Ramen Bowls Aplenty

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Ramen is having its day all over Los Angeles and we feel obliged to try them all.  Last night we hit Slurpin’ Ramen Bar, in the hopes of cozying up on a chilly night with warm bowls of noodle soup.

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The modern space is centrally located in Koreatown and there is a bit of Korean spin to the menu.

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One of the Korean adaptations is the bulgogi egg roll, which is stuffed with thin seasoned slices of beef, fried, split in half and topped with nacho cheese sauce and jalapeño slices. We placed the order because it was such an unusual appetizer, and were pleasantly surprised to find the tender and flavorful meat a playful match to the liquid cheese and spicy pepper, reminiscent of an Asian cheeseburger.

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We then moved on to the main attraction, with options including the original slurpin’ ramen, vegan ramen, dipping ramen (soup served in a separate bowl) and a chashu bowl (pork over rice) all available to us.

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We went with the super spicy slurpin’ ramen and found the small bowl plenty big and the regular great for big appetites. The creamy, pork bone based broth has been slow simmered to garner all the richness this soup commands. The description, super spicy, is inaccurate and is instead a mild heat.

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A big part of the ramen fun is the toppings and although they charge for every one, we had a blast checking them out and chose a few that we easily shared in two bowls of soup.

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From the top 5 toppings list on the wall, we found the spicy umami oil gracefullly smoothed out the ramen and made it sing. This spicy mix also added a great kick to the bulgogi egg roll.  We basically love the spicy umami oil on everything.

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The crunchy garlic and onion added a dilemma regarding how to consume it.  Should it be added to the soup where it would get soggy or consume it straight from its little saucer following each bite of soup to be savored at its crispy best?  Ultimately we did a bit of both.

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The exceptionally well cooked noodles were an easy choice and two of us were able to shared the extra noodles easily from the substantial sized serving.

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The soup includes a choice of chashu or super tender fatty pork which melts away on the tongue like a dream.

We find Slurpin’ Ramen Bar to be a respectable contender in the ramen landscape that is ever expanding in Los Angeles and beyond. We look forward to more warm bowls of noodle soup which seem to be growing at a delicious rate.

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Slurpin’ Ramen Bar, 3500 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone – 213-388-8607

New Ramen House In Torrance

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Hakata Ikkousha of Costa Mesa has opened a new branch in Torrance that dishes out steaming bowls of their award winning ramen. Already a hit in the new location, we arrived shortly before closing to a full house.

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Their pork rich soup is a combination of broth enhanced by bones simmered for at least half a day, chewy noodles cooked to customers specifications, marinated pork slices and a blend of soy sauce, 20 seasonings and 5 types of rare seafood from Japan.

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The appetizer menu lists the Japanese delicacies of gyoza (pan fried dumplings) and fried chicken.

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The tiny, flavor packed, juicy dumplings come with a small dollop of chili paste that can be smeared on, with or without dipping into the gyoza sauce found on the table.

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Crisp-skinned fried chicken pieces encase moist meat that can be enhanced by the seasoning salt served alongside.

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We were excited to get to the main attraction, with a variety of ramen bowls calling to us.

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We like intense flavors and were immediately drawn to the tonkotsu black, a creamy pork soup made with mild garlic oil, noodles, homemade charshu (marinated braised pork belly), wood ear mushrooms and green onion. The broth has a mild garlic flavor, which we kicked up a notch with a ball of spicy paste available upon request.

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Each ramen listed has its high points. The Spicy tonkotsu mentaiko is unique to this ramen shop, the tonkotsu shio is light and clean, enlivened with black pepper in a fish broth while the tonokotsu original is their signature bowl.

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We couldn’t resist the God fire, delivered at levels of spiciness from 1 to 4.  We chose 2, which has a nice mellow heat plus tender fatty slices of pork belly, green onion, wood ear mushrooms and we ordered our noodles medium, versus hard or soft.

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One of the best parts of the dining experience at Hakata Ikkousha Ramen is the assortment of condiments on the table. We needed instruction on how to use the sesame seed dispenser but got the hang of turning the knob while holding the bottle over our bowl which grinds and dispenses the tiny crushed seeds.

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Our favorite condiment is the pickled spicy greens that can be eaten straight or added to the soup for extra heat and flavor.

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We throw the pungent ginger slivers into our bowl by the heapful, for a clean tang to balance out the fat in the broth.

