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SoCal for 10 Days-Top Japanese Must-Hit Restaurants

kolachman Mar 15, 2009 08:46 AM

In January my wife and I spent time with our friend Leslie checking out the Japanese restaurant scene in SoCal-wow-so many good memories!!! Unfortunately, we have nothing authentic even remotely close by our house here in Princeton, NJ without going to Manhattan, which is fine, but we can't do it every week. SoCal Chowhounds you don't know how good you have it!

We are coming back to Laguna Beach for ten days at the beginning of April and the anticipation is killing me! We would again like to hit as many Japanese Restaurants (all types) in that time period, including multiple spots each day, so bring it on. We have been to such places as Sushi Shibucho, Shin Sen Gumi (several times) and Kappo Honda. Atmosphere is a distant second to authentic deliciousness. Remember-these are the "Must Hit" Restaurants. Thanks!

  1. DrBruin Mar 15, 2009 08:49 AM


    4 Replies
    1. re: DrBruin
      kolachman Mar 15, 2009 08:52 AM

      I have seen that referenced elsewhere. Location? We are trying to hit as many as possible so is it grouped geographically with any other noteworthy places?

      1. re: kolachman
        DrBruin Mar 15, 2009 09:24 AM

        Try googling it.

        1. re: kolachman
          cjla Mar 17, 2009 10:22 AM

          It's in Beverly Hills.

          Urasawa Restaurant
          218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

          1. re: cjla
            kolachman Mar 17, 2009 10:47 AM

            Thank you!

      2. goodhealthgourmet Mar 15, 2009 09:23 AM

        since Laguna is about halfway between LA & SD, you should also make the trip south to Kaito in Encinitas.

        1 Reply
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
          kolachman Mar 15, 2009 01:35 PM

          Oh, good idea! I put South of Laguna out of our thought pattern-we will definitely check it out, although we are trying to group restaurants so we can hit multiple each day.

        2. bgazindad Mar 15, 2009 10:23 AM

          There are 4 Michelin 1 and 2 star Japanese restaurants in So Cal. The last, Bluefin, is not Michelin rated but is close to you and has been the best zagat rating for Orange County Japanese restaurants.

          good luck

          Sushi Zo
          9824 National Blvd.
          West LA, CA
          Michelin guide 1 star

          218 N. Rodeo Dr.
          Beverly Hills, CA
          michelin 2 stars

          11941 Ventura Blvd.
          Studio City, CA
          Michelin 1 star

          Mori Sushi
          11500 W. Pico Blvd.
          West LA, CA
          michelin 1 star

          7952 E. PCH
          Newport Coast, CA

          10 Replies
          1. re: bgazindad
            kolachman Mar 15, 2009 01:37 PM

            Thanks bgazindad-these all look very promising indeed-geographically grouped and highly rated. Bluefin is just up the road so I am sure that will be our first go.

            1. re: kolachman
              bgazindad Mar 15, 2009 03:06 PM


              This is the average cost for a dinner at the restaurants I listed.

              Sushi Zo=$65


              1. re: bgazindad
                kolachman Mar 15, 2009 03:51 PM

                Wow-Thanks. Urasawa is probably out this trip!

                1. re: kolachman
                  andytseng Mar 16, 2009 01:14 PM

                  Just go to Urasawa, and slum it for a couple meals to balance out the cost. You will not regret it. If you need some slummin ideas, LA has a lot of great options for that.

                  1. re: andytseng
                    kolachman Mar 16, 2009 05:35 PM

                    haha-that is a definite possibility-but my wife would rather hit as many as possible-we shall see!

                2. re: bgazindad
                  daftpunkxl Mar 15, 2009 04:16 PM

                  Those prices, at least for Zo and Mori, seem exceptionally conservative. I've been hard-pressed to get out of either place for less than $100/pp. Last time at Mori, my girlfriend and I got the full omakase dinner, though I brought my own sake, and the bill was more like $175/pp.

                  1. re: daftpunkxl
                    kolachman Mar 15, 2009 04:35 PM

                    Thanks for the heads up!

                    1. re: daftpunkxl
                      ronnie_gaucho Mar 15, 2009 04:48 PM

                      Totally agree with you

                    2. re: bgazindad
                      I make my own pickles Mar 19, 2009 05:38 AM

                      $390...Hmm you could actually fly to Tokyo between now and May on that amount. $30 airport to hotel and $6 in train fare more and your at Tsukiji. Plus your sleeping schedule is already out of sorts, so you will be waking up at 3am anyway. :)

                      1. re: I make my own pickles
                        kolachman Mar 19, 2009 04:35 PM

                        Interesting thought! Love the name!

