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Oct 21, 2012 11:36 PM

Japanese food in Little Toyko?

I live in OC and have never been to Little Tokyo. I've heard the majority of Little Tokyo is now taken over by Koreans. Is the Japanese food there any good or not worth the visit compared to what I can get in OC? Thanks!

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  1. If your quest is simply to visit Little Tokyo, that's one thing. If you are looking for the best Japanese food in LA, that's quite another. For better Japanese food, I would recommend first Torrance/Gardena, then Sawtelle Blvd/West LA.

    The Japanese food in Little Tokyo is really not much better than what you would find in the OC. Sushi is generally better in the OC. Ditto ramen shops. There are quality shabu shabu places, and snack places like Mitsuru's imagawayaki (dorayaki), Fugetsu-Do and Mikawaya. Mom-and-Pop Japanese restaurants are a dying breed everywhere, but still exist here, notably Aoi and Suyehiro. Little Tokyo has become a bit cosmopolitan, with places like the Spice Table, Lazy Ox and Aburiya Toranoko. Although Korean money owns a substantial portion of LT, there's not a preponderance of Korean restaurants either. LT has maintained a substantial Japanese identity and presence. For that alone, it's worth a visit.

    As I said above, if it's food you're looking for, check out Torrance/Gardena or Sawtelle Blvd/West LA.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ogawak

      I'm aware Aburiya is "Japanese"; It just has that cosmopolitan feel to it. Also FYI Namster, I grew up getting into fights over being called "Jap". I hadn't heard the word lately, except when I watched "The Pacific" on HBO, but it is like the "N" word for us Japanese Americans.

      I don't think I'm slamming Little Tokyo. I was responding to the question whether the OC Japanese food is as good, and I think largely the OC is as good. If I had to choose between Sushi Shibucho in the OC and Sushi Gen, although both are good, I would pick Shibucho. Ditto Daikokuya in LT vs. Santouka and Yamadaya in the OC.

      Appreciate Mr. Taster's recommendation for the JA Museum. J-Town, as we like to call it, is still pretty cool.

    2. I'll second Ogawak's comments above, though there is some quite good (if not exquisite) food to be had- both Haru Ulala and Ebisu are solid izakayas, and while I wouldn't go to Sushi Gen for nigiri or rolls their sashimi deluxe platter is pretty darn good for $28...

      5 Replies
      1. re: jdwdeville

        agree with ogawak that torrance/gardena and little osaka (sawtelle) areas are much better for jap food. sushi, however, is generally much better in la and the valley than it is in oc. i have yet to find a good sushi place in the latter.

        1. re: namstermonster

          Ehm, namstermonster, check your history... I know it's due to lazy fingers rather than mal intent, but you've casually belted out a racial slur there, hombre.

          To ilsorpasso, Little Tokyo is rich in history. So please do go, but more so for the history and the culture. A visit to the Japanese American Museum is a must. Visit the corner (across from the museum) where during WW2 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were rounded up, put in buses, and shipped off to Manzanar concentration camp. Visit the 100+ year old sweet shop Fugetso-Do, which miraculously is one of the few shops that actually survived the internment. Look at the engravings on the sidewalk, which commemorate the various shops that existed in those locations over the years.

          And please do eat the homemade gyoza at Tokyo Cafe. They're really delicious-- one of the best things I've tasted in Little Tokyo.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: namstermonster

            sushi, however, is generally much better in la and the valley than it is in oc. i have yet to find a good sushi place in the latter.
            Kasen. Very traditional. Second only to Mori, Shunji, Sushi Zo, and Uraswa. Some nights, the o-toro and rare imported Japanese shellfish will be as good if not better than the first 3 and as good as Urasawa.

            1. re: Porthos

              Just tried Mori again. And yes, in my humble opinion, it is the best sushi in town right now. Beautiful meal.

              Remind to post later.

              In case I still remember the dishes.

              1. re: kevin

                Write it down on a cheat sheet as you eat!

        2. The shabu shabu at KaGaYa in JTown remains excellent.

          1. Not sure why everyone is slamming Little Tokyo for Japanese food...I must have eaten there 50 times over the past couple years as I was in the neighborhood and had 2-3 hours to kill a few times a week.

            Kagaya is one of my favorite restaurants in shabu-shabu I've ever had (never been to Japan) and the entire experience is wonderful.