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For a light, well seasoned version of ramen served with an assortment of Japanese condiments, Hakata Ikkousha Ramen brings it all, making us feel like we are in a small shop in Japan.

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Hakata Ikkousha Ramen, 21605 South Western Avenue, Suite J, Torrance, CA 90501                     Phone – 424-558-3953

or

Hakata Ikkousha, 3033 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone – 714-540-2066

Healthy Fast Food Wins Us Over Everytime

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We have become completely aligned with the new fast food model, embracing the ease, abundant variety, freshness and speed through which our meal is assembled. PokiNometry falls squarely into this genre, with a thin sliver of a space at Hollywood and Highland that we saunter through before receiving our self-designed poke bowl.

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The third floor of the entertainment center houses the outdoor food court called The Deck, and those tables or booths provide customers of PokiNometry a space to chow down. Bad weather means we have to pack food to go, fortunately LA has mostly sunny, mild days.

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The protocol is simple. First chose your bowl size and your base. We opted for a large bowl with half and half, brown rice and deep greens.

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Then come the add ons which are unlimited and included in the price, except for the faux crab meat and avocado which after the first scoop are $1.50 for each additional helping.

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We found the scoops included to be just the right amount, but we can’t slight anyone for wanting more avocado.

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Next we chose our fish. The large bowl incorporates 5 scoops of any combination of seafood desired.

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After asking about the freshest available that day, we opted for tuna, albacore, yellow tail and two scoops of mashed tuna. The cooked shrimp adds a different consistency so we kept the bowl strictly raw to retain a uniformity of texture.

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At Station 4 we got to choose our sauces and since we like it hot we let them know.

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Sauces can be added directly to the bowl or served in to go cups for those wanting to add as they consume. We requested the spicy, original Nometry sauce and a couple of cups of spicy mayo and miso just in case.

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The last decisions to be made are about the toppings, again unlimited. We went heavy on the green onion and ginger plus requested extra cups of pickled ginger because we adore the flavor.

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Our alluring bowl was delivered to us exactly how we like it, quickly, efficiently and by a staff that couldn’t have been nicer.

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Drinks and miso soup are also on the menu for an additional charge.

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We found the bowls to be vibrant and enjoyable, with the large containing too much for one lunch, and they happily packed up the left overs to go. Validation at the visitor center kept parking at $2.00 for two hours, giving us a chance to browse a bit after lunch. When in Hollywood looking for a quick, easy and healthy meal, PokiNometry fits the bill swimmingly.

PokiNometry,
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 316, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone – 323-645-7730           web site –PokiNometry.com

Inexpensive Sushi Stop

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As sushi fans we are always looking for good sushi at affordable prices. We have been long time customers of Sushi Stop from back in the day when they had only one tiny outlet on Sawtelle.

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They now have six, four of them on Sawtelle, one in Hollywood and another in Pasadena. We attribute their success to quality seafood and a $2.95 price point for most rolls.

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A rich miso soup, at $1.60 a bowl, does not skimp on the miso. It’s a soothing, warm, velvety, healthy broth dotted with scallions, seaweed and a few tofu squares.

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While the crunchy seaweed salad pops with the delightful essence of the ocean.

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Besides the menu, there are specials listed on the wall with slightly higher prices.

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A pen and order form list the offerings and we simply place check marks or the number of orders we want next to chosen dishes.

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The seared peppered tuna is super fresh and meaty, seared at the very edge only.  We roll them up, capturing the onion and sesame seeds, then consume the little ponzu marinated packages.

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Specialty rolls also come in at $2.95 per plate and we definitely have our favorites.

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The dynamite roll conceals a California roll under baby scallops in a rich sauce  quickly broiled and presented still bubbling. The hot, creamy topping is a memorable contrast to the cool inside out crab and avocado roll underneath.

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A shrimp tempura roll pairs crisp, batter encased shrimp with cucumber and avocado, then drizzles everything in sweet eel sauce.

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Under the appetizer section are spicy albacore tartare, fried wonton skins with spicy tuna, avocado, onion slivers, sesame seeds and a serious splattering of spicy Sriracha mayo for one crunchy, smooth, spicy bite.

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The Las Vegas roll is artistically playful, with eel and cucumber beneath spicy tuna and architecturally stunning fried lotus root wheels, smeared with eel sauce.  Another attractive and flavor packed combination.

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Desserts also fall under the $2.95 price point making them a no brainer.