                3. ronnie_gaucho Mar 15, 2009 01:21 PM

                  For Sushi...Sushi Sushi and Katsu in BH

                  Yakitori - Kokekokko in Little Tokyo

                  Shabu Shabu - Kagaya Little Tokyo

                  Tempura - Komatsu in Torrance

                  Izakaya - Musha in Torrance

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: ronnie_gaucho
                    kolachman Mar 15, 2009 01:39 PM

                    ronnie_gaucho-thanks for categorizing the styles-will report back.

                    1. re: ronnie_gaucho
                      Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 01:42 PM

                      Bear in mind that Laguna Beach is very far south in OC and it would frankly be faster to drive to San Diego than the Westside of Los Angeles at the dinner hour.

                      Fortunately there is excellent Japanese food right in Orange County.

                      You can get better yakitori than Kokekokko at Shinsengumi in Fountain Valley or Gardena (much closer than Little Tokyo). The Shinsengumi in Fountain Valley has a ramen-ya next door; the one in Gardena has a place where you can have very good chanko-nabe in a tatami room. Be aware that peak time for these places is 7 PM when the salarymen at Toyota and Honda get off work.

                      Irvine Shabu Shabu House is very good. Bluefin by Abe in Newport Beach is excellent sushi (though I've only had it once -- it is quite expensive), or Hamamori in South Coast Plaza (also very expensive).

                      Honda-Ya (Tustin) or Kappo Honda (Fountain Valley) are also excellent, not to mention Santouka Ramen in Costa Mesa and Tsuruhashi, a yakiniku restaurant in Fountain Valley.

                      I normally would recommend Maki-Zushi in Tustin for sushi but I'm getting downhill reports from people I trust so I am withholding that until I have the budget and a chance to go down there again.

                      There is a sushi-ya in Laguna Beach called Mosun. It is not the best sushi in the world but it is perfectly OK and the standout dish there is tuna tataki. It is expensive, though, and trying to be trendy, like most of Laguna Beach, so if you're willing to drive go to Bluefin instead.

                      Also, to the OP -- I know it is not especially close to Princeton but there is a Mitsuwa store in Edgewater, Bergen County, with an excellent food court including another Santouka. It is far (you might as well be in New York) but closer than Orange County!

                      Finally, if your budget will allow it, the gold standard of sushi is Urasawa in Beverly Hills -- but it is $350 per person, exclusive of tax, tip and drinks.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                        ronnie_gaucho Mar 15, 2009 01:52 PM

                        I'm going to totally disagree regarding your statement about shin sen gumi yakitori being better than kokekkoko...it's simply not true. Kokekokko has been around for over 20 years and serves some of the most authentic yakitori i've had outside japan

                        1. re: ronnie_gaucho
                          Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 01:58 PM

                          Even if that were true (and since this is subjective thinking, I can say you're completely wrong without compromising my integrity), I can't imagine driving four hours round trip to go to Kokekokko.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                            E Eto Mar 15, 2009 08:28 PM

                            Subjectivity aside, Kokekokko does use better ingredients than Shinsengumi, but what matters is how you order (or perhaps, what you're allowed to order) that might affect how to feel about the food at Kokekokko. Shinsengumi provides better value, and is an old reliable spot, but it's just slightly above average as far as the food. For yakitori, I like Torimatsu or Koshiji better. Torihei sounds like a good place to try as well. But none of these places are near the OP in OC.

                            1. re: E Eto
                              Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 09:00 PM

                              Perhaps I need a better guide to Kokekokko, then -- the stuff I had was burnt. I know it's supposed to have burnt edges, but it was just plain burnt, and I was sad.

                              1. re: E Eto
                                ronnie_gaucho Mar 15, 2009 09:56 PM

                                well put sir

                                1. re: E Eto
                                  kolachman Mar 16, 2009 05:37 PM

                                  E Eto-I am not concerned or looking for OC places as we are willing to go North or South. I think as far as LA and SD. So, no worries.

