Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Curry House
Sawtelle and Olympic

Japanese curry is one of my favorite foods. I remember when I first had it, and thought it was rice with spicy gravy. Rice + gravy was not what I was used to eating at home, so it was an oddity taking the first bite of Japanese curry rice. Took a little bit of getting used to, but needless to say, I'm glad I did, and am now a big fan. I feel that Curry House curry is the "gold standard" of Japanese curries, as they are sold in Asian supermarkets and are of equal quality in their restaurants and in their premade vaccum sealed futuristic packages that you boil in a saucepan, package and all, rip open and pour over rice.

In any case, Curry House was our destination, to catch up with some friends. I have to say that I've had superb service every time I've gone to Curry House. Everyone is overly Japanese polite (you know what I mean if you've been to like, HONORED that you are there, in a way.) The restaurant itself is a very chill place to eat, and a lot more spacious than its' competitor, Hurry Curry across the street. Let's get to the food already!

This is Amber's Curry Set meal - with beef curry, rice, corn portage, fried shrimp and salad. I like this plate for its' variety. I've had their corn portage before, which I don't think is that amazing - it reminded me of eating warm creamed corn. Nothing wrong with creamed corn, but when I'm supposed to eat it as a soup, something in my brain says, NO NO NO...well I'm sure Amber probably didn't think so, she mostly cleared her plate (except for the tomatoes, she doesn't eat tomatoes. Or onions. She'll remind you constantly of both of those facts.)
This was Scott's Chicken Cutlet Curry, with medium strength curry. Very similar to my...

Hamburg Steak cutlet curry with extra strength hotness curry. This was delicious. Their version of "hamburg steak" is very much like a meatloaf (but better - ground beef mixed with spices, onion bits and who knows but it's good...), shaped into a patty, then breaded and fried into a cutlet. Chop em up, put it over rice and some curry (the curry wasn't melt my eyes off spicy, but again, I eat wasabi like ice cream) , with a simple salad with Japanese dressing (I like the dressing here, gingery salty with fresh veggies, I've never had wilted veggies like some other places I've been to). I ate half of this because it was SO much food, but I've finished the plate before. Gluttonously. Bryan decided to mix it up by getting the Seafood Gratin over Rice. I didn't try any but it looked cheesy creamy good, with big pieces of shrimp. This was a huge dish and to Bryan's credit, he finished all of it, albeit it took awhile and the waitress kept trying to take it away and Bryan hurredly had to say, "I'm still working on it!" while waving his hand frantically over his plate. I guess the waitress was used to faster eaters like the rest of us.

I like this place for the variety and quality of the food. A winner in my book.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Just go...I beg's on Pico Blvd across the street from Westside PavillionIf burgers were crack then Apple Pan is my favorite dealer. I know, I know, drug addiction is not something to joke about. But these I didn't know burgers like this EXISTED. Apple Pan does it the best. I had been exposed to places like Johnny Rockets (blech!) before this - places that were going for the "50's nostalgia" with their burgers and shakes. The last time Owen and I got burgers at a Johnny Rockets - the meat was grainy and unpalatable. Owen didn't finish half his burger - never before had I seen him do that. Anyways, Apple Pan is the place that Johnny Rockets WISHES it could be.
"Quality Forever" being their motto, they don't lie. Everything's quality here - the meat, especially - but down to giving you real cream for your coffee and the creamiest yellow vanilla ice cream to accompany your to-die-for apple pie slice with flaky crust. Everyone gets treated the same here - plunk yourself down in one of their spinny chairs that are situated around a U-shaped counter that centers on experienced burger technicians doing their thing. Might be a little bit of a wait but I've waited longer for good quality food. A lot locals frequent here, and have been for years. A weathered old guy (I like Gordon the best, he's prickly when he needs to be but treat him right and he treats you right) takes your order. There's not much on the menu to choose from - 2 kinds of burgers (steakburger and hickory burger), with or without Tilamook cheese. They have an egg salad sandwich, a tuna sandwich (I think) and a grilled cheese. Fries, pie, coffee and can/bottle drinks round out the menu.
I got the only thing I ever get - A Hickory Burger with cheese. Note the perfectly toasted bun, the liberally slathered on hickory sauce (which tastes like a really good barbaque sauce, but more tart and less sweet. It's the perfect sauce for this burger.) The cheese is melted and gooey, but not stringy gooey where it becomes a hassle to eat as you untangle yourself from cheese goo. Just a good, melted quality cheese. There's also a HUGE amount of iceburg lettuce, which normally I would feel miffed about - but it is perfect for this burger. Here's a top down shot of the delicious burger. Immediately after they are made by the burger technicians, old guy server grabs the burger and plops it on the counter. Grab napkins and get ready to CHOW.Their fries are really good too, very fresh from the fryer kinda deal. Throw a bit of salt on them, they don't add any themselves. Sometimes, they can be undercooked, but old dude will switch them to more crispy fries if you ask. Little recycled paper plates get thrown on the counter and with a flick of the wrist, old server guy drops a dollop of ketchup on the plate. Not always do they do that but it's masterful to see when they do.
Here's a wedge of chocolate creme pie in a take out container. Trust me. These are great. Not that crap from Marie Callendar's...this is the real deal, with full calories and all. Forget about your diet here and indulge!
Empanadas Place
Link is to citysearch. It's on Sawtelle and Venice Blvd.