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Being near UCLA, there is usually a wait at peak meal times, but we were seated immediately at 5 PM on Saturday night. Be aware that it is a cash only establishment, but with these prices the bill is usually manageable, plus there is an ATM on the premises. For affordable sushi in a lively environment, Sushi Stop is a great choice that we frequent when the mood strikes.

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SushiStop, 2222 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-479-1222           web site – sushistopusa.com

or

SushiStop, 2053 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-473-3999

or

SushiStop Izakaya, 2218 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-479-1001

or

New Japan by SushiStop, 11283 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-477-0557

or

SushiStop, 5917 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone – 323-468-2496

or

SushiStop, 58 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone – 626-405-1518

We’re Addicted to Poki

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The poki/poke craze has hit hard and we think the more fresh sashimi bowls the better.

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This miraculous dish of sushi rice, raw fish chunks, vegetables and seasoning sauces are a hybrid of Hawaiian, Japanese and American influences that meld into one delicious and filling meal.

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There are four steps at Pokiholic. First decide how many scoops of fish are needed, chose a base from rice to salad to nachos or any combination that pleases. Step two involves choosing the seafood from eleven raw and cooked offerings. Step three is spice level from hot to not. And the final step four entails a yea or nay to a wide array of toppings and sides added to your bowl at no extra charge.

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The assembly line of ingredients are all refrigerated and the process moves faster than one would guess for such a detailed endeavor.

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Yes, we would like a sushi rice and lettuce mix, with 5 scoops of fish. Spicy tuna (two scoops), yellowtail, ahi and seared garlic albacore please. Spicy! Avocado, cilantro, white onion, cucumber, jalapeño, green onion, seaweed salad, sesame seeds, spicy mayo, wasabi and ginger, thank you.

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The ingredients are cold from the refrigerated case and shine with super freshness. Tossing the “salad” creates a creamy, spicy, chunky, ocean kissed, textural extravaganza that was big enough to serve two. Hot Sriracha found on the table can be added if it’s still not picante enough.

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For high quality poke/poki bowls made with super fresh sashimi and a huge array of free add ons, all crafted to customers preferences, we strongly recommend a visit to Pokiholic to get your raw fish fix.

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Pokiholic, 2201 South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone – 323-268-5988

Westside Okonomiyaki

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Sawtelle is a Los Angeles heaven for Japanese business. We love exploring the markets, restaurants and nurseries that dot the street, offering us a glimpse of Japanese culture and cuisine.

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Love Bake, just two months old, is the latest addition to the area now officially called Japantown.

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The minuscule space in the Olympic Collection at the corner of Sawtelle and Olympic makes Okonomiyaki, a pancake or crepe filled with a variety of ingredients chose by customers.

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They also have a breakfast set that includes their standout side dishes.

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Love Bake’s original tangy salad of parmesan cheese, mayonnaise dressing, ham, cucumber and sprouts is delightful in its simplistic flavor profile that balances the ingredients.  This salad makes a great lunch served with their gluten free mini cheese bread/bagels.

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The small round puffy rolls are gluten free, served warm and are a melty, cheesy amalgamation with a texture similar to mochi.

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We explored Love Bake’s vegetable creations which are available in gluten free, spicy and an original version.

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The instructions are simple.  First choose the form, folded into a crepe or flat like a pancake.  Then choose the fillings from a list posted on the wall.

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We went with a spicy pancake incorporating cheese and garlic that packs a hot kick derived from a blend of Japanese spice powders.

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We also sampled a pancake with a mix of tender asparagus and creamy avocado.  The okonomiyaki are served with side bowls of Kewpie mayonnaise, ketchup, honey or brown mustard and a sweet, thick sauce made especially for the dish. We liked a smear of the sweet brown sauce mixed with mayo and also found the honey mustard a delightful addition.  We prefer these veggie disks crispier to add another layer of texture and will request that next time we visit.

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They also make their own light and refreshing yogurt serve alongside a rich honey and we drizzled to our hearts content. Love Bake gives us a taste of Japanese okonomiyaki on the westside while making us feel like we have been transported to Japan.

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Love Bake, 11301 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 122, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-478-7778          web site – lovebakela.com

Savoring Fresh, Organic, Slow Food At Slow Fish

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We recently had the pleasure of savoring slow food during our dining experience at Slow Fish.  We throughly enjoyed their commitment to uber-fresh, organic, blended Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisine.

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The playfully elegant dining room is a relaxing setting to snuggle into for a tranquil and healthy meal.

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Check out the board near the sushi bar for a list of daily special in addition to the extensive menu.