                              2. re: ronnie_gaucho
                                yinyangdi Mar 18, 2009 03:09 PM

                                I thought I read somewhere a while back (or did someone tell me?) that Kokekokko was in the process of being sold. If that is true, have the workers changed and/or has the quality of food and prep gone downhill recently?

                              3. re: Das Ubergeek
                                kolachman Mar 15, 2009 01:59 PM

                                Thanks Das Ubergeek-Also, thanks for defining expensive with Urasawa. A lot of CH on the LA board calls restaurants I deem inexpensive as "expensive". Remember, we are used to NYC and prices from Sushi Yasuda, etc. We have been to Honda-Ya (happened upon it one Sunday night when Maki Zushi was closed-it sounds like that was a good thing) and two of the Shin Sen Gumi restaurants and enjoyed all of them. We went to Shin Sen Gumi at 6pm on a Tuesday night and were first on the list so we got in ok, but there was a rush for the door nonetheless. Bluefin does not seem expensive to me from the website, although Urasawa does.

                                Thanks for the tip on Mitsuwa in Edgewater-we will check it out-however, you were right, we might as well hit NYC. Luckily we are in SoCal every so often so we can make the most of your inexpensive offerings. Thanks again.

                                1. re: kolachman
                                  Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 02:11 PM

                                  Depending on your appetite, if you sit at the sushi bar and let Abe choose, you'll spend $100 or so a head. That's not cheap to me (my demesne is cheap ethnic food -- Little Saigon in north OC is my paradise), but it may be to you.

                                  It is far cheaper to eat in Los Angeles than in New York, and if you're willing to trade trendiness for taste you can eat incredibly well in OC for $20 a head. I remember being excited that my per-diem for food in New York was $85, until I realised that that was not all that wonderful.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                    kolachman Mar 15, 2009 02:27 PM

                                    Please don't misunderstand me-I am only willing to pay because I am used to it. When we went to Honda-Ya and Sushi Shibucho we got out for $22/pp and $50/pp respectively. There is no way we can do that out here. Even the sushi-ya's out here that are run by our Chinese friends charge more pp. That said, we love to find cheap eats-I want taste and pure deliciousness--trendiness and atmosphere be darned if superior taste is achieved. We are willing to drive all over OC and LA to find it.

                                2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                  goodhealthgourmet Mar 15, 2009 06:17 PM

                                  Das, i live right down the street from the Edgewater Mitsuwa, and though i shop there, i've never bothered to check out the food court. i can't do ramen (no gluten for me), but do you recommend any of the other offerings there?

                                  and to the OP, i know you were trying to group multiple restaurants together, but Encinitas really isn't that far from Laguna, and a meal at Kaito will definitely be worth the trip.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                    Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 09:11 PM

                                    I have not actually been to the Edgewater store, but the stuff inside is mostly chains.

                                    Italian Tomato -- probably not the best choice for you if you can't eat gluten.

                                    You could shock the hell out of any Japanese friends by giving a lavishly-wrapped (and very expensive) gift from Kobe Fugetsudo.

                                    If Delica is the place I know from San Francisco, it is very beautifully-arranged (but not cheap) takeaway by the pound. I remember very good curry-with-stuff.

                                    Katsuhana is exactly what you would think -- katsu, and therefore coated in panko breadcrumbs and not what you want.

                                    The others I couldn't tell you about.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                      goodhealthgourmet Mar 16, 2009 06:52 AM

                                      appreciate the insight - maybe i'll try Delica one of these days.

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                      kolachman Mar 16, 2009 05:39 PM

                                      goodhealthgourmet-I will definitely put Kaito on the list. We are willing to travel and it all depends on the other things on the itinerary as to where we may end up-just looking for a trip to good taste. Thanks

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                        joshekg Mar 17, 2009 05:36 PM

                                        I used to goto the edgewater mitsuwa to eat. I'd grab some udon at kayaba. They also have a good selection of asian sweets, but bean paste is not my thing.

                                        1. re: joshekg
                                          Das Ubergeek Mar 17, 2009 08:37 PM

                                          Udon is wheat noodles. goodhealthgourmet mentioned gluten intolerance.

                                      2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                        ns1 Mar 17, 2009 05:25 PM

                                        "I normally would recommend Maki-Zushi in Tustin for sushi but I'm getting downhill reports from people I trust so I am withholding that until I have the budget and a chance to go down there again."

                                        I was there 3-4 weeks ago on a slow ass Saturday afternoon and still thought it was fantastic.

