Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Japanese cuisine

More slurping on Sawtelle: Miyata Menji to open Wednesday

Shop_2Sawtelle is booming with another round of new restaurants, and the next anticipated opening is Japanese import Miyata Menji — the tsukemen joint that has taken over what was the former gr/eats space. A bold move with Tsujita L.A., which serves ramen and tsukemen at lunch, directly across the street?  

Japanese comedian Tetsuji Miyata brings his Miyata Menji concept to L.A. from Osaka, where noodles dubbed TG2-D and KK100 are served in ramen and tsukemen (in the latter dish, noodles are served separate from the broth, into which they're dipped). On the menu are just two items: tonkotsu ramen with pork broth, teriyaki beef, shallots and fried tomatoes, and tsukemenwith steamed noodles, anchovy cabbage, grated cheese (optional), minced pork, vegetable potage, tomato and croutons. Um, wow. 

"Very simple," says Miyata Menji general manager Aki Kanda. "Like the In-N-Out" of ramen. 

The menu comes with instructions for eating tsukemen: "1. Enjoy flavor of wheat from noodle! 2. Try few noodle by itself then feel flavor, texture. 3. Dip noodle into broth & noodle little by little. 4. Enjoy all ingredients with noodle little by little. 5. When you finished half of noodle, grind pepper to noodle and enjoy!"

On Wednesday, Kanda says Miyata, who performed in the theater group Shampoo Hat under the umbrella of entertainment conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo, will appear at the grand opening.  

Miyata Menji, 2050 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 312-3929, www.miyatamenji.com. 

(P.S. In case you're keeping track of new Sawtelle restaurants, Korean soon tofu spot Seoul House of Tofu opened two weeks ago, serving soon tofu — spicy tofu stew — and bulgogi combos. 2101 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 444-9988.) 


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Photo credit: miyatamenji.com

Lunch with David Gelb, director of 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

"I'm not an expert at making sushi," says David Gelb, with a pair of chopsticks poised above a plate of tuna sashimi at Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa downtown, "but I'm an expert at eating sushi." 

After filming 150 hours of footage at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the famed Michelin three-star sushi bar in Tokyo's Ginza district, the 28-year-old director of the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" knows a thing or two about nigiri and maki. "I like that the seaweed here is crispy," he says of a toro hand roll, into which he deftly pours a drop or two of soy sauce. 

Gelb's film is set to premiere in Los Angeles on Friday, and he has just returned from its debut in New York. The movie, which showed at last year's Tribeca Film Festival and was bought by Magnolia Pictures, has captured the attention of more than just food lovers, as Gelb has been talking up sushi-porn scenes and the importance of rice preparation on the media circuit. Naturally, the fooderati are drooling.

"I think I was lucky," says Gelb, dressed in a black T-shirt and bright blue Adidas sneakers. "Part of it is that there hasn't been a film about this level of sushi." Although reviews have been mixed, he says the goal was to film something "restrained and elegant" instead of relying on the "reality show kind of camera" usually aimed at food and cooking subjects. "I wanted to show sushi as an art form."

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Last chance for Common Grains soba popup, this time in Torrance

6501980183_a694253148If you missed the soba popup at BreadBar Century City recently, it wasn’t your last chance to taste handmade soba from Sonoko Sakai and Mutsuko Soma of Common Grains, a Japanese cultural organization. As of tomorrow, the two female soba masters will be making noodles from freshly milled buckwheat flour during the grand opening of Soba-Ya, a new soba-themed Torrance restaurant. The pop-up operates from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, through Tuesday, Feb. 21. Last call is 8:30 p.m.

On Sundays the soba makers rest (more or less). That’s when Sakai will be offering a dashi workshop. Her article on “Dashi, essence of Japan”  appeared Jan. 26 in the Times' Food section. Workshops are at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is $65 per person, including tastings.

Seating is limited. For reservations, call Soba-Ya at 310-782-7356

Soba-Ya, 1757 W. Carson St., Suite R & S, Torrance; 310-782-7356. Popup menu items, $11 to $16.


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Photos: Mutsuko Soma plating soba. Credit: Common Grains.


3 Events: Lamb Showdown; Common Grains; 'American Menu'

CommonGrains60sStylePanel + soba: Common Grains will host a panel discussion at Atwater Crossing on Sunday, featuring grain miller and farmer Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills in South Carolina and Monica Spiller from the Whole Grain Connection, a nonprofit aiming to enhance the desirability of organic and sustainable grains. Other grain experts also will speak, and a rice exhibition highlighting ancient varieties of grain will be on display. There will be a three-course prix fixe soba lunch, a collaboration between Sonoko Sakai and Mutsuko Soma of Common Grains, Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County and Naoko Moore of Toiro Kitchen, after the lecture. Sunday 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Panel discussion is free; $45 per person for priority seating to the panel discussion,  prix fixe lunch and a donation to the Whole Grain Connection. Payment is accepted prior to the event via PayPal or at the event with cash or check. RSVP to commongrains@wagstaffworldwide.com. Atwater Crossing, 3245 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.commongrains.com.  

Lamb-off: On  Feb. 20, Food GPS presents its inaugural Lamb Showdown, pitting Walter Manzke of the coming République & Factory Baking Co. against Zach Pollack and Steve Samson of Sotto. The six-course dinner features four savory courses with American lamb and two desserts with sheep’s milk dairy. Each diner gets a vote, judging boldest flavor, most originality and best presentation. Eagle Rock Brewery will be pouring three beers for each guest throughout the course of the dinner. Fifteen percent of event proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Tickets are $75 per person, available online. If you have any additional questions, contact Food GPS founder Joshua Lurie at joshua@foodgps.com. 7:30 p.m. Guelaguetza, at 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, www.foodgps.com. 

"American Menu Design": On Feb. 11., the Culinary Historians will present Jim Heimann speaking on "American Menu Design" at the Los Angeles Public Library. This talk, based on a sampling from  Heimann's collection of over 5,000 menus, will focus on the graphic appeal of the menu and the history of American eating habits for over a century. A reception with themed refreshments will follow the talk. Heimann is an L.A. native;  his books include the recently published "Menu Design in America," "California Crazy," "Car Hops and Curb Service, May I Take Your Order?" and "Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir." He has worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, educator and author; he's now executive editor of Taschen Publishing America and is a faculty member of Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, where he has taught since 1987. Free. 10:30 a.m. Mark Taper Auditorium, Downtown Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., www.chscsite.org.


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Sunday's onigiri contest: The cutest rice you can imagine

There was quite a bit of attrition at Sunday's onigiri contest, presented at the Japanese America National Museum as part of the daylong Oshogatsu Festival. More than 300 people signed up to participate, but in the end, there were only 80-some official entries. The rest had been eaten before they could get to the judge's table. Still, the ones that did survive were about as cute as you could imagine.

Onigiri4Onigiri is a Japanese cake, made out of rice. Traditional shapes are triangles and balls, but onigiri can be pressed into many different shapes and decorated with all kinds of materials. At Sunday's competition there were onigiri shaped like snowmen, houseflies, Hello Kitty (of course) and even one of a magician's assistant sawed in half (at least that's what the judges agreed it must have been).

The winner of the kid's most original onigiri was Sarah Tominaga, the cutest were Sam and Jordan Diem, and the happiest was Max Kuo. In the adult category, the most humorous was won by Randall Bloomberg, the most original was by Jeff Prosser and the coolest was by Edgar Sanchez.

The competition was produced by Common Grains, a local organization that is trying "through grains to find a common ground in humanity," according to organizer Sonoko Sakai, a frequent writer for the Los Angeles Times Food section.



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Andrew Zimmern from 'Bizarre Foods' to stop by Royal/T in January

Andrew Zimmern On Jan. 13, Royal/T Cafe and Andrew Zimmern, the TV personality behind the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," will team up for a pop-up dinner themed "California Dreaming."

The pop-art-inspired exhibition space in Culver City is hosting the culinary event, which will reflect Zimmern's take on California cuisine while introducing Angelenos to innovative ideas and out-of-the-ordinary foods.

The five-course dinner menu will feature sea urchin and yellow-tomato-vegetable aspic; linguine; a veal tongue tartare and chile-braised lambs tongue quesadilla; a grilled Broken Arrow Ranch venison chop and a cioccolato orrare da gustare for dessert.

Tickets to the event are $150 per person and can be purchased online.
8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-6300, royal-t.org.


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Photo: Andrew Zimmern. Credit: Stuart Freedman / Travel Channel

Common Grains: Japanese food and culture 101 coming to L.A.

Ramen 2 600

When it comes to finding Japanese food in Los Angeles, one doesn't have to look very far. Whether served up traditionally or fusion-style, the city's multitude of udon, soba, sushi and ramen joints seem limitless. We love our Japanese food here in L.A., that's for certain, but how much do we actually know about it?

To give Angelenos a better of understanding of Japanese cuisine and culture, artisan soba maker and Japanese food expert Sonoko Sakai has collaborated with Shinmei to present Common Grains, a series of culinary events that will take place in Los Angeles.

Throughout the months of January and February, milling demonstrations, panel discussions, film screenings and rice and soba workshops will take place all over town to engage and immerse Angelenos in Japanese food culture.

The event will kick off on January 8 with an onigiri creation contest at the Japanese American National Museum’s annual Oshogatsu festival and will follow with various events like the soba and rice workshops at Tortoise General Store on January 21 and 22 and Japanese films focused on none other than rice at Atwater Crossing on February 3 and 4. Also, on January 10-19, Breadbar Century City will host a pop-up and sake bar and soba restaurant featuring freshly stoned and milled handcrafted soba.


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Got an iPhone 4 or 4S? You need one of these cases

SushiiPhoneCase2I look at the Japanese design blog Spoon & Tamago from time to time. This morning it featured these astonishingly weird iPhone 4 cases. In Tokyo there's an entire neighborhood devoted to making and selling faux plastic "food samples" of sushi and other foodstuffs, even café au lait.

Now someone's had the moxie to apply some of that faux food to an iPhone case. Per the blog, some of the designs, such as unagi and matsutake are based on seasonal food and released in the appropriate month. Sure, wearing one of these iPhone cases is bulkier than going naked. (The food is three-dimensional.) But think of it more as an accessory for your phone to be trotted out on KabayakiiPhoneCase special occasions. They're hilarious, really.

Available from the site Strapya, which is only in Japanese. It looks like the price is 3990 yen, which is about $51. Shipping, I couldn't tell. But it can't weigh all that much. Anybody who covets one of these iPhone cases will have to get someone who speaks Japanese to translate.  


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Japanese hot pot workshop at Tortoise General Store


Author Sonoko Sakai will lead a Japanese hot pot workshop at Tortoise General Store in Venice on Nov. 6. Students will learn how to make nabe -- a Japanese soup made in a donabe clay pot, right at the table.

Sakai will show participants how to prepare and serve three hot pots: yudofu, made with tofu, daikon radish and kombu seaweed, served with ginger, shichimi pepper and Japanese green onions; a winter nabe made with black cod, nappa cabbage and aged tofu, seasoned with white miso; and chanko nabe, a savory soup made with chicken meatballs and vegetables, served with yuzu kosho and ground sesame seeds. Zosui, a Japanese-style risotto-like dish made with rice and the rich broth, will be prepared at the end of the meal, served with Japanese herbs. 

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 6. $95 per person. 10 people maximum. Call or email Tortoise General Store for reservations. For more information, go to the Tortoise General Store website

Tortoise General Store, 1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 314-8448, hello@tortoisegeneralstore.com. 


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Photo: Hot pot ingredients. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times 

Tsujita L.A. opens on Sawtelle (but no ramen until September)


Ramen-heads have been waiting for the opening of Tsujita L.A., the Los Angeles outpost of the Japan-based noodle shop (now with locations in China and Thailand, and several locations in Tokyo). But they'll have to wait a few more weeks before trying the ramen, even though the Sawtelle Boulevard spot had a soft opening this weekend. 

Ramen will be served only at lunch, and lunch service is expected to start in September. 

Meanwhile, dinner is Tokyo-style Japanese fusion: seafood gratin baked in an apple; noodle salad with curry vinaigrette; simmered beef tongue in consommé; organic vegetable sushi; chilled avocado chawanmushi (savory custard); and uni shooter in ponzu -- "enjoy as an aperitif," the menu says.  

2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 231-7373, www.tsujita-la.com. 


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.