Delicious delicious pastry meals. Why are they so great? I think it's the combination of having delicious bready outside plus savory filling inside. That's probably why I like stuff like calzones, stromboli, cornish pasty, chinese pork buns and hot pockets, to name off a few. Empanadas Place fit the bill nicely during a weekday lunch outing. The place is really unassuming, nestled on a corner facing the busy Sawtelle Blvd. Another plus is that they have their own parking, albeit not a ton of spaces, but I've never had a problem. The restaurant is cute and small, with very friendly employees who really care about the food you eat and your experience with them. Everything is very reasonably priced - I think , 2.75 per empanada. And what awesome empanadas they are! Note each frilly corner - to distinguish the fillings on the inside. I got the criolla, (beef, raisins, green onions and hard-boiled egg), spicy beef (like the criolla but spicier), spinach (I LOVE the spinach) and cheese and onion (such gooey delishous cheesy oniony goodness.) These lovingly fried delights are deceptive - the pastry on the outside fills you up fast. The insides are something to marvel at:Yeah, I know, too bright on the flash on this picture. But check out the delicious spinach...and in the background, the beef. Each is superbly stuffed to the brim with their respective fillings.
I was dying to try one of these to round out the meal - a dulce de leche cookie. The cookie itself was so soft, sweet and pillowy. The dulce de leche part was extremely sweet, with just enough coconut shreds to make it flavored like coconut but not overly so. And such a deal at 50 cents each...

This place is an awesome taste of Argentina in Mar Vista. Go there hungry and get ready to aware though, they only take cash.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Helms Bakery Complex, Culver City

It's really hard to try to please a whole bunch of people all at once, food wise. My parents and brother were in town, and I wanted them to meet Owen's dad and for all of us to have a meal all-together. Owen's dad and I mused about where to go (so many factors - something decent, not too expensive, close proximity.) We chose Beacon, as I've always wanted to try their food, and this was a good as time as any to give it a shot.

