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Little Tokyo Food Tour Part 1

About A Children's Tale

Previous Entry Little Tokyo Food Tour Part 1 Jul. 5th, 2030 @ 10:37 pm Next Entry
Yesterday, we took a SixTaste guided eating tour through Little Tokyo. Little Tokyo, for those unfamiliar, is the largest and likely soon to be last "J-Town" left in the United States. The tour was very informal (no uniforms, signs, flags, or any nonsense like that) and the group was mostly composed of hungry engineers.

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!
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Date:July 6th, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
Little Tokyo, for those unfamiliar, is the largest and likely soon to be last "J-Town" left in the United States.

Huh? Do you know something about SF and San Jose that I don't? Okay, admittedly San Jose's is pretty sad, but Seattle's is also pretty nice, although not exclusively Japanese, and SF's seemed like it was on par with LA.
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Date:July 6th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
Seattle's is interestingly called the International District. And although it practically ate it in the 1940s (along with every mainly Japanese enclave in the US), is still around. Now, it's not very impressive, but I'd actually say the same thing about SF's Japantown.
Date:July 6th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
I have approximately the same amount of experience with all three (visited once or twice), and my vague recollection was that Seattle, SF, and LA were about equivalent wrt Japantown. Maybe I just missed a big chunk of Little Tokyo or something.

Agree with "not very impressive" as a descriptor, though.
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Date:July 6th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
I think the guide's view was that Little Tokyo was resurging while the rest are slowly dying off. He did mention that many people were moving to Torrance.
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Date:July 7th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
Bah. That was me getting bitten by incognito mode.
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Date:July 6th, 2010 08:46 am (UTC)
Also, red bean paste is a blight upon dessert.
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Date:July 6th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
I <3 Little Tokyo and imagawayaki. The bakery that's right around the corner from the place with imagawayaki has a good variety of nomz too. There is a mochi and mochi ice cream shop in the same shopping center too which is pretty good. The problem with most store-bought mochi ice cream is that you have to actually let it defrost for a while before you eat it if you want the mochi to be gooey instead of solid.

Also, FWIW, Torrance has a very large Japanese population and probably more Japanese shops and restaurants than Little Tokyo these days.
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