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Japanese food tour LA this weekend

Our chefs and I are heading to LA Sun-Tue to hit as many Japanese restaurants as possible. Staying downtown for the Sushi Masters event Sunday.

Looking for rec's in downtown for all styles and price points. Also rec's for other areas to hit such as Santa Monica and anything in between.


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  1. You really want to go down to Torrance for the best Japanese food.

    This is probably your best guide: http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: noahbites

      Concur w/that recommendation; Exilekiss is a regular and reliable LA CH reviewer/blogger.

      1. Head south. You need to go to Torrance and Gardena to get the best. Little Tokyo has stuff but Gardena and Torrance are where it's at. Of particular note would be two you can hit on the same night if you like (ha!) -- Torihei for Kyoto-style oden and directly across the parking lot is Musha for izakaya (their buta kakuni is amazing).

        3 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          You'll also enjoy Torihei for their yakitori. Their sansho pepper is quite delightful.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Don't forget GaJa on Lomita for a DIY Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki. And next door is Patisserie Chantilly for a Japanese-style French Bakery.

            I feel like GaJa is so unique in the US that it's a must if you want Japanese food in SoCal.

            Torihei used to serve Ramen too, but it got too popular and they had to take it off the menu. It's a shame because now I'll never get to try it.

            1. re: kainzero

              Torihei's ramen was good, but not so good that I'm particularly upset about it's disappearance. There's always too much stuff I want to order there as is.

          2. i might get a beat down for this on this board....but for something different...I would not miss Orris, a small plates fusion of Japanese with French technique...best dishes for me: warm snapper carpaccio, curry infused shrimp tempura with okinawan sea salt, foie gras with japanese eggplant, basil black cod, seared ahi sashimi, wonton dessert thing all with many flower vases of umenishiki daiginjo

            1 Reply
            1. re: peppermonkey

              If the OP is looking for Fusion he/she would be wise to heed your words (or, better, to go to Mako) but I get the sense it's not fusion they seek.

            2. thanks for all the rec's. We are also looking into restaurant design so there are some non japanese places to see. Here's our map so far


              might have to make another trip to try all the smaller places in Torrance everyone mentioned.

              6 Replies
              1. re: sfsand

                I just looked at your map. Sorry, but it looks like the LA tourist's guide to Japanese Food. This is the map of someone looking for the hot celebrity places, not foodie experiences. If you are going to spend that kind of money, just go to Urasawa and be done with it.

                1. re: wasabica

                  Nobu and The Hump are ridiculously overpriced for what they are. The Hump's quality is very good but not sensational, and the last time I was there the tab really wasn't that far off from Urasawa, which is one of the best restaurants in the country, so you might as well just go there and spend an additional $100 pp.

                  Your downtown choices are without exception weak. As others have said, Torrance isn't far off, and has far better alternatives.

                  Koi/Katana/Katsuya are barely Japanese. Tourist/celebrity traps, not worth the excessive cost or attitude.

                  I do like Orris, but as Ciao Bob said above, Mako is even better. He also owns Robata Ya, but I would choose Mako over that as well.

                  1. re: nimo

                    don't agree that mako is better, especially factoring the quality/price ratio

                    1. re: wasabica

                      i agree....that list is little weak for true japanese food. most places on the list are more of trendy nice date places rather than for the food.
                      i would do little search on this board and seek out best....
                      ramen, kaiseki, izakaya, soba, sushi, okonomiyaki, shabu shabu etc....

                      1. re: wasabica

                        ok ok ok. adjusting list. Thanks for the rec's

                        Some of the "touristy / non foody" places are on there for checking out the design and not really eating there. There are three japanese chefs with us, they want to see food, we want to see spaces.

                    2. I live in Torrance and am REALLY into Japanese food. I will caution you to consider what you are after when you pick the places. My personal preference is extremely high quality ingredients and authentic Japanese flavors with simple preparations . Unlike most, I do not care for Musha and Torihei because I find what they do more "Americanized." They have a lot of sweet miso-ey and mayo-ey sauces, which I do not like. They are some of the liveliest and coolest places in town to be sure, but I think the food is much better elsewhere. In Torrance/Gardena only, I think your best bets are Sansui Tei for Washu, Yuzu for sashimi and high end Izakaya experience , Kagura for authentic Kaiseki, Sushi Nozami (on a friday only) for up to 10 kinds of Snapper flown in from Japan, Otafuku for Soba. It is also worth hitting Izakaya Binchu in Redondo.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: wasabica

                        Which dishes at Torihei are Americanized or have mayo-ey and miso-ey sauces? I'll have to be on the look-out for those next time I'm there...b/c now I'm really curious!