We were all seated at a TINY table in a noisy corner of the restaurant - a place where when people would talk, it would echo loudly in the lower ceiling-ed area, thus having to make you talk louder just to hear each other - adding to the noise. That was frustrating, but once the restaurant started getting a little less busy, it was fine. Owen tried the lychee sake - he thought it was great. I had the green tea lemonade, which was very refreshing. We ordered and pretty fairly quickly, the food started arriving. This is the Kaki Fry - "Crispy Oysters, Lettuce Cups, Yuzu-Tartar Sauce". There were 3 per order, so we ordered 2 orders to accomidate everyone at the table. These were delicious, nicely fried with rich flavor. I liked the use of the lettuce cup, I used to have the Chinese lettuce wraps all the time when I was at home, and this was a nice twist. A perfect little appetizer, and I wish I could have downed 2 more of these. Next up were chicken wings - in a Soy-Ginger Glaze. These were okay - wings are wings, really. The glaze was good and definitely went along with the theme of an "asian cafe", but I can't say that this was extraordinary. Teba-saki from Furaibo are more delicious to me, in my opinion.
Now to the goods! Owen and Owen's dad got the grilled organic chicken - "Thai-Marinated, with Green Papaya-Mango Salad." I traded a piece of my food for a piece of his chicken. It was very juicy, flavorful and tender, flavored well with the "thai marinade" (what that entailed, I can't say...) I didn't try the mango salad part, but by the looks of it, it was more daikon radish than mango. Nothing was wasted though, as both plates were clean. This is mom's dish of duck confit. It contained the duck, "Fingerling Potatoes, Frisee, Grapes, Pinenuts Plum-Ginger Glaze". My mom was absolutely enamored by this dish. She kept saying, "mmm, mmm, duck, so good..." A VERY good sign in my opinion. She gave me a piece of this, and I agree - rich, great texture, melts in your mouth. My dad and I got the grilled hanger steak , with "scallion-ginger Potato Salad, Wasabi Relish". I think this was a great example of what "asian fusion" is - a staple of American cooking (steak) grilled and flavored in a chinese style glaze, with wasabi as garnish. Everything on this dish was excellent. The potato salad, which to me could have been hit or miss was great. Not too mayonaise-y, a good mixture. It paired very well with the steak. The wasabi relish was a kick in the mouth, but I love wasabi (again, I can eat it like ice cream) so it was a welcome and surprising garish, as I was not expecting it.
My brother went out on a limb and got the Maryland soft shell crab, with "Daikon-Pea Shoot Salad, Tomato-Yuzu Salsa and Ancho Chili Aioli." I tried a piece of his soft shell crab, and it was AMAZING. Light, fried perfectly and the hot crab insides oozed deliciousness. They gave him a good amount of crab - I think two medium ones, cut in half. I didn't try the sauce but he lapped it up. Mom also got a side of Stirfried Baby Bok Choy with Roasted Shitakes. Pretty good addition to the rest of the meal - the shitakes were good and meaty.

Of course we had to try dessert.
Owen and Owen's dad shared a trio of creme brulee - Coconut, Azuki and Black Sesame. I tried a taste of each and everything tasted top notch. The coconut was very strongly flavored, and didn't hit you until right after you swallowed a small bite. The Azuki (red beans) was heavily spotted with many red beans, this was good but my least favorite of the 3. Black sesame was great, it reminded me of a creamier version of the inside of one of those black sesame mochi things that we'd get from dimsum. It was a great twist on dessert!The rest of us shared a Beacon “RING DING” - Chocolate Cake, White Chocolate Filling and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. This was a great union of vanilla and chocolate. The chocolate wasn't too overwhelming, the whole dessert was a balance of harmony between the two contrasting flavors. The TINY scoop of chocolate chip ice cream at first made me feel that it was insufficient, but really it was the perfect amount. Also the ice cream was super frozen, which I enjoyed (I don't love melted ice cream.) The inside of the cake was melty white chocolate. I usually don't care for white chocolate but that little bit made this dessert rise above other chocolate lava cakes I've had, because it was such a contrast to the chocolate cakey outside.

We all left happy and fed, and we all cleaned our plates (I think if no one was looking I would have LICKED the plates) Also, I have to say, for this kind of food, it is very reasonably priced. Eat here and don't regret it!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

in Culver City - link is to Citysearch site.