            Kokekokko is an excellent Yakitori won't spend over 50pp, and the food is very well prepared. I've never had a service issue, fwiw.

            Mako Sushi and Sushi Gen are both solid, traditional sushi bars.

            Personally, I'm not impressed with the non-Japanese places...Spice Table was not good, Lazy Ox I've tried 3-4 times and never been wowed. Same goes for Baco Mercat, though I liked the Banana desert!

            6 Replies
            1. re: manku

              Agreed! One of the best thing about the new Expo line for us that its easier for us to go to Little Tokyo. While we love the South Bay Japanese places, Little Tokyo continues to be a destination for us. We love:

              Sushi Gen
              Sushi Go 55
              Izakaya Fu-ga

              And they recently got Ramen of note at Men Oh


              1. re: Dommy

                I never really got into Sushi Gen, but I did really like Mako Sushi in Weller Court for great, solid sushi.

                1. re: granadafan

                  I like Komasa. Basic sushi at fair prices. Won't rock your world, but that's not why you go there.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    And they have really delicious green tea....

                2. re: manku

                  Probably because as much good Japanese food there is to Little Tokyo there are probably twice as many bad representations surrounding it. Personally I find Kokekokko to be not worth the hassle.

                  Preference for regulars is lame especially the fact you need to spend a lot of money to get access to the special menu? I'd rather go to Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori which even though is a bit of a "corporation" in restaurant sense has always been consistently good with their yakitori and specials as well.

                3. Also add Cafe Demitasse in Little Tokyo to the "good" list. Kyoto inspired coffee house with excellent coffees and baked goods.

                  Strangely no one has mentioned Daikokuya a good ramen spot, if not absolutely traditional.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: cls

                    There's a reason we haven't mentioned Daikokuya. It's not that good anymore.

                    1. re: J.L.

                      And it beyond destroys the intestinal tract like no other foodstuff.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        i'd thought that, too, but went just yesterday and was surprised at how great a bowl of kotteri ramen was. it's usually a wait, but not too long (though it's usually hipsters in line so it may seem longer). if you're dining solo, you can usually walk right in.
                        I've been eating in Little Tokyo for about 20 years. My go-to is Suehiro which is not some oh-my-god palace, but is really solid japanese coffee shop cooking (grilled saba, cold tofu and gyoza!). Sushi Gen is really good. Sushi Imai used to be even better (IMHO), but he sold several years ago. Shabu-shabu is terrific, but talk about a wait! Those are just a few.

                        1. re: FED

                          I like both, although they remind me of more carefree times...

                          Have you had a chance to hit Men Oh? The ramen is a little heavy for a lunch... but the Gyoza is heavenly...


                          1. re: Dommy

                            where's men-oh? is it on that first street strip?

                            1. re: FED

                              It's in Honda Plaza, in the building Across from Sushi Gen.



                        2. re: J.L.

                          I can't say that it's measurably changed, just that there are now other choices that put it in a new light.

                          1. re: cls

                            Really? I think Daikokuya's ramen has gone downhill big time over the past 2 years.

                            Did you eat there back when it first opened? It was quite good back then.

                            1. re: J.L.

                              Two years? Daikokuya wasn't remarkable 5 years ago.

                              We need to check out Men Oh sometime.

                              1. re: J.L.

                                Daikokuya was remarkable back when the only competition for your ramen dollar were places like Mr Ramen or Asahi on Sawtelle. It's a different world now, and has been for a lot more than two years. How long has Santouka been in the West LA Mitsuwa?

                                Mr Taster

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    In simple terms, I would take it that it is not good at all but Dailukuya compared to Orochon is like the best ramen joint in the world.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      In simple terms, you would taking it wrong.

                          2. re: cls

                            Daikokuya deserves a rec based on their shredded pork bowl.

                            1. re: JAB

                              Sadly the pork bowl is much better than the ramen but not worth the wait at the LT location.

                              1. re: Johnny L

                                I never have to wait for my early weekday lunches there.

                                1. re: JAB

                                  Yeah it's the nighttime waits that are crazy but with Men Oh Tokushima ramen nearby there's finally great ramen in LT.

                                2. re: Johnny L

                                  It's been so long since I've been to Daikokuya, there wasn't any shredded pork bowl on the menu the last time i was there.

                                  Mr Taster