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Japanese Style Chinese Food In Los Angeles

Following up on J.L.'s review last year of Manten in JTown, I thought I'd start this new thread after seeing bicoastal Hound Lau post on this subject on the Manhattan board. Japanese Style Chinese food is under the radar compared to the more common Korean Chinese and Indian Chinese types of food. Looking at Manten's menu, you see recognizable dishes such as sweet and sour chicken, chashu, and chicken salad, but there's also items that you'd probably never see at a real Chinese restaurant. Stuff like stir fried beef liver with chives, pork with kimchee, and mixed fried rice and noodles. This is consistent with the only other Japanese Chinese restaurant I had been to, the departed China Table, formerly located in the Santouka food court in West L.,A., where I didn't recognize anything on their menu as being truly Chinese. (I mean, Chinese hamburger?) I think this food is meant to appeal to the everyday Japanese diner, as opposed to reflecting food from Japan's Chinatowns. I believe there's another Japanese Chinese restaurant over in the big Little Tokyo mall over at 3rd and Alameda, but I'm curious as to whether there are any others in the Gardena/Torrance area. Manten is at 456 E. Second St.

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Santouka
3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Little Tokyo Restaurant
150 E Bonita Ave, San Dimas, CA 91773

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  1. Do you mean Chukaya style restaurants?

    Kohryu in Costa Mesa might qualify. Chicken wonton ramen, mapo tofu, crispy stir-fried Canto style noodles, and pork shumai are all on the menu.

    Would Budha's Belly in WeHo count? http://www.bbfood.com/index.php

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Glanced at the website menu, and that looks more American Chinese than Japanese Chinese.

      Chuka Ryori 中華料理, as seen in Yokohama Chinatown (and many restaurants like those scattered in smaller cities in Japan), is more of a variant between Sichuan and non Cantonese Chinese. Mapo tofu definitely. Sweet and sour pork = su-buta (vinegared pork). Tantanmen, as seen in ramen restaurants, where it can be quite good in a different way (no Sichuan peppercorns, just a deep rich sesame broth).

      People unfamiliar with chuka ryori places that relate only to ramen tend to confuse such places as ramen joints. In some cases, the ramen is not the highlight, but the overall package. It gets lumped into J-expat comfort food category, and with the right expectations set, can be quite good.

      On the flipside, many ramen joints that specialize in ramen will have the yaki gyoza and cha han/yakimeshi (fried rice). But certainly will not have the goopy snow crab omlette (ankake) that usually goes over the fried rice at the chuka ryori joints (and in some cases not an omlette, just crab meat in cornstarch thickened sauce).

      Salt and pepper fried chicken wings sometimes makes an appearance, and of course chicken karaage, maybe yakisoba (fried noodles) but they don't use buckwheat noodles, but the yellow curly kind, of which the archaic way of saying it is chuka-soba.

    2. None that I can think of in the Gardena area. Probably the last to go was the old Tin Sing where the old time Japanese families used to go for Chinameshi on special occasions? The Far East in Little Tokyo used to be another popular spot but rumors say that it's not the same anymore.

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      Far East Cafe
      347 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA

      1. I've liked some of the Korean Chinese food I've had in the past (Young King and Shin Peking come to mind). Is this hybrid really good or is it just a "flash in the pan?"

        1. Those items are standard offerings at traditional ramen restaurants, like Ramen-ya on Olympic in West LA. (For anyone who doesn't already know: In Japan, ramen is considered to be Chinese food, as contrasted with Japanese noodles like udon and soba.) I have a particular fondness for Ramen-ya's huge shrimp omelette, smothered in sweet-and-sour sauce and served either over rice or floating in a big bowl of ramen noodles and broth, but they also do a creditable job with the stir-fried liver and chives. (Menu: http://www.ramenya-usa.com/ramenengli...)

          1. The food at Koraku on 2nd Street is like you're describing. One of their most popular items is probably fried rice. Many dishes originating from Chinese menus.

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            Koraku
            314 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

            17 Replies
            1. re: monku

              There's another Koraku in Torrance too. Lots of Japanese Chinese dishes.

              1. re: la2tokyo

                I've been a big fan of Koraku for 20+ years and never hear anyone else mention the place. I call it Japanese coffee shop food.

                One in Sherman Oaks too and Primm, NV.

