May 2019 Weekend Rundown

#1

W/ all due respect to @attran99, I thought I’d kick off May w/ what I’m dubbing the @JeetKuneBao special (although I think it was from @J_L that I learned about this place).

A work-related volunteer activity takes me to Oceanside once a year, so I must, of course, stop by Kawamata for some poke. It remains delicious.

Hope y’all have some good eating this month.

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#2

Thanks, @paranoidgarliclover! I totally forgot.

#3

Holy cow, is that for one person??? Is that a whole avocado?

#4

Oh, I’m not sure big the box is looking! How big does it look? Maybe some fish eye distortion in the camera lens.

The avo slices themselves seemed very short, so not sure what kind of avocado they were using.

It was the “large” portion, and it was filling but totally doable for me. :wink:

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#5

It looks fabulous!

#6

gettin jiggy wit it

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#7

Sipan Bakery, Glendale

Lahmajune omelette. I actually kinda look forward to going to the Glendale DMV because it means I get to eat one of these bad boys.

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#8

Putting that on my map. Surely I’ll be passing by there one of these days.

What’s in the little cup?

#9

Salsa

#10

now that is the ultimate breakfast taco

#11

HK Milk Tea, Pineapple Buns, and Baked Pork Chop Rice at Delicious Food Corner MP

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#12

Errand in the OC made for two meals…bang-bang style.

Stacks Pancake House (Irvine)
A Hawaiian-inspired cafe with breakfast, brunch, and lunch options. We caught the tail end of breakfast service. Ordered at the counter, meal delivered to your table.
My sister ordered the crunch macadamia French toast…crusted in both Captain Crunch cereal and crushed macadamia nuts and served with whipped butter, strawberries, and syrup. It was sweet, but not terribly saccharine sweet. I enjoyed the crunchy coating, and it was much better without syrup…syrup made it soggy. I had the loco moco with Portuguese sausage, steamed rice, gravy, and 2 over easy eggs. Runny egg yolks mixed in with the savory gravy was just perfect.

Tanakaya (Tustin)
I’ve been wanting to come here since seeing @Chowseeker1999’s epic posts. So we hopped a few streets over to Tanakaya. My sister got the Kamo Nanban with fresh soba in hot duck meat broth and green onions. The broth for these noodles is delightful…rich and deep in duck flavor while also being light…I don’t know how they do it. I got the Oh Zaru because I wanted to make sure that I would be taking cold soba home for later. It’s a double order of their soba noodles served simply with soba dipping sauce, nori, green onions, an wasabi. The chew and texture of the soba was just perfect…and like magic. I loved that these noodles were more buckwheat-y. I didn’t even finish the first layer, so was super happy to be taking home plenty of leftovers.

There are too many sweets at my house, so a trip to Cream Pan was not necessary. I still feel guilty for not stopping by.

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#13

Nice @attran99 glad you liked Tanakaya. :slight_smile:

Although I’m surprised you didn’t get anything at Cream Pan (how could you miss out?!). :wink: Remember you can also get their Housemade Nikuman (Steamed Marinated Pork Buns), or Curry Pan if you wanted something savory. :smile:

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#14

Also I was so full after a bang-bang…I couldn’t dream of doing another bang. I am untrained in the ways of @PorkyBelly.

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#15

Any relation to Sepan Chicken in Glendale?

#16

Seems unlikely but I can’t say for sure. Evidently Yelpers hate Sepen Chicken.

#17

Did a triple bang at Tokyo Central (formerly Marukai) in the South Bay. :slight_smile:

Gindaco

Billing itself as Japan’s Number 1 Takoyaki (probably in terms of sheer size / # of branches), Gindaco has opened up its first L.A. branch at Tokyo Central.

Those worrying about a possible bait & switch can rest easy: They already made the switch, as it was 100% Non-Japanese staff when we showed up.

The Original Takoyaki (Crispy Golden Takoyaki topped with Takoyaki Glaze, Seaweed Flakes and Bonito Flakes):

The positive: Every order of Takoyaki is made to order. It arrived piping hot, and slightly crisped on the outside! (Actually crisped and toasty hot.) :blush:

Biting down, the crispiness gives way to a bit too soft of a center. It wasn’t raw or anything, but it felt like the inside of the Takoyaki was too liquidy. :frowning: The Octopus was tender, with a slight chewiness, the Takoyaki Sauce was like a thicker, sweetened Worcestershire Sauce.

Generally it was very close to being a very good Takoyaki, save the slight undercooked feeling within.

2nd Visit:

Interestingly, on this 2nd visit, Gindaco had one of their Japanese Takoyaki staff churning out the Octopus Balls (w/ the rest of the staff still Non-Japanese). This master was far more adept (and it was awesome to watch him cooking), compared to our first visit (w/ the kid who looked like he was a local part-time college student).

