kitchen

                I know its not on sawtelle but try Wakasan on westwood

                1. Orris -- grilled romaine, scallops, fois gras, generally really interesting specials
                  Robata-ya -- fried pork belly, foie gras, chicken skin
                  Bar Hayama -- steak tartare, grilled squid
                  Cafe Dahab-- also has really good french fries in addition to the aforementioned fuul

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: mollyomormon

                    Any other recs at Cafe Dahab? I've passed by many times but haven't heard anyone mention it before on chowhound.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      Their sandwiches and fries are probably the best bet. The food has been inconsistent the last few years, but if you want to share a bottle of wine, a sandwich and a hookah with somebody at 1 AM, that's the place to go.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        I'm a big fan of Cafe Dahab and have had no complaints about any of their food. Falafel sandwich (wrap) is completely inauthentic but tasty, their hummus is great, serve up a big basket of warm pita, and they always bring pickled vegetables and warm olies (mmmmmm) to your table with any food order. Greek and Fatoush salads are small but good. Also have some soups I've been wanting to try - haven't yet, but they always look good when I see them on other tables.

                        1. re: Cebca

                          Thanks to you both for the info. Like I said, I've been curious to try Cafe Dahab but figured the focus was more on the shisha than the food. I'll definitely give them a shot.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Got a falafel platter from Cafe Dahab and was pleasantly surprised! Falafel was fried to order and very crisp. I would advise them to make the balls a little smaller and flatter to ensure they're cooked fully all the way through, but I was still satisfied. Cabbage salad was a welcome change from plain old lettuce and tomatoes. I enjoyed my side of fuul, but the (tiny) portion of hummus that came with the platter was a bit bland. Only real downer was that they forgot my fries. Thanks for the rec!

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              "Shoukran" for reporting back!

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                Went back to Dahab last night, got the shwarma for the first time . . . I don't like that they use their pitas like wraps and not like pitas (isnt that the whole point?) but WOW, the meat was AMAZING. Super tender and juicy chicken strongly (but perfectly IMO) spiced with warm spices, definitely some cinnamon in there and I'm not sure what else (anyone else know?). Anyway, it tasted amazing. I got the garlic sauce on the side, which I think was a good call. I love garlic but the sandwich was so good on its own and it was nice to be able to add the garlic bite by bite as I pleased. If it had been mixed in with the sandwich the amazing chicken spices wouldnt have been able to stand out as well cause man that stuff is GARLICKY. Came with a yummy lemony salt and peppery cabbage slaw on the side.

                                SO got the shish kebab sandwich - same issues with the pita-as-wrap (all their sandwiches are like that) but again, the meat was winderfully spiced and excellently cooked, yummy bits of char but not overcooked and tough.

                        2. re: mollyomormon

                          what kind of fuul does cafe dahab serve?

                        3. ORRIS! -foie gras, warm snapper carpaccio, curry infused shrimp tempura, wonton dessert thing

                          1. I went to Tofu-Ya a few days ago and really enjoyed my meal there! The little dishes they give you when you order (Ban Chan) are all delicious! Especially the kimchi. I couldn't stop eating it and I normally leave it alone at restaurants. I also really loved the pork and tofu soon doo boo. Delicious!

                            1. 1. Orris - foie gras w eggplant, grilled hearts of romaine. Everything else is good too but those 2 stand out! (http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2007/...
                              )2. Kiriko - sushi or many of their small dishes, all good. (http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2008/...
                              )3. Mizu 212 - get a mixed plate of beef and seafood shabu shabu
                              4. Chabuya - well, for their ramen

                              Curry house is always good, hurry curry has good chicken pasta but i like curry house's curry better.
                              Robata-ya was not bad, most of their items were pretty good but nothing stood out.


                              7 Replies
                              1. re: burumun

                                Does Curry House offer raisins and other such toppings for their curry? Also, can you get potatoes and/or carrots added to the curry?

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  Hmm I have not noticed any raisin - I never tried asking either. They do have some curries that have potato/carrot, even sweet potatoes and you can probably ask for them to be added in other curries as a "side"


                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    I'm sure I recall them bringing those little condiments on the side (or maybe when my wife asked). We normally go across the street to Hurry Curry (I like both but my wife has a thing for the Tokyo Curry at Hurry Curry) so I am grasping for functioning brain cells here.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Ohh now that I'm trying to recall they do have a thing of condiments on every table ... I never bother to see what they are I guess :P (so there may be raisins?)
                                      Just my pork katsu with the curry sauce is enough for me ...

                                      1. re: burumun

                                        On the table, now I think it's coming back to me. Hurry Curry used to have it on the table but they switched up to making you ask for it. HC has little red candied ginger bits and onion flakes and raisins in the dish and I am pretty sure that CH had very similar items in their dish.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Thanks to you both. I've had curry at Sawtelle Kitchen, Blue Marlin, and Hurry Curry. They all offer the radishes and onions, but only Hurry Curry has raisins so far. I'll definitely give Curry House a shot.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            D'oh (again!) I also forgot Blue Marlin!

                                2. If you end up trying the Sawtelle kitchen, don't miss dessert. They serve a parfait of coffee jello, coffee granita, and coffee icecream that is totally unique and wonderful. It's my favorite thing on Sawtelle, since the long-ago demise of Ketchy's.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: purplescout

                                    Hey I forgot to add Ketchy's II to my list of Sawtelle eateries. It's next to Mizu 212. Thanks for reminding me!