Cafe Laurent has been a long time haunt of ours - never TOO crowded like S&W, good breakfasty food, pleasant outdoor seating, and really feels like a good French cafe. The owner is always asking wether or not you're enjoying the food. I like supporting places that aren't so commericalized (i.e. Denny's or IHOP). It's a great experience to eat here on a lazy Sunday morning, as they play live music (this time around it was a guy with a guitar, playing slow tunes. Perfect for enjoying some brunch.) I've had many of the dishes here - such as their omelettes, quiche and croque madame (ham and cheese sandwich with sunny side up egg on top. Delicious!) However, whenver they have a special, I'm sure to try it - I'm never disappointed. After getting our drinks (O.J for me, Arnold Palmer for Owen) and french bread (not the best french bread ever, it's the dry dry dry kind, but good to nibble on while you're waiting for your food) and enjoying the music for awhile, this arrived at our table:The Frittata Special - Shitake mushroom and chicken sausage frittata nestled in a flaky croissant, covered in hollandaise sauce, with a mixed greens salad with creamy vinagrette and scalloped potatoes. This was super filling. The frittata part wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, as the egg was discolored by the shitake, making it look gray, but it tasted delicious. The croissant itself was excellent - big, super flaky, buttery. Hollandaise sauce is supicious to me, ever since I read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, but I do my best to try to forget his description of bacteria swimming around the sauce (yeah, gross huh?) I don't have too many other hollandaise sauce experiences so I can't complain much. The mixed salad with chopped tomatoes is awesome. The dressing is just right, the tomatoes are mercifully diced (I hate trying to bite through ginormous tomato slices in a salad - chopped is the best!), the salad itself has big pieces of baby romaine. And the scalloped potatoes! I've never had such scalloped potatoes until I had them here! The only other kind of scalloped potatoes were the horrible insta-rehydrate kind, the one where the package contained little rounds of dehydrated potato slices. They never turned out the way you wanted them to...whereas these scalloped potatoes are amazing! You can really see the REAL cheese they embed in the sauce.

Complaints wise, we had to battle flies that would NOT leave us alone as we were eating - pitfall to the whole outdoor eating experience. Also, sometimes the kitchen runs out of certain things - which in a way, I find charming because that means they used all of their ingredients for that one dish...but yeah, keep a second choice in mind just in case.

If you haven't tried this place, it's definitely worth going on a Sunday to enjoy some chill breakfast!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Disneyland Resort
Corn Dog PalaceBack with a new post finally. Things have been busy since my parents and brother came into town, but I got a ton of great pictures from this past weekend's trip to Disneyland Resort. Corn dogs are one of my favorite treats at any kind of fair or amusement park. It's the perfect form of meat on a stick - yes, I even think corn dogs are better than chicken skewers. Blasphemy? Ah, well, it's a personal choice. The corn dogs at Disney's California Adventure were on par / above average than the usual corn dog from anywhere else. First off, we got a Hot Link Corn dog, not just a regular footlong hot dog. This monstrosity wasn't as LONG as one of those other ones, but it made up for length in MEATINESS. (yeah, this all sounds gross, but we're talking about corn dogs here! Mind out of the gutters!) Spicy, with good fried breading on the outside, this was a great treat before lunch. Unfortunately, a few complaints were of course the price, that topped 6 dollars. Yes, it does come with a small package of Lay's original potato chips, but really, 6 dollars? I guess I should have expected as much from a Disney Resort food product. The size comparison of this thing to my brother's head. This corn dog is NOT joking around. Neither is my brother. Each bite we doused in ketchup...we all shared one, which was plenty to tide us over until lunch (clam chowder bowls, sadly didn't get a picture of those.)