Iced Matcha Tea:

Refreshing.

The Original Takoyaki (Crispy Golden Takoyaki topped with Takoyaki Glaze, Seaweed Flakes and Bonito Flakes):

Definitely an improvement from our 1st visit! :slight_smile: The outside was toasty, crisped and piping hot. The interior was cooked through more, and much less liquidy. It was still a bit too moist and loose (compared to E.A.K.'s version when they were on point, or Takoyaki we’ve had in Japan), but a big improvement from before.

Given the downhill state of E.A.K., Gindaco is probably the best Takoyaki we have in L.A. right now.

Gindaco
(inside Tokyo Central Market)
1740 Artesia Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90248
Tel: (310) 768-8256

(Observe the ultra-cute, animated Takoyaki that are suddenly devoured by Japanese kids on their website.) :sweat_smile:

Croissants du Tokyo

This is a newer place that opened up at Tokyo Central (thanks to @bulavinaka for testing out some of their Pastries a few months back).

They have a plethora of Pastries that reminded us the more commonly found Chinese / Korean Bakeries around town, so expectations were low.

Croissant:
Time from Oven: 3 hours.

Sadly this was pretty mediocre. :frowning: Very soft exterior, zero crispness, no flakiness. It reminded us of a slightly stale Brioche Bread instead of a Croissant that we’re used to.

Brioche Melon Pan:

This had a hard, lightly crusty exterior (giving each bite a slight crunch on top), giving way to a lightly sweet, familiar Melon Pan interior and taste. It’s certainly more of a guilty pleasure, but unfortunately it wasn’t as good as Cream Pan’s Melon Pan.

Krone (Matcha) (Matcha Green Tea Cream Filling):

Their Krone Pastry isn’t very common locally, so we were eager to give this a try. Thankfully this turned out to be a winner: The Krone strangely had a flakier, better slightly crisped exterior shell than the soft, doughy regular Croissant(!). But no matter, because biting into the slightly flaky exterior, you get a burst of Matcha Green Tea Cream filling that isn’t too sweet and with a delicate Matcha finishing note. Delicious! :slight_smile:

Perhaps there are other winners in Croissants du Tokyo’s lineup (there were over 20 different Pastry items). For now, we’ll be skipping their Croissant and Melon Pan, but we’d be glad to try more of their Krone Pastries (with different fillings).

Croissants du Tokyo
(inside Tokyo Central Market)
1740 Artesia Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90248
Tel: (310) 660-6300

Tenkatori

It had been a while since we last stopped by Tenkatori (over a year+), but it was conveniently located inside the Tokyo Central Food Court area, so it was perfect for a bang x3. :wink:

We don’t remember them being Gluten-Free during our first early visit, so I’m not sure if this is new or not, but the batter did taste slightly different on this visit.

Nankotsu Konbi (Combination B Set) - Karaage (3 Pieces) + Chicken Cartilage (3 oz):

This B Set was a nice way to quickly try their main item, Karaage (Boneless Japanese Fried Chicken), and their Nankotsu Karaage (Fried Chicken Cartilage).

Their Nankotsu (Chicken Cartilage) was tasty, with a decent battered exterior. Slightly crunchy (not crispy), with a slightly firmer, crunchier Cartilage texture in every bite. :slight_smile:

Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken, Boneless Thigh):

Their Karaage, however, was a bit soggier. The battered exterior was less crunchy than our previous visit, but still had some crunch, with the Chicken Thigh meat being a bit stringy at times. Definitely not as good as before. :frowning:

Fried Chicken Leg Set:

Tenkatori’s Fried Chicken Leg had a slightly better crunchy exterior compared to the Karaage. This might be due to the fact that they fry every order of Bone-In Chicken to order, but the Karaage (Boneless Fried Chicken) is done in batches.

While the crunch was nice, the actual quality of the Chicken Thigh and texture was just a bit firm and stringy in parts. :frowning:

Ultimately if you’re at Tokyo Central Market doing some shopping and felt like getting a snack, Gindaco with its Takoyaki (Fried Octopus Balls) is probably the best bet, followed by some Nankotsu Karaage (Fried Chicken Cartilage) at Tenkatori. Unfortunately the rest of Tenkatori’s offerings on this visit feel like they’re in downhill mode.

Tenkatori
(inside Tokyo Central Market)
1740 Artesia Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90248
Tel: (310) 627-7822

Kiyo Japanese Cuisine

During our visit to some friends in Pasadena, they mentioned hearing about a new relatively local place to try Japanese food. As we walked in, it was clear this was really a Chinese-run Japanese restaurant, and we were already preparing for the worst.

(Note: Our friends ordered most of the dishes here, many were not by choice.) :smile:

Grilled Beef Tongue:

This was surprisingly decent. Tender, with a bit of chew, but a nice beefy flavor in each bite. Not bad.

