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Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

mottainai ramen : the new kid on the block

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this is what happens when you only want to “take a look” at a new ramen shop.

you eat.

and you take pictures with your phone instead.

Mottainai Ramen opened only a couple of weeks ago and is already receiving quite a buzz in the area.  Found in the once bustling Japanese-centric Marukai Plaza, it is nearly hidden from street view. It resides in a dark corner across from Fukagawa.  The location is unfortunate as there is no indication of the restaurant anywhere and I had to walk around the plaza in order to even find the place.  There is ample parking, provided it is not a Sunday when the church across the street tends to use much of the parking lot.

Walking into the place, I was instantly greeted.  The staff is extremely young, energetic and attentive.  I was looked upon by more than one person throughout my meal.  My server didn’t really speak English, so in my very broken Japanese I was able to relay my order.  It’s times like those that I wish I took more from my Japanese school days…

The menu is fairly straightforward with three offerings: shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu.  For an additional $1.50 you can add a small side salad and musubi.  The prerequisite gyoza is also on the menu, however, I felt it was a little much for lunch.

In addition to the regular ramen, you can enhance them with their signature magic “alpha” and “bombs”.  If you like stir fried corn and butter, the alpha is your thing.  The white bomb is essential a ball of garlic-y pork fat and was meant to accompany the tonkotsu ramen. The red bomb is the spicy ball, which would probably be fantastic in the miso.

Shoyu Ramen

For some reason, I tried the shoyu ramen.  It’s not that I don’t like shoyu, I just never tend to order it over other types of ramen.  And, since I’m no shoyu ramen aficionado like Keizo, I really don’t have any frame of reference.  The bowl came out steaming hot and included several slices of chashu, menma, green onions and a piece of nori.  It was wonderfully satisfying, if a bit oily, though I heard this can be altered to your preference.  The chashu was fantastic, flavorful and not at all chewy.  I’d go back just for a couple of pieces of that.

I’m on a mission to go back and try their other two bowls.  This may become my new favorite…..

Mottainai Ramen
1630 West Redondo Beach Boulevard, Suite 9
Gardena, California 90247
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Written by liveeatlove

July 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

Posted in Dining Out, Japanese

oumi sasaya : udon in the south bay

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fresh udon + curry = match made in heaven

Oumi Sasaya is a small restaurant specializing in udon located in the same plaza as Patisserie Chantilly and Gaja Okonomiyaki.  Although lesser known than its udon counterparts (Sanuki no Sato and Kotohira), its simple yet straightforward dishes make it a contender for top udon in the south bay.

Oddly enough, I hadn’t even heard of Oumi Sasaya up until a few months ago.  I had passed it countless times on my way to Gaja, but never gave it a fleeting thought.  I also tended to avoid the little plaza as it tends to get extremely crowded at peak hours, so this place never was an option.  However, one early Tuesday afternoon, I happened upon an almost empty parking lot and restaurant.

The menu is straight forward with a short list of udon, bowls, and appetizers.  As it was lunch, I decided on curry udon with tempura shrimp and mochi and a soft boiled egg.

Once my order was taken, I was given a small dish of warm tofu.  With just a dash of shoyu, this was a perfectly refreshing way to start the meal.

The restaurant layout was airy and beautiful, with the majority of space taken by an L-shaped counter.  It was perfect for watching all of the action in the kitchen.  As I was there early, I ended up watching the workers prep.  Interestingly enough, many of the workers were women, including the cooks.

Curry Udon with Tempura Shrimp and Mochi

My lunch arrived soon after and it was a sight to behold.  A giant earthenware bowl holding the molten broth was set before me.  I started taking pictures and realized that I would need to let it cool down even farther.  Curry holds in heat like no other and the thought of burning my mouth was not appealing.  Its unfortunate because allowing the cool down process also lets the noodles soften.  As I like my noodles al dente, I ended up chowing down, losing taste buds in the process.

The house made curry was rich and spicy and a perfect compliment to the udon.  I find that sometimes curry becomes watered down in udon and lacks the punch needed to flavor the dish.  Not so in this case. I ended up drinking a good majority of it too.

