The pleasures of a late-night taco are a defining L.A. experience, a few bites of food constructed seemingly to sate whatever urge drove you to some no-name truck in the first place. But if I could replace even a handful of the city’s countless taco trucks with carts or stalls or itinerate vehicles of some kind cooking up Japanese okonomiyaki, I wouldn’t hesitate. Thankfully, there’s Doya Doya in Torrance, which caught my eye for the L.A. Times last month.
Okinawan cuisine’s entry into Orange County for the L.A. Times:
PHOTO by GLENN KOENIG / L.A. TIMES
A skein of flat, linguine-like noodles and shards of ginger are so fine they all but dissolve in the broth. There are pork ribs, with brawny slabs of meat thick as a Little Leaguer’s baseball bat. But the soki soba is all about the bones, marrow-filled ribs stewed until they can be eaten.
If there’s one thing Mayumi Vargas wants everyone to know about her native Okinawa, it’s the island chain’s affinity for pork. And at Habuya, Vargas’ new Okinawan restaurant in a hidden corner of a Tustin mini-mall, pork is a uniting force.
Okinawa is a Japanese prefecture apart. Although the subtropical islands have been absorbed nominally into Japan’s national identity, they remain culturally individualistic. Habuya reflects that in its humble cooking, which is less like that of a refined seaside restaurant and more like that of a salt-licked coastal pub.
Read the rest here.
Lomita’s house of Japanese pancakes for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
There’s no easy American analog for okonomiyaki, an amorphous Japanese dish defined by an infinitely variable cast of ingredients. All meals considered, it’s most like a pancake: a thick, savory batter is plopped onto a griddle, cooked to a golden brown, then flipped and lacquered with sauce. Okonomiyaki, however, needs no comparison—it’s a dish fully aware of its role as a homely stomach-stretcher best divided between three or four sets of chopsticks and equal amounts of alcohol.
A new wave of ramen for the LA Times:
PHOTO by LAWRENCE K. HO / LA TIMES
Ramen California’s soups are startling, peculiar creations crowded with a garden’s worth of unconventional ingredients. Bobbing in a bowl might be florets of purple cauliflower, earthy chunks of celery root or broth-staining bits of beet. The restaurant’s produce-packed style marks a new direction for the noodle soup — one guided by ramen prodigy Shigetoshi Nakamura.
Excellent yakitori and Kyoto-style oden for the LA Times:
PHOTO by STEFANO PALTERA / LA TIMES
There’s a distinct division in Torihei’s kitchen. At one end, a huge pot of dashi broth sits just below a boil as it seethes a continuous cloud of steam. Opposite the pot, skewers cook with a low, gratifying hiss on a crackling charcoal grill. The kitchen partitions its duties, but not its vision — Torihei is the collaborative effort of chefs Masataka Hirai and Masakazu Sasaki.
The pair, each tasked with working half the restaurant’s double-edged menu, has created an inseparable combination of yakitori and simple, soupy oden. The Torrance restaurant’s edible union can be traced all the way back to Japan, where Hirai’s family operates like-minded restaurants in Tokyo and Yokohama.
A Costa Mesa classic for the District:
PHOTO by RICK POON
Dining at Anjin is a practice of patience, a lesson in how to temper your hunger while you wait at a place so perpetually packed that it logs hour-long lines 10 minutes after opening. But every eater at Anjin knows this. Some decide to kick around the concrete outside; others take a quick shopping break instead.
Kill time inside, however, and you endure a much different experience, your mind and spirit and stomach all worn down by relentless sizzling from the tabletop grills. It’s then that your eyes start to pick through every inch of the restaurant, shifting from the huge hoods and vents hanging over each table to the wall-mounted spotlights shining on those gas-powered grills. By the end of your wait, when your gaze fades to a hungry blur, you notice something more peculiar: a set of sculptures hung near the kitchen, each piece depicting a face of the seven deadly sins. Initially, the restaurant’s moralizing design doesn’t make any sense—it’s only well into your grill-it-yourself meal that it becomes clear.
Costa Mesa’s finest Japanese fusion from the District:
PHOTO by RICK POON
Ikko hums with the tiniest vibration. It’s there in everything from the low tones of the restaurant’s jazz fusion to the clanging sounds of conversations from its six small tables. And that makes for a definite pulse about the place, a gentle resonance that shakes the chairs and plates before it makes its way into that empty space between your ears.
But almost as quickly as the bass builds it up, all that tension gets released, set free when a saxophone lets out a sporadic squeal and the jazz cools back down. It’s with those sensory shifts that Ikko seems comfortable and content to let diners get distracted while it cooks up a superior spectacle.