                                        1. re: ns1
                                          kolachman Mar 18, 2009 02:59 PM

                                          ns1-Thanks for the update. Just to clarify-Das is not the only one who has said that Maki-Zushi is going downhill recently. Maybe it is just inconsistent? I am not sure that it will make the list this go around as I have been overwhelmed by the number of restaurants already on my draft list--if only we could stay longer! Thanks again!

                                      3. re: ronnie_gaucho
                                        soniabegonia Mar 16, 2009 06:06 PM

                                        Kagaya is a gem. It'll set you back $50-60pp with tax & tip but worth it. IMO, the only great place in LA to get shabu shabu.

                                        More favorites:
                                        Nanbankan (WLA) - Izakaya $$
                                        Kiriko (WLA) - sushi, small plates $$$
                                        Sushi Nishi-ya (glendale) - unlikely location with very high quality sushi at Glendale prices (read: cheap for the quality) $$$
                                        Daikokuya (downtown) - ramen. still my favorite. still like it better than Santouka & Shin Sen Gumi $
                                        Yabu (WLA) - small plates, noodles, rice bowls, etc. $$

                                        1. re: soniabegonia
                                          Das Ubergeek Mar 16, 2009 06:24 PM

                                          I like Nishi-Ya, but I don't know that it's a must-hit. It is, however, very good and in a place without many restaurants.

                                      4. JAB Mar 15, 2009 01:26 PM

                                        It looks like you missed a "Must Hit" in Tsuruhashi which is right down the street from Shin Sen Gumi and Kappo Honda.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JAB
                                          kolachman Mar 15, 2009 01:40 PM

                                          Yes JAB we did miss Tsuruhashi, but we also ate at a bunch of other places not mentioned in OP. Thanks-it is now on the list!

                                        2. OCAnn Mar 15, 2009 02:01 PM

                                          ExileKiss recently reviewed Torihei in Torrance; I was there this weekend and will agree that it's excellent. Some of the flavours were out of this world. Just down the street from there is another place EK put on our radar: ichimian has excellent house made soba.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: OCAnn
                                            kolachman Mar 15, 2009 02:34 PM

                                            Thanks OCAnn I did see EK's post on Torihei and it is on the list. Torrance area seems like it is the place to be and not that far from us.

                                          2. ipsedixit Mar 15, 2009 02:29 PM

                                            3114 Beverly Blvd
                                            Los Angeles,

                                            Go on an off-night when it's not crowded (like midweek) when you can sit at the bar and have Shige take care of you personally.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              mrhooks Mar 15, 2009 08:20 PM

                                              Note for the OP, it is no longer owned by the same person who owns Sushi Shibucho in Costa Mesa. Although if you're going to drive that far for sushi, I would make either Zo or Mori your first choice, since Urasawa is out.

                                              You could go to Santouka for ramen, but I don't know if I would bother if I were in your position, since there's one in NJ (though I'd rather go to Ippudo in NY for ramen). For ramen, I prefer Asa Ramen in Gardena. The kotteri shoyu ramen is similar in style to Shin Sen Gumi, but better.

                                              Shabu Shabu House in Little Tokyo is really good (esp. the sauces), but it's a LONG wait. On a weekend, expect to wait 90 minutes. Same with Tsuruhashi (yakiniku), which I love, but the wait can be difficult to bear.

                                              I'm surprised no one has mentioned Izakaya Bincho in Redondo Beach yet...

                                              1. re: mrhooks
                                                kolachman Mar 16, 2009 05:41 PM

                                                mrhooks-Thanks for your insights. ExileKiss mentions it below!

                                            2. groover808 Mar 15, 2009 03:59 PM

                                              Some cheap eats:
                                              Japanese BBQ: 2nd for Tsuruhashi - 18798 Brookhurst St Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                                              Udon/Soba: I like enjoy Fukada in Irvine, will be a nice lunch option and not too far away. They're known for udon/soba and various don combos so don't bother with the rolls. 8683 Irvine Center Dr Irvine, CA 92618.

                                              Ramen: Santouka like Das mentioned inside the Mitsuwa food court. It will be the storefront with wood slats, get the SHIO ramen, simply the best! 665 Paularino Ave Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: groover808
                                                kolachman Mar 15, 2009 04:34 PM

                                                Great-These seem right on! Thanks groover808!

