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Non-Sushi Japanese Restaurants

As little as I know about China and Chinese food - I know a fair amount about Japanese food (and my husband speaks some Japanese). As people have pointed out from time to time in this forum - Japanese restaurants in Japan tend to be exclusive in the types of food they serve. There are sushi restaurants - tempura restaurants - soba restaurants - udon restaurants - etc. - etc. Does any such thing exist in Los Angeles - a really good restaurant that serves a type of Japanese cuisine that is not sushi. Or one that serves a variety of non-sushi cuisine? Robyn

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  1. There are many ramen restaurants to choose from. There are three that I keep in my rotation. Daikokuya and Orochon in Little Tokyo and Santouka in West LA. Nearby in Little Tokyo is also Izayoi which is an izakaya, a Japanese restaurant serving a variety of small dishes to try and share (think tapas) which also includes sushi at dinner.

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    Daikokuya
    327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Izayoi
    132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Orochon Ramen
    123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St Ste 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Santouka
    3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

    1 Reply
    1. There are quite a few robata places, like Nanbankan in west L.A.

      1. Daichan in studio city (next door to "No"zawa), Noodles, Donburi, Curries, and so much more!

        1 Reply
        1. re: FranklinJefferson

          I'll second this. I really like this.

          Also try some of the izakaya -- beer and small plates, like Japanese tapas.

        2. Check out the extensive reports by Exilekiss on this subject. Seems like a lot of the good ones are clustered in the Torrance/Gardena vicinity.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Akitist

            I've never been to Torrance/Gardena - but looked at a map. The only thing I noticed on the map was what is apparently the national headquarters of the American Honda Motor Company. That would explain (at least in part) the restaurant scene. Robyn

            1. re: pvgirl

              Toyota's just down the street. That is exactly why the Japanese restaurant scene is so good there.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Toyota, Honda, and Nissan were all based here for a long time. Nissan moved their HQ to Tennessee two years ago, but Toyota and Honda are still here.

          2. My 1st thought is Ita Cho on Beverly but I have not been there for three yrs. They had excellent sashimi but no sushi. Their claim to fame is a wide array of small plates of interesting traditional Japanese food. Kind of like Japanese Tapas.
            The original Ita Cho location rocked! It was in a Hollywood strip mall next to an adult book store. It had real character and tables with long wooden benches and valet parking of course.
            Many places have since opened copying their menu concept but Ita Cho is definately worth checking out!

            Little Tokyo has many good places and is always changing but these old places worth checking out are:

            The Tempura Bar inside Thousand Cranes restaurant

            Tha charcol grilled chicken yakitori place near the corner of 2nd & Central (i think those are the streets-someone please help me out b/c can't remember name)

            and (also can't remember the name) the japanese diner type place with a counter and booths on 1st st-it's open till 1-2 am Fri-Sat and with a line

            The Shabu Shabu restaurant

            Good Luck!

            1. To answer your question succinctly, Robyn... Of course!

              Yes, there is SOOOOO much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi.

              Udon/ramen, tempura, izakaya, robata, curry, bakeries, pastries/coffeehouses. The first reply on this thread gave a nice starter list to try. Enjoy!

              1 Reply
              1. re: J.L.

                Oh I almost forgot teppanyaki:

                Go try Garden Grill, at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo.

              2. Here's a few that we've enjoyed over the past few months, all courtesy of exilekiss:

                Yakitori: Torihei

                Izakaya: Izakaya Bincho

                Soba: Ichimiann

                Tempura: Komatsu

                You might consider I-naba as well. Although they technically aren't a specialist, they do specialize in some things and have a very capable kitchen. Their soba is sourced from their sister restaurant, Ichimiann (we actually liked the soba at I-naba better), they do have a tempura bar and sushi bar (I know you weren't in the market for that but just the same), and we found all of the menu items we ordered to be excellent. Most places I've listed have sake and Japanese beer selections that are at least pretty good.

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

                Komatsu
                1644 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501

                Inaba
                20920 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90503

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

                Torihei
                1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                3 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Bincho is GREAT, we try and go once a month. The small plates are fun to share. Make a reservation, they are only open in the evenings and it is a small place. Be sure to read some reviews and get some ideas about what people like. My hubby LOVES the spicy wings. Try the ricotta tofu, it is delicious, and my new favorite the rice ball stuffed with Japanese plum. Now I must call and make my own reservation.

                  1. re: JEN10

                    absolutely make a reservation there.
                    they are closed on one tuesday a month in addition to their normal days off.

                  2. re: bulavinaka

                    Hi bulavinaka,

                    Great suggestions! :) And while I didn't like some things at Inaba, overall it was a very good restaurant, and I'd consider them a Tempura Specialist as well (they have a whole bar and Tempura Chef devoted to it :).

                  3. This website is dedicated to all kinds of japanese Restaurants....

                    www.japaneserestaurantinfo.com/index....

                    1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/570891

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                      Wonton Forest
                      18230 Gale Ave, City of Industry, CA 91748

                      1. Thanks for all the suggestions. Looks like the first thing I have to do is get a big map of the greater Los Angeles area - and start putting X's on the places I want to see - and the restaurants in those areas. Robyn

                        1. Hi pvgirl,

                          There are some great suggestions listed here already; bulavinaka's post has most of my favorites on there. :) I second those suggestions. A quick recap of some specialists I've enjoyed:

                          (Do a Search on Chowhound's LA Board for reviews of these place)

                          * For Soba Noodles: Ichimian
                          Fresh-made, handmade Soba Noodles (every day). Simple small place, so good! :)

                          * For Yakitori: Torihei

                          * For Kyoto-style Oden (so good! :): Torihei

                          * For Izakaya: Izakaya Bincho.
                          Otafuku also has some nice dishes (and some misses).