                        1. re: OCAnn

                          Musha is way more overt in this regard. With Torihei, I just think they use too much mirin and/or other ingredients that make their glazes sweeter than other places. I think for me the most glaring and controversial example of this is everybody else's favorite - the meatballs. Yes, I do like their fall-apart tender texture. But I far prefer the salt or shio seasoning used by Shin Sen Gumi Gardena, the old Yakitori (now Izakaya) binchu, and many others. I find that all their broths also contain too much mirin or other sweetening ingredients.

                          1. re: OCAnn

                            They do have some ridiculous stuff on their menu, like, if I remember correctly, a taco salad. But I've never ordered it.

                            Their oden is also not particularly traditional, since the ingredients are served individually. But I would call that more modern than Americanized.

                            1. re: noahbites

                              Yeah, I noticed the taco salad which surprised me the last visit. And the only reason I didn't mention it was wasabica said "Americanized", not "Mexicanised" or "Westernised." ;) But when I noted it in another post, someone said that it was surprisingly good and that the Doritos (?) in the salad worked. Who knew?

                              And thank you wasabica for the clarification. I think once we had the meatballs, but I didn't really give them a second thought b/c I found other dishes to be more compelling (the hanjuku egg and the squid dishes are my favourites...just thinking about those result in a Pavlovian response). I don't remember mirin being noticeable...but now that you've mentioned it, I'll see if it's discernable the next time we go.

                              1. re: OCAnn

                                Yeah, sorry. I didn't mean to refer to the taco salad as Americanized. I was just trying to think of particularly un-Japanese things that stood out.

                                1. re: noahbites

                                  Are you sure that wasn't a "tako salad?" ;-D>

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Nope, it pretty much was a Taco Salad... pretty awesome one at that too...



                            2. re: wasabica

                              Wow, thanks for the insider reccos, wasabic! And also for the healthy dose of Musha-bashing. I like alot of Musha's stuff (mackerel, especially) but overly mayo'd dishes are not for me.

                              1. re: wasabica

                                Hi wasabica,

                                Some great recs there, but I'd have to disagree on the "Americanized" comment about Torihei. Chef Masataka Hirai's Yakitori is generally pretty upper tier and authentic, IMHO. The Tare Sauce is a little bit on the sweet side, but a far cry from, say, really Americanized "Teriyaki Sauce" found around town.

                                I definitely like Tomo-san's cooking at Yakitori Bincho more (as you note as well), and Yakitori Yakyudori down in SD, but Torihei isn't so bad. Add to that Chef Masakazu Sasaki's impressive Kyoto-style Oden with made-from-scratch Broth and that combo makes Torihei a nice place for dinner.

                                But that's what makes food so fun; everyone's palate is different. Just wanted to throw in my 1 cent. :)

                                1. re: exilekiss

                                  A few places that haven't been mentioned. a foodie of Japanese descent just took us to Hazuki in LIttle Tokyo. A wonderful experience. Having just returned form Tokyo , Osaka adn Nikko, this place was a piece of Japan here in LA. HIghlights: Lotus root slices sandwiched around shrimp and tempured; perfect beef tonkatsu including a very nice yellow hot mustard exactly as served in several places we sampled in Tokyo; soba both hot and cold-- cold with white yam: sashimi sampler that was first rate-medium toro; magaro; halibut; squid; clam. And not unreasonably priced. Japanese rooms available . The specials are in japanese but will be translated for you. Don't be put off by the somewhat run down condition of hte mall it's in. The food was wonderful.

                                  Other favorites-- Nishimura across from the Pacific Design Center on Melrose. One of the premier sushi chefs I have ever tasted. But very expensive;

                                  Hide on Sawtelle in West LA-- cash only- very high quality sushi- tempura as well; the best spicy scallop sushi I have ever had.