                                                1. re: kolachman
                                                  Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 05:00 PM

                                                  The shio ramen set with negimeshi (scallion rice) and a tea egg will set you back the princely sum of $8.48 (plus 8.75% tax), so you can splurge on your sushi meal, which is what will be by far the most expensive.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                    kolachman Mar 15, 2009 05:05 PM


                                                  2. re: kolachman
                                                    groover808 Mar 15, 2009 07:54 PM

                                                    No problem, please report back after your trip!

                                                    1. re: groover808
                                                      jaymor Mar 15, 2009 09:45 PM

                                                      the edgewater ramen place also serves toroniku pork (more tender) instead of the regular pork for the ramen be it shio or salt based...try it....you will like it better....i think the place is also named santouka......the torrance santouka is pretty good for it....at edgewater there is a booth that sells a japanese shrimp in batter disc shaped deep fried thing...dont know what it's called but you can see the samples on display.....good stuff

                                                2. e
                                                  exilekiss Mar 15, 2009 09:49 PM

                                                  Hi kolachman,

                                                  "I want taste and pure deliciousness--trendiness and atmosphere be darned if superior taste is achieved. We are willing to drive all over OC and LA to find it."

                                                  If that is your primary objective, and you mean absolutely "Must-Hit" Japanese food, here are some suggestions:

                                                  Hybrid Kaiseki / Sushi
                                                  * Urasawa - I know you said it was out, but I wanted to list it as a recommendation for future reference. There's nothing like it in L.A.; it's a unique experience with Urasawa-san and his preparations. If you look on Chowhound you'll find lots of threads and links to pictures. If you could eat only 1 meal in L.A., this would be it. :)

                                                  * Mori Sushi
                                                  * Sushi Zo
                                                  Both of these places are top quality, outstanding Sushi restaurants that are worth the drive for, again, if what you said is the driving force (above). :) As Das says, from Laguna it's a long drive, but if you want to get amazing Sushi and are skipping Urasawa, these 2 will fit the bill nicely and places you should seriously consider.

                                                  * Izakaya Bincho - Down-to-earth, humble, outstanding Izakaya food from Tomo-san. It's my favorite in L.A./O.C. easily. The amazing Agedashi Tofu, Zousui, Buta no Kakuni, etc.

                                                  Yakitori / Kushiyaki
                                                  * Torihei - This new place is just amazing Yakitori and Kushiyaki, and easily my new favorite in the area (until Yakitori Bincho reopens (ah the tragedy)).

                                                  * Torihei - The same restaurant has an Kyoto-style Oden Menu as well. Wonderful dishes. :)

                                                  * Ichimian (Honten) - Fresh-made Soba Noodles, made daily. Try them "Hosomen" (Thin Style). Love it! :)

                                                  * Tsuruhashi - While there are a variety of Yakiniku restaurants that have certain outstanding aspects to them, Tsuruhashi in general is probably your best bet. They have some amazing cuts of meat - the Jo Tan Shio (Superior Grade Beef Tongue), Kobe Ro-su (U.S. Kobe Rib Eye Cap), Beef Heart and Beef Liver Sashimi are all worth the visit.

                                                  * Gaja-Moc (aka Gaja) - Wonderful Okonomiyaki and Monjyayaki specialist. Fun times. :)

                                                  * Kagura - If you're more in the mood for a Tokyo-style Koryouri-ya, give Kagura a try. Some wonderful dishes (but some that were a little rough around the edges).

                                                  * Komatsu - Light, airy breading; very good Tempura in So Cal.

                                                  Regardless of where you go, hope you enjoy your stay in So Cal! :)

                                                  Urasawa Restaurant
                                                  218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                  Sushi Zo
                                                  9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                  Mori Sushi
                                                  11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                  Gaja Moc
                                                  2383 Lomita Blvd, Lomita, CA 90717

                                                  18798 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                                                  Ichimian (Bamboo Garden)
                                                  1618 Cravens Ave., Torrance, CA 90501

                                                  1644 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                  1652 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance, CA 90501

                                                  Izakaya Bincho
                                                  112 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

                                                  1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                                  15 Replies
                                                  1. re: exilekiss
                                                    bulavinaka Mar 15, 2009 09:53 PM

                                                    Sounds like a South Bay all-day food orgy should be in the plans for the OP - I humbly concur - great recs, Sensei!

                                                    1. re: exilekiss
                                                      Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2009 10:10 PM

                                                      I thought Bincho had had a fire or some such thing??

