Ramen Yukinoya in Arcadia is one of three of Ramen Yukinoya stores located all around Los Angeles. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve driven past this place on the way to the 99 Ranch Market in Arcadia. It never really caught my eye, due to its humble appearance from the outside. But I finally gave this place a chance.
Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas
19980 E Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
I’ve come here before, it’s not a cheap place, but the quality of food is well worth the price. You can check out their menu and make reservations beforehand, because they do get quite crowded on weeknights and weekends. We made a reservation to come at 6pm on a Sunday and they called us a day before to confirm the time. We were promptly seated upon arrival and was very well taken care of throughout the night. The waiters and waitresses are all extremely friendly and cheerful, and will help you when you have no idea what you’re looking at on the menu. Most of their food is fusion Japanese, and I definitely recommend checking out the special items menu, since those change from season to season.
This post is long overdue. Over the New Year, two of my friends, JC and IC, drove up to LA. We grabbed dinner at Ojiya in Hacienda Heights, a Japanese restaurant-bar specializing in yakitori (grilled skewers). Ojiya is actually a chain of restaurants, each having its own specialty.
Foo Foo Tei (鳳鳳亭, “phoenix pavilion”) is one of Hacienda Heights’ great ramen hotspots (846 Yelp reviews as of date). I’ve heard this place mentioned by many people when I tell them I’m from that area. This past week, I finally tried it for myself, accompanied by my sister.
The place itself is in a rather obscure part of town. It’s located in a seedy industrial area, neighboring factories and auto shops. The interior is modest, with few decorations and plain furnishings. The table was rather sticky on my visit. But there was a bustling lunch crowd, happily slurping away their ramen noodles.
The menu, 6 pages long, was overwhelming at best. There were hundreds of items available. For an indecisive diner like myself, it was a bit taxing to find something I wanted. I suggest you look at their online menu before dining there, to save time.
My sister was already set on what to order: the #17 ramen: nanchatte tonkotsu, with a 75¢ add-on of corn. The broth in tonkotsu ramen is made from simmering pork bones. However, Foo Foo Tei’s twist is that it substitutes pork with tofu. The broth was noticeably less milky (perhaps because it lacks the dissolved pork fat and collagen).
On the contrary, the broth was creamy and light, but I didn’t enjoy the noodles. Also, I found the soup base to be a bit too salty (perhaps it’s just my personal preference). The slices of pork were tasty though. The portion size was humongous, enough to split between the two of us.
Our second and final order was the takana bacon fried rice, a pretty basic dish that could be replicated at home with ease. Takana is a Japanese type of mustard green similar to Chinese kiam tsai (鹹菜). The whole dish combines scrambled eggs, bits of bacon, mustard greens, garnished with some ginger and green onions. It was tasty, but as expected, the portion size (for $6.50) was surprisingly large. This dish could have easily been shared among four people. (I was disappointed the dish had tiny bits of bacon sparingly sprinkled…)
Although I was a bit underwhelmed, considering all the praise Foo Foo Tei has been getting, it’s definitely a solid place for a hearty Japanese meal. Don’t come alone, or else you should prepare yourself to box up the leftovers.
15018 Clark Ave
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
I’m trying to post a little bit more this week to make up for the lack of activity that is to come from myself for the next 3 weeks. I will leaving for Asia this Saturday, June 16th. I’ll be in Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan. I promise to share my amazing food adventures when I return. 🙂
Meanwhile, my cousin is currently visiting from Indiana for the week. He’s going with us to Thailand then to Indonesia. Whenever he’s here, I always take him to eat whatever he wants. One of the funniest things he told me before coming here was about a conversation he had with a friend.
Friend: ” So what are you going to do in LA?”
Cousin: ” I’m going to get fat.”
Haha! Man, oh man, do I take LA food for granted.
Anyhow, we went to Shinsengumi, which is one of his favorite ramen restaurants here in LA. It is definitely one of my favorites, considering it’s close by and accessible.
You can order either a regular size of ramen or a 1/2 order. I usually go with the regular. With the regular size, you can also add an additional order of noodles if you’re still hungry for $1. However, you can’t do this with the 1/2 order ramen.
There is a basic type of ramen, that comes with chau-siu pork, green onions/ginger (if desired). Any additional toppings, such as corn, egg, or bamboo shoots can be added to your ramen for an extra cost. You can also customize how hard or soft your noodles will be and also how heavy or light you want the soup base to be. I usually get medium straight across.