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We began our Slow Fish repast with a sweet blue crab salad pairing the snap and fresh ocean taste of seaweed salad with not only blue crab, but also firm tofu squares drizzled in goma dressing.

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The Slow Fish well rounded sushi menu, offers sushi and rolls that can be made with the super food, black rice or forbidden rice. This nutty flavored delicacy is lower in sugar and higher in fiber, antioxidants and mineral content than both white and brown rice, adding beauty and health benefits to our meal.

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We dove into their meaty seared ahi tuna carpaccio. The fish is enhanced by a blanket of sour onion and sweet pickled lotus root and radish, adding a crunch to the tender, succulent red slices marinating in a lemon juice spiked dressing.

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The Korean halibut carpaccio starts with a sharp, radish sprout bite, then pickled capers add tang to the slight spicy dance on the tongue before being calmed by parmesan shavings.

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We can’t say enough good things about the salmon with sweet, cool, juicy mango and creamy avocado.  It’s finished with a sprinkling of sea salt kicking the fruit and bright pink sashimi into the highest levels of pleasure and enjoyment.

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Thick slices of albacore are first seared before being doused in a citrus and mustard ponzu and then topped with radish sprouts and sliced green onion, creating a sweet tart experience with the melt in your mouth fish slabs.

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The gangster wrap is tuna and cucumber stuffed into a soy paper wrapper with no rice, so nothing takes away from the freshness delivered. A dip in the small side dish of spicy sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice, serves to enhance and highlight the roll even further.  This is one tasty gangster wrap.

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The menu is loaded with small plates of salad, vegetable and fish dishes to share.

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Besides being a beautiful architectural structure, the fat avo is also mouthwatering seasoned albacore tuna in a woven avocado embrace, atop a sweet, sticky puddle of unagi sauce and a goma character of smooth sesame richness.

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The tuna tostada starts with crispy fried wonton skins and tops them with a refreshing salad of aji tuna and juicy tomato chunks tossed in a spicy dressing. We could eat this tuna salad all day long in a myriad of ways and be exceptionally happy campers.

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Slow Fish has an eclectic lunch menu to entice the foodie in all of us at prices that satisfy our wallets as much as our palates.

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We couldn’t leave without a solid helping of black rice under miso cream sauce concealing mushrooms and a delicate filet of halibut. The saltiness of the miso is balanced by the rich creamy Japanese/Italian melding that all soaks into the forbidden rice and is impossible to stop eating. Small bundles of pickled jalapeño and onion cut through the richness and add a jolt of tartness and heat to the mix.  An explosion of flavors, textures and temperatures all add up to one remarkable entree.

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For an immersion into fresh, organic, healthy Asian fusion, Slow Fish brings a variety of tastes that are unique and exciting in their presentation and flavor profile, which makes us wonder why we would ever eat anything but slow food.

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Slow Fish, 5406 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone – 323-930-0170          web site – slowfishusa.com

or

Slow Fish, 16051 Bolsa Chica Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Phone – 714-846-6951

Japanese That’s As Good For Us As It is The Planet

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Always on the lookout for fantastic flavors in healthy cuisine, we have been seduced by Fresh In The Box, bento box that is, Japanese Restaurant.

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The clean, airy space invites calm contemplation of the health oriented menu that promotes brown rice sushi, naturally raised chicken and pork, and organic salads.

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The warm satisfying ramen is a working class dish that made the leap from China to Japan a few hundred years ago. At Fresh In The Box it is available small or large, depending on your appetite and the savory bowls come in miso (our favorite), pork or soy based broth. The al dente noodles and soup contain no msg, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors.

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Sushi’s origins date back over a thousand years, while the sushi we eat today is more closely related to the “fast food” version adapted in the early 1800’s. Fresh In The Box takes sushi to its latest incarnation, as an “Organic” Japanese restaurant created with the concept of helping serve others and the environment with quality and respect.

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We savored the spicy albacore roll, which is a buttery soft, fresh melding of tuna and spicy sauce, wrapped in a blanket of seaweed and brown rice before being rolled in toasted sesame seeds. This pure luxury is complemented with pickled ginger, wasabi and edamame.

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We also have a soft spot for tofu salad and have been comparing them all over the city.  Here we have the option of a full or half salad, allowing us to try more dishes, which we love.  The firm tofu and dark organic greens are dressed with a traditional Japanese salad dressing that always leaves us hungry to put Japanese dressing on all our salads.