                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                        OCAnn Mar 15, 2009 10:33 PM

                                                        IIRC Yakitori Bincho was shut down for not being to fire code and reopened as Izakaya Bincho in the same space. EK did a review late last year, I believe.

                                                      2. re: exilekiss
                                                        huaqiao Mar 16, 2009 02:04 PM

                                                        exilekiss is one of the supreme masters of Japanese cuisine here on the LA boards so I'd listen to his recs.

                                                        Out of the tons of Japanese restaurants you'd have a great time at out here, if I could single one out for being an authentic and unique experience, I'd pick Gaja-moc. I've never heard of any other place in the US where you cook your okonomiyaki at your table as they do in Japan.

                                                        I was in Tokyo last fall and had monjayaki at Tsukishima, which is like monjayaki central. Based on that experience, I can safely say that Gaja-moc is incredibly authentic and really gives the feel of being in Japan.

                                                        I'd recommend getting the okonomiyaki because the monjayaki is messy and not that visually appealing. This is all contingent on you enjoying the flavor of okonomiyaki in the first place, of course! The food's nothing fancy or exceptional, but the whole experience is what makes it fun. :)

                                                        1. re: huaqiao
                                                          bulavinaka Mar 16, 2009 02:29 PM

                                                          It's been a while since our last visit, but they're one of a few Japanese restaurants I've been to that actually served Koshihikari Echigo beer - IMHO, the perfect beer for Japanese cuisine.

                                                          Also, the okonomiyaki combinations there are mind-boggling - almost all Kansai-style, as opposed to (my favorite) HIroshima-style. If the OP decides to put this place on the list, I'd let them do the first one, then try the second one with some of their assistance - they're a great crew and more than glad to help. And save room for a parfait, just for the fun of it.

                                                          1. re: huaqiao
                                                            kolachman Mar 16, 2009 06:02 PM

                                                            That sounds really cool. Thanks for the rec.

                                                            1. re: huaqiao
                                                              exilekiss Mar 16, 2009 09:21 PM

                                                              Hi huaqiao,

                                                              No, no, you're definitely giving me too much credit. (^_^;; Definitely love Gaja-Moc as well. Good recommendation. :)

                                                            2. re: exilekiss
                                                              kolachman Mar 16, 2009 05:59 PM

                                                              Wow-Thanks ExileKiss-Yes, that is our goal-DELICIOUSNESS. I must admit that the a good portion of the places that we tried back in January (I did not list them all) were places you have mentioned in other posts. Thanks for the time you spent on responding to this post and all your great reviews. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

                                                              The only reason why I think we will forgo Urasawa this go around is that we would like to experience as much variety as possible this go around. However, nothing is set in stone as of yet and there are some other factors that will play into the whole trip. My wife summered every year in Laguna Beach and we go as frequently as possible. Trying to keep all options open. We shall see. . .

                                                              1. re: kolachman
                                                                exilekiss Mar 16, 2009 09:22 PM

                                                                Hi kolachman,

                                                                Thank you. Oh, that's good that you already tried most of the places I listed. I hope you find more places you enjoy this time around. Let me know if there are specific cuisines you're in the mood for (and which you tried) and we can suggest other possibilities. :)

                                                                1. re: exilekiss
                                                                  kolachman Mar 17, 2009 11:21 AM

                                                                  ExileKiss-Is there a good place to get takoyaki?

                                                                  1. re: kolachman
                                                                    mrhooks Mar 17, 2009 04:53 PM

                                                                    Forgot to mention, Asa Ramen also has takoyaki. :-) That's what they offer in lieu of gyoza.

                                                                    And although you said Urasawa is out, I have to join the chorus and ask you and your wife to reconsider. At ~$500 total it was my most expensive meal ever (and the price has gone up $50 since then), but it's more than worth it. I'd rather go there once than any other sushi-ya 5 times.

                                                                    1. re: kolachman
                                                                      exilekiss Mar 17, 2009 09:33 PM

                                                                      Hi kolachman,

                                                                      I've been utterly spoiled by the piping hot, fluffy, crispy (exterior) Takoyaki I had in Tokyo (and that's not even Takoyaki from Osaka). After that experience, I'm still searching for something that approaches that.

                                                                      If you just want to have some Takoyaki, one of the better places for LA would be what mrhooks has stated: Asa Ramen.

