When I signed us up for a three and a half hour walking tour, I assumed there would be a little more walking and a lot less eating. Instead, we probably walked a total of .5 miles and ate 4 full meals along with 3 desserts.
Our first stop on the tour was Fugetsu-Do, a mochi maker. We had this lovely strawberry mochi and ended up also buying a few others. Fresh mochi is unimaginably better than the tough, chewy layer frequently on the outside of ice cream.
After mochi, we had our first and imho best real food of the tour. We went to Wakasaya, a donburi place at the edge of the Little Tokyo outdoor mall. They had the best negitoro donburi I've ever eaten, accompanied with a deliciously flavorful udon (secret: add tempura flakes).
Wakasaya also had some serious, not messing around wasabi. Our guide claimed that it was as close as you could get to real, from the mountains, non-cultivated wasabi in America, and I believe him. The fumes made most eyes at the table water and discouraged several of the ethnically Japanese tourists from trying it. I'm a relative wasabi wuss, but the wasabi was so perfect with the donburi that I kept adding just a little bit more. I want to go back there already.
The next stop was more food. Oiwake is the only stop we made that I'd been to before. They are a Hokkaido-style restaurant/karaoke bar that apparently had some hard times and reinvented itself in the 6 years since I'd last been there. The only dish I liked was the beef tataki below. We also had California rolls, which are universally gross (though, at least these were made with avocado instead of mayonaise), and gyoza which was fried, making it not Avani-food in the least. The tataki was deliciously seared and definitely something to order if you are fished out and aren't in the mood for noodles at a Japanese restaurant.
After so much food, we were ready for more dessert. Our next stop was to get imagawayaki at Mitsuru Cafe (Yelp). They are basically flattened steam buns filled with red bean paste. Red bean paste is the Japanese dessert staple, and as a bean-hater I was dreading it all tour. It turns out that there red bean paste is pretty decent even if you can't stand the taste of beans. They are also pretty:
I'm being called off. Join me next time for the secrets of mochi ice cream, a long passageway that once housed animals waiting for the knife, and the Turkish infiltration of Little Tokyo!