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Little Tokyo LA, Not To Be Missed?

Folks, I'll be spending a couple of days in Little Tokyo this weekend. I haven't been to the LA area in ages so I'm excited. Any spots I shouldn't miss--food, bars, stores, curiosities--for this short trip? I appreciate your suggestions.

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  1. Don't miss very nearby Guerilla Taco Truck in the Arts District. If you're a beer drinker, directly across Alameda from Little Tokyo is Angel City Brewery.

    5 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      Fabulous! that sounds like a delightful respite from all the noodles, sake and sushi I'd be imbibing

      1. re: AlexBernardo

        the brewery is a gem...massive arts space...great place to toss back a few and kick back.

          1. re: kevin

            Usually a food truck in lot that's it

        1. re: AlexBernardo

          Also, Daikokuya but, not for their ramen for what they call a shredded pork bowl. The lines can be long so try to go at an off time or, if you're by yourself, bar seating will be quicker.

      2. Kagaya if you like shabu. About 30-60pp make reservations.

        16 Replies
        1. re: ns1

          Kagaya is quite possibly the paragon of the shabu shabu genre for LA.

          and that ain't no joke.

          1. re: ns1

            ns1,
            I wonder if you know that the expression "shabu" is different from "shabu shabu," the famous meat/broth dish. "Shabu" just by itself is Japanese slang for speed/meth/whatever you wanna call it. There is a guy in the Bay Area running a place he calls "Shabuway" (presumably after the Subway sandwich shops) and it always cracks me up when I see that.

            1. re: Tripeler

              did not know that, I guess I'll stop short-handing "shabu shabu'

            2. re: ns1

              At the other end of the Shabu-Shabu experience and if you like it as often as everyone in my family does is "Shabu-Shabu House". Price is less than half that of Kagaya, no reservations and prepare to wait from 30 minutes & up depending on the day and time. It is cash only and the owner is very strict about the use of cell phones while dining.

              1. re: selfportrait93

                in my experience, the wait always errs on the side of "and up". terrible hours, but a good cheap shabu option.

                1. re: ns1

                  I thought you weren't gonna shorthand shabu anymore? Unless they have good cheap speed/meth? ;-)

                  1. re: TheOffalo

                    ah damn did not even notice that. this is gonna be a hard habit to break!

                    1. re: ns1

                      Just like meth is (uh, so I hear).

                      What kind of cuts of meat are they using at Kagaya to justify the price?

                      1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                        You get to choose from several options of meat at KaGaYa, including the famed Japanese wagyu.

                        Honestly, when I eat out, I'm not a big shabu shabu fan - I think it's a style of eating best done at home, where it's so much more customize-able. But if I had to have dine-out shabu shabu, it would be definitely at KaGaYa.

                        Plus, they have the best seared creme brulee in L.A. as dessert afterwards!

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Actually, this is my feeling about shabu-shabu, as well. Unless they have something to make it worth my while (and wagyu might just do it....).

                        2. re: paranoidgarliclover

                          IMO Kagaya isn't a shabu shabu restaurant that most are used to, it's a 3-4 course meal which happens to serve shabu shabu as the main course.

                          1. re: ns1

                            Since the place doesn't appear to have a website, what are the other 2-3 courses? =)

                            1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                              http://www.menuclub.com/californiares...

                              scroll down to "all above includes", it's listed as 'seasonal appetizers' and dessert, so 4 courses total.

                              1. re: ns1

                                Ah, thanks. The seafood option looks tempting.... Will wait until a special occasion....

                                1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                  honestly I found the seafood not worth the upcharge. I'd go there again and again for the meat though because for a strict meat shabu shabu, it's not that much of an upcharge (given the other courses).

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    A5 and live king crab at kagaya. the fat was nicely marbled with meat.

                                     
              2. Marugame Monzo for great udon noodles and a floor show making and cutting the noodles.
                Donuts at Cafe Dulce
                Cronuts at Frances Bakery

                Actually the Arts District east and south of Little Tokyo has become quite a destination, like Guerilla Tacos, Blue Bottle, Bread Lounge.

                You also might consider a walk to Grand Central Market. Check the posts here for that. Wexler's Deli is my favorite here, plus Belcampo, Egg Slut, Valerie's, McConnells, Olio.

                22 Replies
                1. re: Ogawak

                  Marugame Monzo sounds like the real deal! I've been craving for good udon since watching the movie "Udon"

                  1. re: AlexBernardo

                    Make sure to try to Oroshi Soy Sauce udon. It is a cold noodle dish, and absolutely one of my favorite dishes in LA. I'd advise avoiding the fusion udons (i.e. carbonara or uni).

                  2. re: Ogawak

                    I'll 2nd the donuts at Cafe Dulce - the green tea one to be exact. Delicious cream filled wonders. And their Spirulina buns.