I love the feel of this restaurant. It’s small, and the wait can be crazy, but it’s fun. I’ve taken a lot of friends here on several different occasions, and they all seemed to enjoy it. I really like the flavor of the broth, however, I must be honest and say I’ve had better. However, if you’re looking for something nearby and you don’t want to make the trek to Little Tokyo for some ramen, I say that Hakata Ramen is a good substitute.
But remember, the wait can be long, so be prepared.
8450 E Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
Japanese-style cheesecake is very different from the cheesecake Americans love and know so well. It’s more bread-like, drier, and lighter-tasting, almost resembling a fluffy pound cake. I found a recipe on The Little Teochew, one of my favorite Singaporean recipe blogs and set out on trying it myself.
- 140 g fine granulated sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 50 g butter
- 250 g cream cheese
- 100 ml fresh milk
- 60 g cake flour
- 20 g corn starch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Lemon zest (some recipes call for this, just depends on personal preference)
The recipe I followed is available on: http://www.thelittleteochew.com/2011/03/japanese-cheesecake-tips-tricks.html. I made no adjustments to the original recipe, aside from not using a waterbath.
I actually ran into a few problems while baking this cake. I beat the egg whites for too long, which caused my cake to deflate as it baked, creating an ugly mess 30 minutes after cooling in the oven–the crust had collapsed into the center of the cake and looked like a crater (even though I let the cake cool inside the oven for a good 45 minutes, to prevent the cold air from deflating my cake). So yes, carefully read the Tips on the recipe page and beat them at High speed for a few minutes before settling on Low speed to create a finer texture. Makes a huge difference!
Another issue I had was creating an evenly melted solution of cream cheese batter. Once everything had melted in the double boiler, I still had lumps of cream cheese immersed in a pool of melted butter, cream cheese and milk. To rectify this , I resorted to blending the entire mixture with a Magic Bullet to create an even texture. It worked perfectly for me.
P.S. Once I try a water bath to make this cake, I’ll post updates to this recipe.
So, for Pepero Day 2011, Alvin and I had lunch at Tsujita LA in Sawtelle, a Japanese enclave less than 2 miles away from Westwood. For the longest time, I had been anticipating this place’s opening. Tsujita LA is the first American branch of a small ramen chain based in Tokyo.
There was already a mid-sized crowd waiting for tables when we arrived for lunch. We quickly filled out our name on the waitlist and went to Giant Robot across the street to kill some time.
The dish to order here is their tsukemen, a slow-simmered broth of pork bones, cartilage and lard, and dipping noodles. According to some sources (ahem..Google), the broth is specially simmered for 60 hours at a separate site before being served.
The restaurant is really classy, making good use of its cramped corner location inside a pretty new plaza (it’s across the street from Volcano Tea House, one of the few legit boba places around UCLA. Although I didn’t take a picture, on the ceiling is a dazzling piece of artwork, thousands of wooden spoons arranged as to form clouds.
The tables are honestly a bit cramped. The buffet of condiments on each table basically took up a third of the table, leaving little room for eating.
I didn’t really care for their char-siu tonkotsu ramen, priced at $12.95, well beyond my budget for ramen. First off, 3 tiny slivers of pork is not enough to win my approval. I don’t think the ramen base could win any accolades in its present form. However, it was truly creamy and rich, with pork bones, cartilage and fat completely melted in. Unbelievable. Saltiness wasn’t a problem either, as it is with a lot of the ramen I eat.
The salmon sashimi rice bowl was decent, in both price and taste. Less than $5, it was generously packed with fresh cuts of salmon that melted in my mouth. I don’t care much for Japanese rice (with fat, sticky grains), but this won’t present a problem to those Japanese foodies.
Finally, the piece de resistance: Tsujita’s tsukemen. Of late, tsukemen has been gaining traction in the States, although it’s mostly confined to the West Coast. I especially love the abundance of ramen joints in LA.
As the instructions on the website point out, the tsukemen is eaten in 3 stages (to bring out different flavors):
- Begin by dipping the noodles into the accompanied soup broth until you have enjoyed around 1/3 of the noodles.
- Then mix into the noodles the black shichimi (black seven flavor chili pepper) and enjoy another 1/3 of the noodles with the soup.
- Finally squeeze lime juice into the noodles and mix well, enjoying the last of the noodles and soup.
In all honesty, we didn’t properly take care in reading the instructions beforehand, so I squeezed the lime onto the noodles at the beginning. It’s just impulse, I suppose. I found it a bit tedious to dip the noodles into the soup broth before eating them (Stage 1), so this was truly a test of patience for me. Especially given that the noodles weren’t so great. Alvin and I both agreed that the worst part of this dish were the noodles: a bit undercooked.
Stage 3, the pouring of the remaining broth into the noodles. My favorite part: immersing myself in the broth and noodles.