                                    1. re: J.L.

                                      I haven't been to Ketchy's II for about a year, but I used to live a half block away-- so I gave it more than a few fair shots. I just kept finding everything to be not-quite-good-enough.

                                      1. re: noahbites

                                        Nothing special, but Ketchy's II is good for the occasional "I-want-a-chili-dog-on-Sawtelle-dammit" craving.

                                  2. I usually don't write negative comments unless the service is abysmal, but with Little Hong Kong Cafe the dishes were really sodden in grease the other night. So take a pass and head up the street to Tofu-ya! The portions are a bit bigger than Tofu Village (across the street in the Nijiya Marketplace complex). As to authenticity, I don't know enough about Korean soon to give a grade.

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: zinFAN

                                      The grease factor at Little Hong Kong is what keeps us away from here on a typical day. Not that everything is greasy or that certain dishes are greasy all of the time. Frankly, we haven't regularly eaten here in quite a while but if we are around this area, we head to Hop Woo a few blocks away.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        Weird...I haven't noticed Little Hong Kong Cafe's greasiness. What do you like at Hop Woo?

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          Again - we haven't eaten there in a while, but their noodle dishes (the last I recall was the chow fun) were too much for me.

                                          We like most of the standard Cantonese dishes at Hop Woo. The jook is ok. But their specials on the board in Chinese are what we really like. The last special I recall ordering was their braised pork belly and pickled vegetables. It's these kinds of dishes that one typically doesn't find at a Westside Chinese restaurant.

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Braised pork belly and pickled vegetables?? They must have a chef from Sichuan, then...

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              DU, you got me - you by far are the expert on these issues. But but specials board is worth checking out if you're itching for something different from the usual stuff one gets on the Westside.

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                I'm just... stunned that such a thing exists on the Westside.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Hop Woo must have some sort of erratic 'ace in the hole' chef, I swear.

                                                  I too have had brilliant Chinese food (on par with some of the best in the SGV) on occasion at Hop Woo, then merely blah on the next visit.

                                                  1. re: J.L.

                                                    My wife used to work up the street from there and our kids' daycare provider was off Pico so we used to go often. We don't go often enough anymore to determine its consistency out of the kitchen. But considering that Hop Woo isn't located in SGV or other areas where a solid nucleus of Chinese live and work, Hop Woo is a Westside treasure that offers a glimmer of hope that decent Chinese cuisine can be had here. Depending on when one goes here, the majority of diners can be Chinese - usually on the weekends especially for dinner. I don't see this in most other Chinese eateries around here.

                                                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    Makes one wonder if white unicorns really do exist...

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      Got delivery from Hop Woo last night and was pleasantly surprised! The chicken with szechuan garlic sauce (ordered "spicy") was actually better than the equivalent dish at New York's venerable Wu Liang Yi on my most recent visit. Crispy orange beef was still crispy despite being delivered and wasn't overly gloppy. Vegetable egg (spring) rolls were perfectly fried. Further visits will tell if it's this good consistently, but I think I may have found a new go-to Chinese place on the west side. Thanks!

                                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                                        I've learned that the magic words are "wo bu pa la" -- I don't fear spiciness. Not specifically in reference to Hop Woo, but I did it at Wu Liang Ye and it worked. (Incidentally, Szechwan Gourmet is much better than WLY, but that's not on-topic for this board.)

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          Thanks for the tip re the magic words, DUG. And I agree re Szechuan Gourmet:


                                                          Next time, I plan to order the mapo tofu at Hop Woo. That will be the real test...

                                        2. re: zinFAN

                                          I agree tofu-ya wasn't greasy. I was there last night and upon asking the waiter told us they don't use MSG, however i left with a numbness in my throat and on my tongue from some sort of chemical. I really didn't like the way it made me feel if it's not MSG they are substituting some chemical for MSG. Maybe it's in the sauces they serve like the chili paste and such for Dol Sot Bi bim bop. Definitely not as good as many of the korean places i've had in korea town. All that said the place smells heavenly i could sit in there for hours and lap up the smell of frying beef.

                                        3. Read all of the replies to this thread of course and then while fooling around googling Sawtelle places came across this website that is a great resource to the restaurants and markets along our own west side Littler Tokyo: http://www.sawtelleblvd.com/

                                          1. Can anyone suggest a Ramen place on Sawtelle that would have veggie broth? Having dinner on Sawtelle Sat night and would love a suggestion. Or if not Ramen, perhaps another place? Not sushi b/c we're having that Fri. Thanks!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Clyde

                                              I think Ramen-ya right around the corner on Olympic may have veggie broth...

                                            2. I didn't see this mentioned, but Empanada's Place (3811 Sawtelle) has been awesome for years. I always get a bunch of the ham and cheese (not very exciting, I know, but DELICIOUS!) empanadas. I take them home and then gobble them up in front of the TV. Heaven.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hungryrunner

                                                I like the variety at Empanda's Place, but the deep-fry action can be a little too much for me at times. I've found the baked empanadas at Grand Casino on Main St in Culver City to be a nice alternative. But if you gotta have the deep-fried, EP is the way to go.

                                              2. Finally got around to trying Chabuya yesterday. Noodles were cooked perfectly, and the broth was nicely complex. I will definitely be returning!

                                                1 Reply