                    Hama Sushi for no nonsense traditional quality offerings. Or you can pay double and go to Sushi Gen.

                    Got to try the mochi ice cream at Mikawaya - the creator of those that you find at TJ.

                    At Monzo stick to the traditional udon - the Uni cream and other modern inflected ones are fails as far as I am concerned. The appetizers there are very good too.

                    Angel City is a cool hang out but the beer is average. Now owned by Boston Brewery so.....

                    1. re: dharmathug

                      I'm sure I'll hit Cafe Dulce in the morning. How's their coffee?

                      1. re: AlexBernardo

                        I get the coffee from Demitasse and then the green tea donuts at Dulce. I've never had Dulce's coffee.

                        The Demitasse website gives you insight into the quality beans they use in their coffees.

                        1. re: Ogawak

                          I love Demitasse... but if i had my choice, I would walk down into the Arts district and get my cup from Blacktop. It was set up by the Handsome guys and just a few blocks down on 3rd. It's where Guerilla Tacos can be found (Along with other really good trucks as well, salt and straw was there this weekend)

                          --Dommy!

                        2. re: AlexBernardo

                          Dulce makes decent coffee, they aren't using top tier dairy but they know their market is the type that likes sugar so why bother right?

                          Demitasse is alright but it's too pretentious, I can do without the stupid suspenders.

                          Blacktop I hear is quite good although the owner is probably not the favorable of the O.G. Handsome owners.

                          1. re: Johnny L

                            Blacktop vies for the best coffee shop in all of LA. G&B probably edges it out by just a hair though.

                            1. re: Eudoxus

                              blacktop is great, but it's about a thimble full of coffee for about 5 bucks. i love those tiny ceramic mugs they serve it in, though, too.

                              1. re: kevin

                                I'm going out on a limb here, and imagining that the people in the target market for specialty coffee (3rd wave) are not very concerned by price. Otherwise, one imagines they would just drink $.99 stuff from McDonald's, or a cup of Folger's at home.

                                That being said, the only thing irregular about Blacktop's pricing I've noticed is the smaller than usual size of their cold brews, otherwise $3 for espresso is pretty standard pricing in that area. Their cold brew is somewhat more concentrated then most place though, and they are the only place using a nitro tap system to deliver it (hence the creamy head on it, akin to a fine stout). Well worth the $4 price tag if you take your coffee even a little bit seriously.

                                For the poor bastards that are forced at gunpoint (or by social influence) to go to Blacktop, my deepest condolences.

                                1. re: Eudoxus

                                  I'm going out on a limb here, and imagining that the people in the target market for specialty coffee (3rd wave) are not very concerned by price.
                                  -------
                                  that's not true at all.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    its over 4 dollars, considerably, for a cappachino the size of a single shot of espresso.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      don't forget the 9% tax, smh.

                                      and it's not like they're in WeHo or Silverlake... F that noise.

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        and you get the pleasure of sitting on an ultra-fashionable crate.

                                        but nowhere else serves their coffee in those cool ceramic cups.

                                        nuff said.

                                        go there after or before Guerrilla Tacos and you've got yourself a $40 fast-food luncheria lunch.

                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          The Arts District is more expensive than WeHo or Silverlake.

                                          Blacktop has stopped charging tax on top of their prices though.

                                        2. re: kevin

                                          There is never more than a single shot of espresso in a cappuccino. It's just more milk as you progress from macchiato, to cappuccino, to latte.

                                        3. re: ns1

                                          Then they are hypocrites I guess. It's impossible to both want the lowest cost coffee you can get, and the highest quality.

                                        4. re: Eudoxus

                                          Yep! I love that cold brew. Is also love their brown sugar simple syrup and their house made nut milk. I was a big fan of Handsome but they are offering exactly what I had hoped for at Blacktop

                                          --Dommy!

                                          1. re: Dommy

                                            i actually like it better than handsome, save for the prices.

                                    2. re: Johnny L

                                      stupid suspenders. :)

                                      i remember doing a double take when i saw those suspenders at the now defunct Handsome Coffee.

                                      And that triggered the impression that suspenders were the imprimatur of exceptional third wave coffee.

                                      but yeah, it seems a little ridiculous but then again i dress quite ridiculously.

                                      and that ain't no joke.

                                2. re: Ogawak

                                  Frances is still carrying the cornets ?????

                                  I thought maybe by now the craze would be over.

                                  And down with.

                                  The sluts are great.

                                  1. re: Ogawak

                                    Blue Bottle, and Bread Lounge are above Bestia, Church & State, and Eat.Drink.Americano?

                                  2. Food - Kokekokko, Marugame Monzo
                                    Bars - Far Bar, Wolf & Crane

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: chrishei

                                      cannot in good faith recommend far bar, their bartenders are not consistent at all. Buy the same drink from 2 bartenders, get 2 different drinks.

                                      stick to beers/japanese whiskey's if you go to far bar.