The tsukemen broths were unbelievably frothy and creamy. I was left speechless. I might as well have been drinking straight from a cow’s udder. I could really sip this stuff for the rest of my life and not regret a thing.
I’ve never tried the dinner menu (which is too exorbitantly priced for me, anyhow), but the tsukemen gets a big thumbs up. As with most Japanese joints, a typical meal will cost upwards of $20/person.
P.S. I love LA’s vibrant ramen scene.
Quick recipe perfect for picnics.
The only thing is that you need inari skins (can be found at most Asian supermarkets). Mushroom-flavored rice is optional. 🙂
- Ready-made inari skins
- Cooked rice
- Diced shiitake mushrooms and carrots
- Boil readymade inari skins. (Or if they’re in a can, follow the instructions. I used packaged skins).
- Cook rice with diced carrots and mushrooms.
- Season rice with rice seasoning or some sweet soy sauce, per taste.
- Fill the pouches and voila.
P.S. Be careful with filling and opening up the skins. They’re pretty delicate.
Before the trip to SF, all us had planned out a pretty detailed itinerary (food places included) on Google Docs, after compiling lists of places and narrowing down, for efficiency’s sake.
Alvin heard about a fusion sushi place called Sushiritto (serving fusion sushi burritos, as the portmanteau implies), so we decided to check it out while were in the Union Square district. I still recall the pouring rain in the city and thinking to myself what a terrible day it was to be outside.
The place itself is pretty unassuming and plain. And even though the menu options are limited, everything was pretty pricey (<$8/dish is cheap in my books). The signature rolls (basically burrito-sized sushi rolls) all ranged from $8 to $12.
Alvin and I ordered the mid-priced Latin Ninja roll ($9), which comes with Salmon, Mango, Avocado, Asparagus, Daikon Radish, Meyer Lemon, Pickled Red Onion, Cilantro, Green Onion. in a Sauce: Ginger Serrano.
Verdict: nothing spectacular or worth waiting in line for. It tasted like a regular ole sushi roll, except with unusual fillings like mango. More importantly, THAT alone is definitely not enough to satisfy my hunger. All hype, no substance.
Address: 59 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94106 | map
Tenryoan is a pretty small Japanese restaurant on Westwood Blvd, south of Wilshire. It’s about ~20 minutes away from UCLA by walking. The exterior of Tenryoan is very confusing and misleading. When I first passed by the resto, I thought it was a deli that sold ready-made sushi. The interior is pretty bare-bones, but cozy. There’s a cute vintage Japanese arcade game by the door and a huge paper umbrella in the middle of the restaurant.
Appetizers were a few edamame beans, an orange slice and some mango pudding. Nothing mind-blowing, but the presentation was nice.
Sukiyaki ($12): The Japanese hot pot came with pretty generous portions, but the soup base was a tad too sweet for me. I tend to like subtle flavors when it comes to food. Included are a huge slice of beef, some tofu mushrooms of the shiitake and white needle sort, and Napa cabbage.
Chicken karaage ($9): Only two words needed to describe it: Salty batter (hypertension-inducing…). This was a huge disappointment, since all the Yelpers were raving about the karaage. If it weren’t for the rice, I would not have been able to eat it. It came with a small serving of salad and a dipping sauce.
The server was relatively attentive throughout the meal, except when he surprised us by taking away the appetizers even though he told him not to.
Another complaint: Tenryoan’s menu is a headache to read, as if it were put together by someone with very bad Microsoft Word editing skills. I REALLY hate poorly-designed menus. Handwritten prices were scattered all over the place and frankly confusing to read. Unimpressive for a place that boasts franchises in Honolulu and Tokyo.
Meh. Nothing mind-blowing in my opinion. Better Japanese food can be had in Sawtelle and Little Tokyo.
Address: 1248 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 | Yelp
Sushi Moon is a Korean-Japanese sushi bar located in a pretty shady part of Hollywood. Even the parking lot sign of the strip mall tells ya not to gamble or drink on premises.. My roommates and I finally tried their AYCE deal for $20 for the first (and last) time.
The atmosphere was decent and cozy. There are origami cranes hanging from the ceiling and only a handful of tables, but oddly enough, the waitress/server was sitting on a table in the back with her Toshiba laptop open, apparently watching a Korean drama. Guess it was a slow night.
I hate to bag on the sushi-making, but it was pretty inefficient and slow. There was only one sushi chef, who could churn out only 2 rounds of sushi for us before closing time, which was disappointing. We didn’t exactly imagine we’d have to negotiate with him on which rolls to make—not exactly what we had in mind for AYCE.