Deep Fried Mini Aji:

These were nicely fried, with a slightly crispy exterior with a burst of brininess in every bite.

Uni (Sea Urchin):

The first question we had was, “Why did they spear the Uni Sushi with a wooden chopstick?!” :sweat_smile: :expressionless: I guess it was for show?

Secondly, the Uni was unfortunately not the freshest, having a noticeable hit of ocean funk in this bite.

Sashimi - Maguro + Kanpachi:

Our friends wanted some Sashimi and they were nice enough to plate them individually for us (1 piece of each). It was what I was expecting at a place like this: Giant, unwieldy slabs of Fish (cut too thick, I guess to show that they’re generous to the local crowd?). The Tuna and Greater Amberjack were pretty average tasting at best, rather flavorless. :frowning:

Tonkotsu Ramen:

This was the real surprise: Kiyo somehow made a rather authentic-tasting Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Ramen(!). The Tonkotsu Broth was actually really concentrated and porky and while it isn’t top tier Tonkotsu, it was surprisingly tasty and was probably a solid 2nd tier, authentic tasting Pork Bone Ramen.

Even the Pork Belly Chashu was tender, fresh-tasting and luscious.

The Egg was overcooked, though. :frowning:

And the Ramen Noodles were a mass-produced variety, a touch softer than I’d prefer, but overall not bad at all.

We were so surprised, we kept it bookmarked, and finally got a chance to revisit Kiyo a couple months later when we were back visiting our friends in Pasadena, to see if it was still consistent.

2nd Visit:

Salmon Skin Salad:

Overdressed, mediocre Salad Greens (tasted like the large bag variety that some places use). :frowning:

Chicken Karaage:

Wow, this is probably the worst Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) we’ve had in at least 5 years or more! :cry: Soft, oil-saturated, clumpy, salty, awful.

Tonkotsu Ramen:

Their Tonkotsu Ramen on this follow-up visit was far less fatty than the 1st visit. It tasted a touch more watered down, but it was still a rather decent-tasting Pork Bone Broth base.

The Chashu Pork wasn’t as tender, nor as luscious as the 1st visit, and they even looked different. But they were still tender enough (and didn’t taste like refrigerated leftovers).

The Egg was actually more liquidy and not as overcooked as the first visit.

And the Noodles were about the same as last time (a bit on the soft side).

Overall, Kiyo is nothing to write home about, but if you were in this neighborhood and craving Tonkotsu Ramen, you might be best served driving about 15 minutes West and getting over to Tatsunoya for some legit Kurume-style Tonkotsu Ramen. But if you didn’t want to do that, and were close by, Kiyo’s Tonkotsu Ramen is a surprisingly passable facsimile.

Kiyo
815 W. Naomi Ave. #A
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 348-8661

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#18

Takoyaki is supposed to be molten, loose, and battery inside.
The undercooked critique is common of customers in the U.S. that are not used to this texture/consistency. But I am positive that Gindaco takoyaki are not undercooked in their eyes or in the eyes of many Osakans, or other Japanese.

Gindaco’s takoyaki is not even what Osakans would call authentic takoyaki–it is a chain from Tokyo that slings takoyaki that are very (intentionally) crispy on the outside.

Also, regarding EAK’s takoyaki, I would wager that they deep fry frozen takoyaki. I would not use their takoyaki as a baseline.

Love your reports. Wanted to offer a counterpoint to your critique.

#19

Regarding “bait and switch”

This phrase is used a lot on FTC to criticize Japanese businesses opening in the U.S. and it always irks me.

Why? It is dismissive and implies intent of the Japanese operators to deceive their customers.
I do not believe that most Japanese business owners aim to deceive their customers. Rather, they are trying their best to localize their businesses in the U.S. and train local staff.
It is very costly and difficult to have Japanese employees come from Japan and oversee the opening of businesses and stay for a prolonged amount of time–especially for fast food or casual restaurants.
They need to establish their business and train local staff quickly to be able to have any chance for long-term success.

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#20

I can’t speak for others, but for me," bait and switch" is a significant issue not necessarily because the chef in the kitchen is different (in fact, I wish a change in chef led to no change in quality - that way cooking would be easily scalable, and places could expand the number of locations without losing quality!), but because there is a noticeable decline in the quality of the food.

A prime example for me is a place called Ramen Setagaya in the East Village in NYC. For the first year or two when they opened to long lines, they might have been my favorite ramen in NYC. The shio broth was light, yet complex - I remember tasting discrete dried scallop pieces and so many more seafood flavors infusing it. Fast forward a couple years, and the broth, to put it mildly, tasted like dish washing water. I don’t know if it’s because the Japanese chef had left (because they now had a different chef), or because they were cutting corners on ingredients, or both, but the product at that point had no resemblance to the opening product.

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