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Be sure to check the days specials board for some off menu items that may tickle your fancy.  It’s great to know that not only are we getting the tastiest, high quality fish and vegetables, we are also doing good for our bodies and our planet. What more could you ask from a great lunch or dinner?

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Fresh In The Box, 13354 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-301-9100           web site – freshintheboxla.com

Old School Westside Japanese

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Aki Restaurant is a cozy, family-owned, neighborhood, Japanese restaurant that makes us feel like we’re dining in Japan. A small sushi bar at the back has a few seats or guests can choose a booth or table in one of three quaint dining rooms.

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The daily board lists Aki’s special fish and sake offerings.

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They start everyone off with a small serving of pickled cabbage that reminds of our first days eating Japanese cuisine on Sawtelle in the 70’s, when the same crunchy greens were served.

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A miso soup bowl comes with all combination lunch and dinners and satisfies with its warm, soothing broth.

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The tempura has a light, crisp, crunchy batter over sweet shrimp, pumpkin, yam, broccoli, green beans and carrot. It is served with a tangy tempura sauce that can also be poured over rice.

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Aki’s California roll is made with real crab meat, something we haven’t seen in far too long. The flavor of fresh, flaked crab is enhanced by the creamy, smooth textured avocado. The disputed origins of this local invention, does not diminish the joy the original recipe continues to bring to customers.

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Our favorite is the crispy rice with spicy tuna. The golden brown, fried rice cake provides a sturdy platform for the deep red tuna, that is further enhanced by the addition of jalapeño slices, pickled carrot and a fan of avocado slices. Pickled ginger also ups the enjoyment factor on these bundles of spicy bliss.

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The tuna sashimi continues the commitment to freshness with meaty, blood red slices atop a bed of shredded radish.

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Unagi sauce is a sweet, slightly salty, thick brush of flavor over the cooked eel and avocado rolls.  We judge most restaurants by the quality and smoothness of their eel which we expect to melt in the mouth.

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They have a number of combination plates and lunch specials and we find the cooked and raw fish dishes to be especially satisfying in this wonderful blast from the past ambiance.

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Aki Restaurant, 11513 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-479-8406

 

 

 

 

 

A Taste Of Japan in Mar Vista

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We love ethnic markets and at the corner of Centinela and Venice is one of our favorites, Mitsuwa Marketplace.  The food court rocks with Santouka serving some of the westsides best ramen and Hannosuke plating wonderful tempura bowls.  We tend to sit down for a meal here before we shop.

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Back in the store the produce section offers beautiful fruit and vegetables.

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Including some exotics such as dragon fruit and horned melon.

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They also have a small organic section for those who prefer that choice.

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Traditional Japanese foods abound, from a wide variety of tofu to pickled plums and Asian snacks.

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Stunning cuts of meat and fish entice customers with their bright, fresh sheen.  You won’t find tired looking anything in this store.

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Packaging is important to the Japanese and most products come beautifully labeled and wrapped, making these imports all the more special. We recycle Japanese wrappers and paper in all kinds of decorative ways including as gift wrap and in art projects.

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Large displays of Japan’s favorite mayonnaise, Kewpie, showcase the famous condiment that has now become a staple of local chefs for its use of strictly egg yolks, making it a creamier and richer version that American brands.

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Quail eggs are always an option at Mitsuwa and can be prepared just like chicken eggs, except they are much cuter and make the perfect sized picked egg popper.

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A wide selection of soju and sake are available in charming bottles that we rescue and reuse as vases, for single or a small smattering of flowering stems.

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Rice of every type makes shopping for exactly what you need in Asian recipes a snap.

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Our favorite section, is the prepared foods which go on sale in the evenings.  We were at Mitsuwa Marketplace around 8 PM and found an abundance of discounted Japanese bowls and dishes.

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Tofu, octopus balls, fried fish and dumplings are some of the appetizers and meals that can be scored on sale in the evenings.

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Unique deserts, are part of the array of exciting Asian sweets laid out and an easy way to sample Japanese delicacies at reasonable prices.

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We noticed that the sushi and raw fish bowls were not on sale, but we think some gracious inquiring and offering to take the “needs to be eaten immediately” raw fish off their hands, will most likely lead to discounts. Although the prices for the quantity and quality presented are quite good.

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For an exploration into Japanese culture and cuisine, a trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace is an inexpensive way to visit a Japanese market that may inspire a flight to Japan to see the real deal.

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Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-398-2113          web site – mitsuwa.com