Now to the real deal - DINNER. I had originally wanted to take my family and Owen to Storyteller's Cafe, as it was relatively close (cutting through California Adventure or Downtown Disney) but I found out that they had gone the day before. As much as my brother wanted to go to the Blue Bayou, they were completely booked up. So I switched our reservation to Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. This was the appetizer platter for 4. So good! The red and white substance in the shot glasses were Oyster Shooters - "fresh Pacific oysters served in shot glasses with a Bloody Mary cocktail sauce ". These were huge oysters, and kind of hard to eat because you were supposed to swallow them? I didn't, I chewed on mine (I know, faux pas!) but they were good. The rest of the plate consisted of coconut shrimp, grilled andouille sausage and fried calamari with a Creole marinara. The coconut shrimp was sweet, but not overly so, very tasty. Calamari is calamari, I only get disappointed when a restaurant messes up on it...and this place did not. Trust me, there was nothing left on the plate. Everything was excellent.
Mom and I got this dish - Blue Crabmeat Topped Blackened Salmon
"Blackened salmon topped with blue crabmeat, served with garlic roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh watercress and a green onion herb vinaigrette." This was a great piece of salmon, rich and flavorful. The crabmeat was icing on the cake (well, yes, crabmeat on the salmon, more like.) The pool of sauce that the salmon was cooked in gave everything a great flavor. The fingerling potatoes were perfectly cooked, the greens were peppery fresh.
This is Owen's dish -Grilled Tournedos of Beef . "Two 3-ounce medallions of filet mignon, served with crawfish mashed potatoes, bacon pecan crusted baby green beans, and a red Zinfandel reduction." Owen was extremely happy as he finished this meal. The meat was perfect - he asked for it to be cooked "medium", but it was a little on the medium rare side which he preferred. I had a taste of the mashed potatoes - so decadent when mixed with the crawfish! He praised this dish over and over again. This was dad's Pasta Jambalaya. "A twist on a New Orleans favorite! Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage and roasted chicken tossed with spinach fettuccine and Creole seasonings". I didn't try this but his plate was cleaned so I'm assuming he liked it.
My brother's dish was Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli - "Housemade pasta pockets filled with Maine lobster and gulf shrimp, tossed in a champagne butter sauce. Finished with pan roasted shrimp and a tomato basil relish". I tried half of one of these, and they stuffed each of these ravioli's FULL of shellfishy goodness. Considering the number of shrimp they gave my brother with the ravioli, the ravioli itself AND the coconut shrimp appetizers...I think my brother got a pretty good dose of shrimp.

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen is awesome! I haven't been disappointed yet (I've been maybe 3 times total). I think we actually lucked out that we couldn't get reservations to the Blue Bayou - their service is excellent but sometimes I am disappointed by their food - whereas Jazz Kitchen is great on both! My complaint for the night was the fact that we were probably seated a little too close to the live jazz band playing music, we couldn't even hear ourselves as we gave our orders to our jolly waiter. Fortunately, the band took a break before we started eating...our ears and stomachs were happy. For dessert later, Owen stopped by the Haagen Dazs ice cream shop in Downtown Disney. He got a Rocky Road Sparkler - a concoction of rocky road ice cream, thick fudge, oreo cookies, whipped cream and sprinkles. This was massive, and even though Owen loves chocolate...he was a little overdosed on this. The price tag to this heaping chocolate serving is also hefty too - almost 8 bucks!

Overall, some good food was eaten at Disneyland this past time I go, I'm trying for one of those turkey legs!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Getty Villa
Cafe at the Getty Villa location
This is a long overdue posting - I went to the Getty Villa a few months yes! I know, I'm cheating a little...but I'm also catching up, as I've taken pictures of food for longer than I've had this blog. I'm surprised at the size of Getty Villa - Getty on the hill is much bigger. However, Villa's got the crazy good view of the Pacific Ocean. I've been to Getty on the hill's restaurant before - I felt really out of place, not dressed up enough and the food was just...okay, as I remember. Really expensive. How did Getty Villa's Cafe hold up on comparison?
In general I feel that Getty Villa's setup is much more suited to the art museum-goer than Getty on the Hill. Getty villa has a pay at the register first setup. The queue was quick, we mused over the selections (all very reasonably priced, for the most part), and paid at the register. We were then handed a slip, which we gave to a waiter as we sat down.The bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar that was set on the table was excellent - the strongest balsamic vinegar I've ever had - one drop was extremely aromatic and was enough to flavor numerous hunks of bread that were drunked into it. The waitstaff was very attentive, and kept our water glasses and drinks filled. The waiter then brought us our food - very quickly.
This was Owen's dad's chicken salad. Everything seemed very fresh, and he cleaned his plate quickly.
I got a grilled eggplant panini (panino?) with a mixed greens salad and balsamic vinagrette. It was delicious. The eggplant was breaded, with a red bell pepper pairing underneath. The bread was grilled and fluffy. The mixed greens salad used that great balsamic vingear. It was surprisingly filling and I was quite satisified with my choice.
Owen got the Roman Burger - a burger with carmelized onions and a onion relish (I think), provolone cheese and fries. The burger itself was very juicy and flavorful, but I didn't like the onion relish. Too sweet, and it offset the good meaty taste of the rest of the burger. Next time, I'd say to order it without the weird onion stuff - in this case, I'd rather have my burger plain.
Of course we couldn't leave without dessert. A flourless chocolate cake, with a big dollop of freshly whipped cream rounded out our meal. There also were soaked in something sweet cherries, which was a perfect offset to the denseness of the cake. This was a decadent end to our lunch. Getty Villa Cafe was a great ending to our visit to the Villa, if you can manage to go I highly reccommend it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tony P's
Admiralty Way, in Marina del Rey
Tony P's was our 2nd location change for dinner with Owen's family - originally it was Cheesecake Factory but they had an hour long wait. No one should wait an hour for Cheesecake Factory, so we were told to meet up at The Wherehouse...then last minute, told to go to Tony P's, which I had never been to before. When I read the Tony P's sign - "Dockside Grill" - all I could think about was the GI Joe Fensler Film dub that had made its rounds around the internet a few years it is if you haven't seen it:

DOCKSIDE BARS? (motions with hands) Anyways, aside from the joking, the family was already seated in the bar area - a noisy room with a ton of beer-on-tap handles displayed all over the walls. Very sports bar style. HD screens lined the wall, blasting sports channels. As we sat down, the waitress brought over more hot breadsticks - these were great, they seemed freshly baked, with a few salt bits scattered across the tops and buttery greasy, which wasn't bad in this case. They had ordered before we got there, a plate of boneless buffalo wings with ranchy blue cheesy dip. (sorry no picture!) These were good if you dunked the nugget of chicken fully in the dip. Straightforward bar type food.
But enough with the appetizers, let's go on to the entrees. Owen decided on a Salmon Fettucine Alfredo. This was frankly, a tastless mess. Noodles were coated in a cream sauce that I swear someone made with a base of nondairy creamer, then realized that it was creamer, then threw a bunch of half and half in there at the end, so it was creamy but oddly so. The mushrooms were plentiful but added no substance to this tureen of gummy noodles. Green spinachy bits rounded out the meal. I didn't try any of the salmon but Owen proclaimed it was overcooked - a shame. This gave Owen a stomachache- twice (he ate the leftovers and had a stomachache then, as well.) Dockside bars, indeed. Not my food! This is Owen's dad's burger. Pretty straightforward looking. He seemed to like it enough.

This was my Salmon BLT. I hurredly chose this because the waitress was in a rush to get our order in, as everyone else at the table had already ordered. Let's start with the sides - the fries were alright, nothing to complain about here but I think I like steak fries better than the shoestring. I'll eat both but it's a preference thing. The "coleslaw" was untouchable. I wouldn't eat this if you paid me. Then again I'm not much of a coleslaw fan, something about the sweet-buttermilkish flavor with cabbage and carrots...who invented this? It's sick and twisted. I remember my first bite of coleslaw - it was from KFC, yep, the Colonel's coleslaw. I remember taking a bite and going, bleck! And my dad was like, it's good for you it's vegetables. And I'm thinking, vegetables that have gone bad!

Here's a close up of the Salmon BLT's innards. This wasn't a bad sandwich. But it wasn't a good one, either. The most disappointing part was the salmon itself. The overcooked pitiful salmon meat had been tortured into submission. The bacon was alright, but very fatty. It added enough taste to the sandwich to not fall into the same pitfall as Owen's alfredo. The bread was fluffy and huge, but disappointing in comparison to the delicious breadsticks we had at the beginning of the meal. Tomato and lettuce were sufficient rabbit food.

For a dive bar, I should have expected as much, food wise. But go to another dive bar that specializes in anything but seafood.
Angel Maid Bakery
(link is to the yelp site)
Centinela and Culver
After our eh! Mediocre! lunch at Sakura, we ran across the street to Angel Maid Bakery for their delicious choux cream puffs. I encountered these amazing puffs before Beard Papa - and they definitely are the best of the best when it comes to traditional choux cream. The size of these little puffs are perfect. A mini delicious two-bite treat. Because the puffs are so small, it feels alright to eat more than one, whereas one Beard Papa puff is the equivalent to 5 of these choux cream. The custard inside the puff is very sweet, and filled to the brim. If you don't bite into one carefully, the insides squirt out all over the place - so you gotta be careful!

This is a box full of choux cream delicious! Chocolate covered and regular...they're both a treat! I suggest trying both Choux cream puffs from here and a cream puff from Beard Papa - if you have done so, what do you think? My opinion - they are almost so different from each other, I can't put them in the same category. But all in all..I might have to say Angel Maid is a little bit better...because of the size of the puff and the chocolate covering. What's your opinion?
Sakura Sushi Bar
(link is to the Yelp critique of the website page)
Centinela and Culver
On a recommendation from a good friend, Owen and I headed to Sakura Sushi Bar. It was very close to work, so I was definitely willing to try it to see if I could find a new sushi lunch spot. The busy, construction laden Centinela was not great to park at, and with Sakura not seeming to have parking of its' own - it was "strike one" against this place. Walking in, I took in the decor. The restaurant was pretty bare in decoration, except for a nice woodcut piece behind where the sushi chefs stood. The thing that hit me in the face was the smell of the place. The restaurant reeked like the smell of an aquarium. Not the big fancy ones that you pay admission to - but the ones where you buy fish for your home aquarium. Now, I can deal with that smell when I go to such a place, but for that smell to be the overwhelming smell of a restaurant that you want to eat sushi at...not so good. As Owen put it - "Smelling live fish while eating dead fish is not what I call appealing." I couldn't have said it any better. This was strike two. But how was the food? We started off each with a miso soup and salad. The miso soup was good - deeply flavored with rough hewn chunks of tofu, briny fresh seaweed and savory green onions. The salad Owen proclaimed it was "salad from a bag", the kind he had when he went to camp. I agreed...iceburg lettuce, one slice of cucumber, some slivers of red lettuce and green bell pepper. The salad dressing was the only thing that had character in it, a tangy japanese dressing, strong on the ginger and vinegar. I wish I had that with some mixed greens instead of the just-okay baggie salad.

Now to the bentos! Owen chose a teriyaki chicken and sushi bento. Owen is not a raw sushi eater (he sticks to rolls and cooked stuff) but he gave raw sushi another try. He popped the salmon sushi in his mouth, and started giving the most sour looks I've ever seen someone give after eating something. He managed to swallow it - holding back puking it out. It wasn't the foods' fault - but not a good way to start. He gave me the tuna piece after that.
I got the chicken teriyaki with sushi and sashimi. The nigiri were huge. HUGE. Like, a good two bites each. I think I prefer smaller cuts of sushi, with better quality. The fish was very mediocre - check out the "white striping" inbetween the salmon and tuna pieces. Each white bit was a difficult to chew membrane, which made it hard for me to bite it properly in half to eat the thing. The quality was just...okay. I could get better at Mitsuwa. The smell of the restaurant probably didn't help's hard to enjoy good food when your senses are being bombarded by nasty aquarium smells.
Rice. You know. The white stuff. It wasn't that awesome good quality sticky rice though - this was like, the mid range japanese sticky rice.
The sashimi. Check out that white nasty striping. Yep. Notice the pink of the tuna - like bubble gum. Not DEEP red, which is what good quality tuna should look like. Actually, now that I think about it, the taste was a little bit bubble gummy...well after you douse anything in wasabi it's almost edible.
The best part of the meal - teriyaki chicken. Pretty decent. Then again, it's hard to mess up teriyaki chicken, in my opinion. Good grill marks on the pieces, good mix of white and dark meat.

All in all, Sakura is alright. I don't know why it was so highly rated on so many sites like citysearch. The sushi is mediocre, maybe if I got other cuts of fish it would have been different, but salmon and tuna are the most basic of basic cuts, and if they were just okay, then I have little faith for the rest of the fish. And just because they gave me bigger cuts didn't make it was just...more. If I go again, I'm sticking to cooked stuff and tempura. And wearing a face mask!