I honestly lost track of what we ordered, so I’ll just post up the interesting choices we made.
Sashimi. They were the perfect temperature, but the highlights were the spiced albacore and yellowfin tuna, which melted in the mouth like butter. Yum.
Inari, which are pretty hard to mess up in the first place. Decently-sized too.
Superman roll, one of the specialty rolls we got. It reminded me of a chicken wrap. But the skin of the sushi was too elastic.
My favorite of the night: lobster roll, basically rolls with avocado and cucumber and cooked lobster garnished on top. It was REALLY good. The popcorn roll (popcorn lobster sprinkled on tuna rolls) was done similarly.
The avocado roll was the last order they made for us before closing time. Nothing special, but I liked the sauce that came with it.
All in all, the AYCE deal was not worth it, considering the wait in between orders. Granted, the sushi was made neatly and the fish was pretty fresh. But now that I’ve experienced Midori, I don’t think I can ever go back to any other AYCE sushi place.
Address: 6775 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90038 | Yelp
For my birthday on Friday, my roommates basically woke me up after my post-midterm recovery nap and took me out to Midori in Sherman Oaks, which I’ve been dying to try for quite a while now. It’s sort of a far drive from Westwood, but totally worth it. Thanks for the awesome surprise, guys! I’m not much of a birthday person, but I’m glad to have celebrated it with y’all.
The restaurant is located in a 2 story plaza, and pretty inconscipuous by any means. I liked the hanging lanterns and the use of empty sake bottles as ceiling decorations though. Made the place a bit trendy looking. It’s pretty packed during lunch time, too.
All of us got the all you can eat sushi. For $21 a person, you can order unlimited amounts of sushi, rolls and appetizers. However, the catch is that everything must be eaten within an hour, and the plates must be empty before ordering a second round. This didn’t pose much of a problem for us, especially me, since I was raised for AYCE meals. My parents have conditioned me, both physically and mentally, from an early age to tackle buffets head on.
Throughout our meal, we basically ordered sashimi and rolls, interspersed with one another. The preparation was a bit slow, but the quality was pretty decent for an AYCE place. The slices of raw fish were generous and pretty fresh, as far as I could tell. I’m not a fan of sashimi, but I sure love them rolls.
As for the appetizers, we ordered teriyaki chicken and gyoza. The teriyaki chicken was a bit dry and nothing special. The gyozas were similarly dry and a bit on the salty side, but still pretty tasty. But I must emphasize that you don’t go to Midori for the appetizers.
The baked salmon rolls were especially memorable, although I liked the tempura rolls too. I wish I had a menu with me to identify my favorite rolls, but off the top of my head, they were the dragon roll, sunset roll and clipper roll. I think presentation could’ve been better, since the sushi chefs seem to have gotten sloppier as time went on. But, it’s the content that matters, not the fluff, since everything ends up in the same place anyway. 🙂
Our party ordered about 5 rounds of sushi, but I think I could’ve handled another round or two, had we been given a bit more time to digest. I was a bit disturbed by the fact that Midori’s inari is $3 for a single piece, which is exorbitantly expensive if ordered separately. It’s a bit too sweet for my tastes though. I could buy a pack of 20 at 99 Ranch Market for around that price.
And if you ask about the birthday special, they treat you to a bowl of green tea ice cream with a candle on top. Sweet deal, if you ask me (especially considering that they don’t check ID). Their ice cream is amazing—faintly sweet, really creamy and almost like gelato. I’m a fan!
Maru Ichi Ramen
Home for the summer! Which means going out to eat A LOT. The first adventure was at this ramen place in Milpitas that has literally been right next door to the Quickly I go to often and yet I never took notice until I had a craving one day and yelped it. I got Combo B which came with a huge bowl of Tonkatsu ramen, gyoza, and california rolls for $9.95. The ramen was very filling, I couldn’t even finish it (and I did not drink all the broth) and it was pretty decent, the broth wasn’t too salty or anything and the meat was very tender, the soft boiled egg was new to me but it was really good with the noodles (yay cholesterol). The noodles itself were a little too soft/mushy to my liking but the flavor was good, not too bland. It’s not comparable to Little Tokyo ramen places but it was still really yummy. The gyoza was just the way I liked it, crispy but not too hard and had a yummy filling. The roll was huge with a lot of imitation crabmeat and avocado inside. Service was prompt and friendly, even though they’d leave the restaurant altogether so nobody was really watching over customers. In fact I overheard one waitress tell another that two people just gave her the excuse that they were going to get money from the ATM and they never came back…fail. But my experience was good and my group enjoyed the ramen, definitely will be back if another craving comes along.