                          * For Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki: Gaja Moc

                          * For Tempura: Komatsu and Inaba

                          * For Koryouriya: Kagura

                          * For a Washokuya: Yuzu

                          * For Yakiniku: Tsuruhashi

                          Enjoy! (^_^)

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: exilekiss

                            What is koryouriya and washokuya?

                            Thanks

                            1. re: bgazindad

                              Washoku is traditional (pre-isolationism) Japanese cooking. I've only heard the term applied to the Japanese interpretation of a "meat and three" (or, in this case, rice-and-three, since it's rice, soup, pickled and three dishes). Exilekiss can clarify if I'm mistaking this, since I've never been to Yuzu.

                              A koryouri-ya is a Japanese type bistro, small dishes but much quieter than an izaka-ya.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Yeah, no one really uses the term washoku-ya, except to mean a "Japanese-Japanese" restaurant. There's no real designation as such. Any Japanese restaurant that serve fairly authentic foods can be considered a washoku-ya.

                                1. re: E Eto

                                  My Japanese food dictionary defines "washoku" as "traditional Japanese food or meal. The term excludes most Western and Chinese dishes commonly eaten in Japan". So it's not only "authentic" - but "traditional". Robyn

                                  1. re: pvgirl

                                    Hosking uses the term, as it was coined- as an explanation for items usually not Chinese or Western. But the bit about "traditional" is only relative.Most Japanese would call tempura, which is of European origins and was introduced prior to the strictest "sakoku" policies, "washoku".

                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  "Washoku" was coined during the Meiji Era (late 1800's), as a term to differentiate Japanese cuisine from Chinese and Western cuisines. It is a generic term just meaning "Japanese food" and has nothing to do with the contents of the meal. Soba, udon, and sushi are as "washoku" as any set of rice/soup/okazu/tsukemono.

                                  ....In the U.S., I can understand calling a place a "washokuya". It kind of makes idiosyncretic sense for some of the places you see here.

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    Hi E Eto, Silverjay,

                                    Yah, I figured a Washokuya in the literal sense meant what you are saying (and Das), but when I went to Yuzu, our waitress (and later on, the manager) kept insisting that their restaurant was a "hon mono washokuya." We then had a nice discussion about how it was different from an Izakaya or Kappo-ryouri, and I might've been missing some things, but they were basically "mildly offended" if I was going to label their restaurant as such.

                                    Their menu is really down to earth, and "milder" Japanese cooking. Many dishes that aren't seen at most of the local Izakayas and Kappo restaurants in So Cal.

                              2. re: exilekiss

                                Curious what are your Southern Cal recs for good Wafu or Yoshoku, e.g. omurice, curry rice, hamburg steak, croquette, Japanese style spaghetti. Anything like Pietro's and the ilk (Hawaii)?

                                How about strictly shojin / vegan that's not kaiseki?

                                1. re: K K

                                  Hi K K,

                                  Yoshoku is something I'm always on a quest for. :) For *only* the Kare (Japanese Curry), it's Foo Foo Tei (Hacienda Heights). Murakami-san makes his wonderful Japanese Curry from scratch every day. Even though he specializes in Ramen, he *dreams* about Curry (it's a personal love of his), which is why it's on his menu. It's delicious! :) The Katsu (Pork Cutlet) that accompanies the homemade Curry is unfortunately only average (not terrible, but not great). But I'm happy enough w/ his Curry.

                                  For Japanese-Italian pasta dishes, etc., I'm still researching places. My earliest introduction was Spoon House in Gardena, but it's nothing transcendent. I'll let you know if I run across some places.

                              3. What a great thread.

                                DOes anyone know if there are any great places for noodles in San Fernando Valley? I can't make it as far as LA tomorrow, but am craving noodles.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: SUmoldoll

                                  I assume you mean ramen when you refer to "noodles".

                                  Nippon Ramen (cash only)
                                  6900 Reseda Blvd
                                  Reseda, CA 91335

                                  This place is probably the closest to TO.

                                  if you crave udon or soba, try ichiban kan in Woodland Hills.

                                2. Another question on this subject. In a metro area as large as Los Angeles (and the metro area is huge) - I usually carry a Zagat's guide (because we don't necessarily get hungry for lunch in the vicinity of the places people have recommended - we almost always plan dinners - but frequently "wing it" for lunch). Have those of you who have used the guide found it to be reasonably dependable with regard to the type of Japanese restaurants discussed in this thread? If not - it does at least give me phone numbers where I check if a place is open - and an address to punch into the car's GPS. Robyn

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: pvgirl

                                    I carry a Zagat guide with me at all times in case there's a pesky fly I need to dispatch to the Ethereal Plane. That's about all I find it good for, because it only covers really popular restaurants.

                                    1. re: pvgirl

                                      Reasonably dependable particularly if you're w/o access to CH. Zagat led me to Salumi (a SEA CH favourite) in Seattle years ago; and it was there where I met a fellow diner who pointed me in the direction of CH.

                                      It's unfortunately true that it only covers the most popular restaurants and not out-of-the way mom & pop places. But again, it's useful when you don't have easy access to CH.

                                      1. re: pvgirl

                                        Dissatisfaction with Zagat (its unreliablility, its misinformation) is one of the main reasons I turned to Chowhound in the first place. Never going back.

                                        Hounds (or at least, me), try to plan breakfast, lunch AND dinner in order to maximize our gustatory lives.

                                      2. I like Yakitori-ya on Sawtelle (tho official address is Olympic)

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                                        Yakitoriya
                                        11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 101, Los Angeles, CA 90064