                (they got that stir fried liver and green onions, mabo tofu, stir fried vegetables on top of crunch fried chow mein noodles and more)

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                Koraku
                314 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                1. re: monku

                  I'm trying to remember all of the old "Japanese coffee shops" like the old Holiday Bowl and Kabuki in the old Crenshaw Square. There is still one operating in the area but for the love of me, I can't remember the name of the place? They still have chashu fried rice and egg foo young plus the old standby pork noodles. I'm also thinking Paul's Kitchen is still operating?

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                  Paul's Kitchen
                  1012 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                  1. re: Clinton

                    Tak's Coffee Shop at Crenshaw Square was started by the owners of Holiday Bowl coffee shop.

                    3870 Crenshaw Blvd # 101

                    Los Angeles, CA 90008-1815

                    (323) 295-0195

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                    Tak's Coffee Shop
                    3870 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008

                    1. re: monku

                      I believe that's it! Someone sent me a story about it on the Internet and us old timers were planning on going there to reminisce. Thanks.

                      1. re: Clinton

                        Short video "Breakfast at Tak's".
                        http://vimeo.com/925192
                        Owner and founder Mary sold the restaurant a few years back to the long time cook. Restaurant is named for her son Tak. I'll admit, I know the guy in the video who is the #1 customer.

                        1. re: monku

                          This is the same video that was on the Internet a few years back. Back in the 60s, my wife and I frequented Holiday Bowl after the Park View and Roger Young dances. Still remember Paul the owner and now his son who didn't carry on the business. The food in this video still looked the same as it did back in the 60s. Great memories! Thanks.

                          1. re: monku

                            Thank you for the link. I grew up in the neighborhood. The video captures the camaraderie around food that we all seek. Chowhound heresy -- sometimes the whole point is not the food (eg, J Gold's Pulitzer).

                            1. re: monku

                              Thanks for linking the video. I also grew up in that neighborhood, and wouldn't be surprised if I was one or two degrees separated from the people in the video. While I have my memories of Holiday Bowl, we weren't regular customers, as were my other Japanese American friends in the 'hood. I do agree with one of the people interviewed that the neighborhood really was a great melting pot. I'll have to hit up Tak's when I'm back in LA.

                        2. re: Clinton

                          You might get the better Japanese bowling alley coffee shop experience at Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.

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                          Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop
                          15707 S Vermont Ave, Gardena, CA 90247

                          1. re: monku

                            Yeah, Tak's as much into grits and things for the neighborhood clientele. Opens before dark and closes by the early afternoon.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              I know what you are saying about the area. Haven't been back there since the first LA riots when most of the stores were looted and burned. Sad that it never got back to it's former self.

                            2. re: monku

                              Yeah same thing with TNT on PCH since they're both from the same origin. Still I prefer Gardena Bowl even though the cooks are mostly Hispanics. Their Japanese combo dinners are pretty good though...for a coffee shop. The fried saimin is still one of the best around.

                              1. re: Clinton

                                House made Portuguese sausage and Hawaiian Royal are my favorites at Gardena Bowl and TnT.

                                When the owner of Gardena Bowl sold out to the current owners he signed a non-compete agreement. Unfortunately his daughter (her last name begins with "T" as in TnT) who didn't sign the agreement opened TnT Aloha Cafe in Torrance.

                                1. re: monku

                                  Yes, those are my favorites too along with the chashu fried saimin. I also have to say that the former Harry's Aloha Chop Suey was also quite popular with the "Japanese style" Chinese dishes. One would say that it's Hawaiian but Larry and Debbie did a good job doing old school Cantonese dishes like kau yuk, sweet sour pork, black bean spareribs, chow mein, pig feet, saimin, etc.. I miss the old Harry's.

                                  1. re: Clinton

                                    The fried chicken was addicting.

                            3. re: Clinton

                              Paul's Kitchen downtown on San Pedro is the only one open now.

                              A favorite lunch/dinner spot of former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda (I actually saw him come in for dinner a couple years ago). If you've never been, there's a mini shrine dedicated to the LA Dodgers behind the counter.

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                              Paul's Kitchen
                              1012 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                      2. There is the Chin Ma Ya chain of restaurants based in Japan that specializes in Tan Tan Men and Mabo Dofu. One in Gardena near Toyota and one in Little Tokyo. Geared toward Japanese ex-pats as opposed to Japanese Americans.

                        Years ago in LIttle Tokyo there was Akasaka Hanten, a Japanese style Chinese restaurant, a real favorite among ex-pats and Japanese Americans alike. If I recall, it wasn't much different from the local chop suey places, except fancier with nice tablecoths.