It's time to talk about ROBATA JINYA on 3rd and Crescent Heights (aka the robata-ya what serves up RAMEN?!)
I've heard great things from a work colleague whose food opinions I trust.
She says it's amazingly affordable and delicious, in that she and her boyfriend could order carefully and have a great meal for about $30 total. I like the sound of that.
However, there's very little about this place on Chowhound- more info about their Ramen shop in Studio City.
Highlights from my colleague:
"the bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms"
"the shrimp toast was great"
"all the chicken skewers and all the vegetables"
"yellowtail carpaccio to die for"
Also, interesting that some of the ramen has filtered down into a non-ramen focused menu. Rameniac like the studio city offerings, so I wonder if this is the same?
OK, went last night. We hit the very well-priced happy hour.
$2 edamame (generous bowl, served warm with salt)
It's edamame. Tasty but boring.
$2 chashu (a generous slab of meltingly soft pork. It dissolves away in your mouth. Go to happy hour for this alone)
$2 tsukune (3 meatballs, 1 stick)
Nice, but certainly not the best I've had. It appeared to have some kind of grain or rice filler binding it. Nicely char-grilled, and tasty enough for the price.
$5 tempura shrimp in sweet glaze (also, a relatively generous portion of medium to large shrimp- probably would be $8-12 in another restaurant)
Essentially Robata Jinya's version of Yang Chow's slippery shrimp
$5 spicy tuna on a ball of fried onigiri
These were *really* nice simply from a textural point of view. While I would have preferred more spice (and flavor) in my spicy tuna-- even the sliver of jalapeno on top was relatively bland-- the wonderful texture of the onigiri made up for it. Instead of a triangle, it's a little ovaloid shaped onigiri, deep fried to a beautiful crunchy golden brown, topped with a dollop of spicy tuna. I'd go back for this alone.
In addition, we tried the non happy-hour specials
Enoki muchrooms (a little hard to bite into, but really nice-- wonderfully smoked bacon) $3
Freshly made tofu-- this was mesmerizing, to see liquid tofu congeal before your eyes. Not for everyone, but if you like silken tofu pudding you definitely should try it. $6
shrimp sandwiches- spectacular! They were essentially served as a tower of little fried finger sandwiches stuffed with shrimp, with a sort of mayonnaise dip. Crispy, soft, chewy, shrimpy loveliness. A generous portion for about $8
duck and green onion stick- $3, brown sauce glaze, fine interpretation but not spectacular
Also for happy hour there were $3 draft beers on tap but we didn't imbibe.
Rice was free, and brown tea was free, as they should be.
Overall, I'm a bit stunned by the quality to affordability ratio of this place, considering the location. In other restaurants these prices would be 2-3 times the price. This absolutely will become a part of my regular rotation.
Went back tonight. Got the small bowl of ramen (shoyu tonkatsu) for $5.80. It was fantastic-- clean, light, but flavorful broth. Meltingly tender chashu. Al dente noodles. Topped with fried onions which lent a lovely earthy flavor. Really, everything I could ask for in a bowl of ramen.
Oh, and we got the prime beef with garlic skewer. ~$5. Pricey, but wow. When you bite into it, the tender meat literally pops with juice. Phenomenal.
And last thing- Mon-Fri happy hour before 7pm = $3 Sapporo on draft (and $5 Lycheetinis, if you are so inclined)
I like Jinya WeHo alot (never been to Valley location). I don't think it is such a bargain, my bills tend to go way beyond your colleague's, exclusive of alcohol.
I wish they had more yakitori offerings (like kokekokko/nanbankan/robata-ya/yakitori-ya) and I think the tofu J Gold raved about is good but not really rave-worthy. But the ramen is quite tasty. I have not had sushi or carpaccios there.