The tempura was well cooked as well.  The tempura batter was slightly thicker than most, but held up to the broth/curry well.  I’m not usually a big mochi fan when added to meals (okonomiyaki, etc.), but this was really good.  It’s rather neutral taste didn’t compete with the already bold flavors in the bowl and added much needed texture to the dish.

Soft Boiled Egg

I love soft boiled eggs.  That is all.

I would really like to go back to try their udon sans the curry to make a viable comparison between the other shops of the area.  Nonetheless, it is worth a trip if only for the curry udon.  Plus, you can go a few doors down and top of the meal with dessert from Patisserie Chantilly.  😉

Oumi Sasaya
2383 Lomita Blvd
Unit 101
Lomita, CA 90717

Written by liveeatlove

April 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Dining Out, Japanese

sushilicious

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sushi on a conveyor belt?  yes, please.

I’ve only been to one other kaiten bar and didn’t really know of any other places around the Los Angeles area.  Enter Sushilicious.  I had become twitter friend with Daniel, the owner, awhile back and enjoyed reading about his restaurant journey.  I followed him through his ups and downs, living his highs and lows with him.  It was no question that I wanted to go.  So, a week after its grand opening, my friend and I decided to stop by.

Kaiten sushi, or ‘conveyor belt’ sushi, is not a new concept.  It has been in and out of popularity for the last 50 years or so.  The concept was created out of necessity, when a sushi chef/owner had a difficult time acquiring staff and needed assistance in managing his restaurant.  His inspiration?  Watching beer bottles at the Asahi brewery.  Nice.

These types of sushi bars are generally smaller in size due in part to the necessary proximity to the bar. Sushilicious is no different, with approximately twenty counter seats and six booths surrounding the large free form conveyor belt.  However, with the colorful and modern decor, the space feels much bigger than it is.

The place was already bustling as we entered.  There were many families here, which you don’t ordinarily find at most sushi bars.  However, I could see why it would be appealing.  Kid friendly seating, large spaces and colorful objects going round and round…what’s not to like?  As the night went on, there was a birthday celebration and many other couples and groups. I would imagine they get a big student population as it is located close to UCI & Irvine Valley College.  Daniel has been offering discounts/free meals to students who dine via twitter.

Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice

The theatrical nature of the conveyor belt makes the experience all the more entertaining.  It’s the anticipation of each successive dish that makes it a fun gastronomical game.  I swear, if they sped up the belt I could channel Lucille Ball and the chocolate factory.

Napoleon Dynamite Roll

Once seated, you can immediately begin taking plates.  Plates are color coded by price, ranging anywhere from $1.50-$4.00.  If you aren’t in a sushi mood,  they also have a menu that includes appetizers, bento boxes, and dessert.  All you have to do is contact a server.

Seared Salmon

They offer the standard nigiri (sake, maguro, hamachi, hirame, hotate, ikura, etc.) as well as the more Americanized rolls (philly, spicy tuna, soft shelled crab, etc.)  They also have a few vegetarian options.  The rolls had such cute names.  My personal favorite was the Napoleon Dynamite.  If only it had tater tots on it…

Hirame

I’m a sucker for hirame (halibut) and we ended up wolfing down three plates.  If you prefer ponzu sauce over shoyu, they have it available by request.

Medusa Roll (aka Soft Shell Crab Roll)

I don’t eat very much and my friend eats even less than I do, so we didn’t get to try a lot.  Next time, I’d like to try some of the appetizers and a bento.

The staff was very friendly and attentive, a definite positive in my book.  Not only that, as the line became longer, Jeromy (head of the house) really took care of waiting parties as well.  Anyone who offers me a beer while I wait is an automatic friend.

Sushilicious is my kind of candy store.  Fresh sushi, affordable prices and a great staff?  Willy Wonka doesn’t have anything on you.

Sushilicious
15435 Jeffrey Rd.
Suite 119
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 552-2260
@sushilicious

Written by liveeatlove

March 18, 2010 at 8:22 am

Posted in Dining Out, Food, Japanese

umemura

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umemura.

I have vivid flashbacks of trips to Umemura as a small child.  Our family didn’t go out to eat a lot and, if we did, it was to any number of local Hawaiian restaurants in the area.  However, I always looked forward to the day my mom would announce a trip to their favorite ramen shop. I was never one to protest, as the only thing I did like as a child was ramen.