                                                                      Enjoy your stay! :)

                                                                      1. re: exilekiss
                                                                        kolachman Mar 18, 2009 02:55 PM

                                                                        Thanks to both of you. Our friend Leslie has a close friend in Osaka that makes her own that are unequaled per Leslie, whose food insights are Chowhound worthy. Obviously, that would be the standard (remember-"must-hit"), but I probably would like to have them, so thanks for the suggestion.

                                                                        As to Ursawa-if our friend joins us, it would be $750 and not $500 as I would want to treat. Yikes! I have one in college currently and my son wants to go to USC next year at $50G/yr-one must prioritize! :-)

                                                                        1. re: kolachman
                                                                          cjla Mar 18, 2009 03:28 PM

                                                                          Yes, obvs. Sell children.

                                                                          1. re: cjla
                                                                            kolachman Mar 18, 2009 03:36 PM

                                                                            haha! Ya!

                                                              2. flylice2x Mar 16, 2009 02:12 AM


                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: flylice2x
                                                                  kolachman Mar 16, 2009 06:02 PM

                                                                  This looks like a good site, but I really appreciate all the Chowhounders input too! Thanks.

                                                                  1. re: kolachman
                                                                    kolachman Mar 17, 2009 09:46 AM

                                                                    Thanks to all the SoCal Chowhounders who have responded to this thread-I am overwhelmed by the response and look forward to getting to as many of these as I can and reporting back.

                                                                    1. re: kolachman
                                                                      bulavinaka Mar 17, 2009 11:02 AM

                                                                      By looking at the locations of a lot of these LA area recs, so many are in the general Torrance/Gardena area. You've probably already considered this thought, but in case you haven't, you might plan on at least one or two day-trips to the South Bay area. You can easily space out your meals by shopping at Japanese markets like Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and Marukai. They each have their strengths, with Marukai being the biggest of the three. Someone interested in food and new to this store could easily spend one to two hours combing through their inventory. And don't forget your ice chest!

                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                        kolachman Mar 18, 2009 03:09 PM

                                                                        bulavinaka-Believe it or not I did not yet consider your idea. I really have not gotten that far yet as I am still considering the draft list. Two lists will probably emerge-final and back-up. I think that your idea is fantastic though and a good insight. South Bay area is definitely tops on the list.

                                                                2. j
                                                                  jaypeezy Mar 18, 2009 09:03 AM

                                                                  Zipangu in Costa Mesa is pretty good in my opinion...its located at "The Lab"...I only had the sushi though, not sure about their regular entrees.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: jaypeezy
                                                                    kolachman Mar 18, 2009 03:09 PM

                                                                    Thanks jaypeezy!

                                                                  2. j
                                                                    Jerome Mar 21, 2009 02:46 AM

                                                                    komatsu in Torrance

                                                                    1644 W Carson St # B
                                                                    Torrance, CA 90501
                                                                    (310) 787-0787
                                                                    for a type of omakase tempura experience.

                                                                    I like Shibutani's work at Shibucho in Costa Mesa. He is a master and many of the best local chefs trained with him. Non-descript setting. Fish will blow you away. (sushi).

                                                                    White soba at Otafuki soba house in Gardena.

                                                                    For izakaya, still a sucker for Izayoi in downtown LA. If you're coming into town for something near downtown - sightseeing, disney hal, etc., make it a stop. Homemade tofu is a revelation. sesame pudding with kuro... a black rice syrup.

                                                                    if money is an issue, they have a special lunch bento for $9.50. only twenty a day, so go early.

                                                                    on central avenue. free parking at the staples or home depot or whatever the big store is next door.

                                                                    Also, fugetsudo in little tokyo has excellent store-made mochi selections.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Jerome
                                                                      kolachman Mar 21, 2009 07:09 AM

                                                                      Jerome-Thanks for the suggestions. We have been to Shibucho and it has made the list again. I believe that we are hitting LA for at least a day trip, so thanks for the tips.

                                                                      1. re: kolachman
                                                                        Jerome Mar 21, 2009 03:09 PM

                                                                        it's otafuku sorry.

                                                                    2. lotta_cox Mar 22, 2009 06:13 AM

                                                                      My .02:

                                                                      Izayoi in Little Tokyo for izakaya
                                                                      Kagaya in Little Tokyo for shabu shabu
                                                                      Wakasan in West LA for $35 Omakase

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