                                      really cool spot though ^_^

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        Incredible bottle list for beer drinkers though.

                                        1. re: Eudoxus

                                          Great selection of japanese craft beers, I trust?

                                          1. re: AlexBernardo

                                            Yes, but it ranges well outside of that. It's an especially great list if you enjoy sour beers, which I happen to.

                                            1. re: Eudoxus

                                              Got it. Have you spotted any Cantillon there by chance?

                                              1. re: AlexBernardo

                                                Sadly not. You probably have to go to Ramirez Liquor for that =/

                                                If only Mikkeller would open in LA, eh?

                                    2. I live right on the edge of Little Tokyo and Arts District so I love this part of town.

                                      My favorite restaurants in Little Tokyo are b.o.s. and Kokekokko, and I enjoy the huge selection of beer and whiskey at Far Bar (entrance is down an alley so it can be easy to miss).

                                      Marugame Monzo is an udon specialist, and there are quite a few ramen joints, of which my favorite is Men Oh Tokushima. You'll undoubtedly see the long lines at Daikokuya and Shin Sen Gumi.

                                      My favorite breakfast is Jist Cafe, and Demitasse serves up excellent coffee (they even have a Kyoto-style drip for iced coffee).

                                      If you stroll down 2nd St and through Little Tokyo Plaza, there are plenty of stores to peruse. And the best jazz club in town is the Blue Whale, on the same floor as Orochon Ramen.

                                      26 Replies
                                      1. re: SauceSupreme

                                        Wow! I can't wait. I was in Kyoto earlier this year so I got to check out Demitasse. I will not miss Far Bar, I'd like to see what they have on Japanese craft whiskey and beer.

                                        1. re: AlexBernardo

                                          Demitasse is good; They use the siphon method as an option, which is my favorite method.

                                        2. re: SauceSupreme

                                          Can't emphasize the b.o.s. recommendation enough!
                                          Really is one of the more unique restos in all of L.A., let alone Little Tokyo, and one of the few places I return to again and again...

                                          1. re: FranklinJefferson

                                            +3 b.o.s. Get the calamari fried tripe, thai style beef tongue, sweetbread tacos.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/923070

                                            1. re: FranklinJefferson

                                              now I'm really excited to check out b.o.s.! I've 2 nights, and one is already spoken for, so it looks this would be my other dinner

                                            2. re: SauceSupreme

                                              does Demitasse dole out cafe sua dua too ??????????

                                              thanks man.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Dulce is more likely to have that. They do serve Vietnamese style coffees.

                                                1. re: Ogawak

                                                  sweet. thanks man.

                                                  dulce is nearby ????

                                                  1. re: Ogawak

                                                    btw, is there a Demitasse also in Santa Monica near Michael's Restaurant on i think 4th St ?????

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      That's the one. And Cafe Dulce is in the Japanese Village Plaza; Have their green tea donuts with the sua dua.

                                                      1. re: Ogawak

                                                        the cafe dulce cafe sua da is nothing like a little saigon cafe sua da.

                                                        1. re: ns1

                                                          Yeah, but LA Weekly ranked it second in all of LA. So it must be great, right?

                                                          1. re: Ogawak

                                                            but it probably doesn't come with a side of….

                                                            1. re: Ogawak

                                                              I'll try it while wearing my fedora next time to see if I like it better.

                                                  2. re: SauceSupreme

                                                    +1.9 to all of SS's recs.

                                                    I would also add Fugetsu-Do.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      +1 Fugetsu-Do. Just make sure to eat the mochi on the first day b/c they get a little hard after that....

                                                      1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                        Wrap loosely in damp paper towel, zap in microwave at med heat for 20 seconds. Voila! Revived mochi.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Does it return to the virginal state of pillow-y softness? =)

                                                          1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                            Whoops. Meant to add that I'll try it w/ my next set of mochi (although I don't make it out often.... ::sigh::).

                                                            1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                              If you're making it at home, I would suggest steaming to revive. Let it cool to room temp, then enjoy.

                                                        2. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                          That's a good rule for mochi and manju in general, but Ipse does have a decent solution. Mochi freezes well also.

                                                      2. re: SauceSupreme

                                                        Yes, support Joon Lee and the Blue Whale for a great jazz experience! and if youre into that sort of thing, order the super hot ramen at Orochon and get your picture posted on their wall!

                                                        1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                          Yes, the Blue Whale surely should be supported. +1,000,000 to that!

                                                          1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                            i've never been to the blue whale,

                                                            please describe further, but it's on the same level of Weller Ct as Orochon and Kappa Ishito right ??????

                                                            Or rather is Kappo Ishito still there ???????? he was a consummate whiz at lower priced kaiseki, previously he had Seikitei in Monterey Park.

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              Kappo Ishito is no more... :-(

                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                damn. i should've went there more.

                                                                what's in its place ????????????