I distinctly remember gazing at the vintage Taco Bell architecture from my counter seat, eagerly awaiting our meal.  When our food arrived, a gigantic bowl of steaming ramen bigger than my face was placed in front of me.  I sat, happy as a clam, slurping up the goodness.    At that moment, nothing was better.  Ah, memories.

Somehow, I ended up neglecting this place for years.  With the multitude of ramen joints in the area, I just never got around to going back.  So, I made it a point to revisit this classic.  I’m glad I did.  It was just what I needed to rejuvenate the soul and cheer me up.

Umemura has an extensive menu including ramen, rice, and fried noodle dishes.  Ordinarily I order the umani ramen, but wanted something with a kick. I went with the hoi-koh-ro ramen which is a shoyu ramen topped with a spicy pork and vegetable stir fry.  The stir fry was a mixture of pork, carrots, cabbage, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and green onions.  Alone this would have been fantastic, but its addition to ramen created a harmonious blend of flavors.

There are places you go to for the scene, some strictly for the experience, some for the food and hopefully some that can deliver on all levels.  Then, there are those, like Umemura, that brings you back to a perfect time where life was a little bit easier.  It wouldn’t have mattered if the food or service was horrible because at that moment, I became that little girl again.

Umemura
1724 West Redondo Beach Boulevard
Gardena, California 90247

Written by liveeatlove

March 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Dining Out, Food, Japanese

ramen california

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Rosemary Kasha Roll

Delicate roll studded with rosemary and sprinkled with sea salt.

Halibut Carpaccio

Thinly sliced pieces of halibut sprinkled with sea salt, dressed in olive oil on a bed of greens.

Niboshi Ramen

Chicken and fish broth with succulent pieces of chashu and green onions.

Ramen California

24231 Crenshaw Blvd #C
Torrance, CA 90505

Written by liveeatlove

January 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

Posted in Dining Out, Japanese

we’re not exactly traditional…

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happy new year!

I wasn’t supposed to be home.  I was supposed to be sore, tired and, hopefully, not broken from snowboarding.  But, as fate would have it, I didn’t end up going.  Two days before departure, I realized I had to work.  Thus, the wintry wonderland of Mammoth was no more and I was able to spend new years day with my family.

For Japanese people, new years day is a day of celebration.  So, instead of sleeping off the previous night’s libations, I was up early cooking.  To be honest, I wasn’t quite prepared for any of it.  I didn’t plan on being here, so I didn’t think I would have to make anything.  Wishful thinking on my part.  I put together a quick menu and delegated responsibilities.

I wanted to do a more traditional meal, but seeing as how I only had two days to do so (and I did not want to battle the crowd of crazy people at Marukai or any other Asian market) I decided against anything different.  Well, I suppose there’s always next year.

On to the food.  Some traditional, most, definitely not.

Wontons and jello are a mainstay at all new years gatherings at my house.

Sushi and more sushi.  My mother used to make sushi on new years eve, though now, we tend to buy it all.  One of the days, I will make everything.  But for now, this will do.

Spam musubi and pickles (cabbage kimchi, tsukemono, and cucumber kimchi).  Most of these dishes have a slight Hawaiian influence due to my mother’s childhood in Hawaii.

Beef wrapped asparagus and marinated saba.

Poke and potato-mac salad.

Gobo (burddock root) and teriyaki beef skewers.

Kuromame (black beans w/chestnuts) and chukazenzai.

Teriyaki chicken from the grill and yakisoba.  I make sure to always have some type of noodle dish on the menu at all times.  I wanted to have more but I was vetoed by my sister and mother.

Sashimi (tuna, yellowtail, salmon, and octopus) and fruit (apples and apple pears).

Sakura-ya Mochi.  I forgot to take a picture of the mochi my aunt made.  It was quite tasty.  Oh well.

Last but not least, this is Arnold the lobster.  Ain’t he pretty?

Even though I expected to be out of town, this turned out to be just what I needed.

I think it’s going to be a great year.

Written by liveeatlove

January 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm