Eat Drink Style Musha, Torrance - The $435 Dinner: Tax, Tip and Traffic Violation Included

Besides going out for food and drinks, I have to say that a large proportion of my paycheck-pesos go to concerts, which is also spent on food and drinks before, during and after the show. I am a huge concert-enthusiast. Just last week, I went to three shows - The National, We Are Scientists and Sia of the wonderful UK-based, Zero 7. And by default, my partner in crime for all shows is KY, my college friend. Before we even tell each other about a potential show coming up, we’ll buy them and automatically assume that we’ll be going. We just have an understanding.

KY: “Hey, I always come up to West LA from Torrance to meet you up for a show. When you coming down here?”
Me: “Well that’s because there are no concert venues in Torrance.”
KY: “Still. I always come up. You should come down and eat with me in the 310. There’s tons of excellent Japanese restaurants. You’d love Musha’s in Torrance.”
Me: “I really hate the 405 though.”
KY: “Now you know how I feel you selfish bastard.”
Me: “Haha.”

I trust her taste in music, so I should trust her taste in food. After 7:30, I headed down the 405 to the South Bay towards Torrance. I was born in Gardena, yet I’ve never really hung out there. I always wonder how different my life would be, had I grown up in a pre-dominantly Japanese area. Where I grew up, it was mainly Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese. Instead of playing soccer all my life, would I have been into the Japanese basketball association, J-League? Regardless, one thing’s for sure - my love for food would’ve remained stet.

I picked KY up and before dinner, we headed over to the 98-cent Marukai store. Ever been here? It’s like a Japanese Pic n’ Save and it’s a riot. You can buy all kinds of Japanese dinnerware, cups, glasses and kitchen utensils all for 98-cents, or ~5,000 pesos. Whatever your company pays you in. I needed to buy a few sushi plates for future dinners. Definitely check it out if you’re in the South Bay. Good time-killer.

We left and headed towards Musha in Gardena. Here’s how I started the night out on a bad note. With no rush at all, I saw an intersection I needed to make a left on. I’m used to running yellow lights and usually cautious about photo-enforced intersections, but this was Gardena – a new territory. Just as I passed the crosswalk into the grid, I was suddenly flashed by immensely bright lights. First flash. Second flash. Third, and final flash. I thought I was in a techno club. I looked over at KY who looked like she was dancing under a strobe light as she turned to look at me. What the hell? Shit, I’m fucked. After we crossed the opposite crosswalk, we looked at each other and I immediately sighed in disbelief.

Me: “How much you think that’ll be?”
KY: “I don’t know. Few hundred.”
Me: *Sigh. “My fault. That’s it, you’re drinking with me.”

We got to Musha’s, which was located in a shopping center. It was one of those shopping centers that had uniform business signs. There’s really no way of telling if the restaurant is good by judging it from the outside. You just have to try it. The owner of this shopping center obviously liked green. Even if it was a McDonald’s, it would’ve had to follow the strict ordinance of having green business signs. This would be ideal for piece-of-shit restaurants like the Green Burrito or Souplantation.

Good thing we made reservations, there were a few people already waiting for tables. Musha’s holds about 60 people and has nice solid-wood tables. The kitchen/sushi bar is open and the place is well-staffed. I liked the warm ambiance: people were talking, drinking and eating and the servers were running around. A good sign of course. We were immediately seated and given the menus. Pam was right, the menu was truly difficult to look at. Like a hieroglyphic tablet exhumed from 400 B.C. Egypt. KY even warned me, the menu is busy. Good thing she was there. I told her to just order whatever. She ordered five dishes and I was concerned because my pre-conception of an izakaya-style restaurant involved very tiny plates. I was wrong. Musha's was definitely more than I expected.

To start off my unwinding of stress from the previous disco-ball moment in the intersection, we ordered cold sake which came in a baby bucket with ice. Forgot what it was called – all I know is that it was $14 and dammmmn good. For once, I actually drank it like a cup of tea versus throwing it down. With that, we ordered a large Sapporo and some sochu/tea drink. FYI, sake is made of rice and sochu is made out of barley. Koreans also have a barley drink, known as ‘soju’. In any case, both will cause major damage in the morning. Take a test drive by putting your head in a vise and keeping it locked in that position for a good 8 hours. Funlicious right?

The food came in after about 15 minutes and my eyes lit up. I busted out my camera and did the usual. It was funny because the table next to us spotted me 'working' and asked if we were 'Chowhounders'. No, just a human pig. Here’s what we had:

A. Sapporo, Sochu and Sochu/Tea
- What can I say? I really can't turn down any drink.

B. Yellowtail Sashimi Salad
- A nice way to start a meal. Cold, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of Yellowtail, radish sprouts and cold, crisp lettuce with a nice dressing.

C. Kabocha Croquettes
- My last experience with Japanese croquettes was at Blue Marlin on Sawtelle Blvd. They were ok, but these Japanese-pumpkin tater-tots were excellent. Crispy breading with sweet Kabocha. Surprisingly, the center wasn't cold and nicely fried. Two sauces were offered: a teriyaki-like sauce and what I thought was some kind of Miso-mayonnaise dip. Goohr goohr!

D. Musha's Fried Chicken
- I'm not a big fan of fried chicken. If I do have to pick a place, it would be Mrs. Knott's Restaurant outside of Knott's Berry Farm. The chicken pieces had nice crunchy batter and were moist inside. They probably marinaded the chicken in yogurt and lemon to tenderize it. This was served with some kind of soy-sauce/caramelized onion sauce. I thought it tasted fine with just a twist of lemon juice. Another goohr goohr!

E. Musha's Braised Pork Belly
- I wasn't too impressed that this was served on a Chinese dish. Did you guys run out of dishes? I stabbed my chopsticks into the pork cut and with ease, pulled the meat apart. Very nice. This was similar to the Chinese braised pork cooked in soy sauce, rice wine, star anise, ginger and five-spice powder. I'm gonna try to make this. This was my favorite dish of the night.

F. Pork Tongue
- This was my first time trying beef tongue and using the mini-charcoal pit you'd probably find at places like Gyu-Kaku. I was afraid that the meat might have a 'bumpy' texture to it but it didn't. It was chewy, somewhat fatty and absolutely delicious. I just wished they hooked it up with more pieces. This was my 2nd favorite.

Besides getting the $351 ticket, this was truly a complete dining experience with good food, good drinks and a good friend. KY, you DO know good food. It's rare that you'll like the food from beginning to end. Musha's was immaculate. Buzzed and full of goodness, KY and I then headed over to the karaoke joint and sang the night away. A week later, I was back at Musha's. After my last catering event, I treated my friend CK to Musha's for helping me out - he loved it. There's also another location in Santa Monica, but I heard that the Torrance location is MUCH better.

And that's why I'm suggesting Musha for our first, long-overdue meeting of the Los Angeles foodbloggers. It will definitely be a night of good food, good drinks and good company. See you all in a few weeks.

1725 Carson St., Suite B
Torrance, California 90501
(310) 787-7344

Thanks for reading.

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