Eat Drink Style Long Night in West LA

Friday night 12:30 am. I just got off work and I was exhausted and hungry. You all know that feeling. I was really craving Japanese food, so I drove down Sawtelle Blvd. in hopes that I would see that pink & blue colored savior: the open sign. No luck. I then turned around and headed down towards Benito’s from some lard-laden munchies. Just as I was about to turn on to Santa Monica from Sawtelle, I saw New Japan… with the visible neon sign. Yes. I walked in to see that there were actually quite a lot of people dining this hour. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the TV as Al Bundy asked Peg “what’s for dinner?’ Zombies, just like me. The tables are made of that fake-lacquered wood and are quite sticky.

I perused the menu and made my decision once I saw Cha-Shu ramen, my favorite. Unfortunately I had to withdraw cash from the dinky in-store ATM. $1.75 surcharge. Bleh. The Cha-Shu ramen came out to $7.89 for the large bowl. And boy was it large. I first tested out the waters by drinking the soup… oh my god, it was terrible. It was salty and had been ruined by all the bamboo shoots they put in. you could tell that these shoots were from a large Costco bin b/c the juices weren’t drained out. Strike one. I tried the noodles next and shook my head. The noodles resembled dried, dried packaged ramen and on top of that, were overcooked. Did I really pay $7.89 for four-for-one-dollar nissin ramen? Strike two. Final test, the cha-shu. Ok it was tender, yet the pieces were kinda thin, unlike Ramenya’s. there was very little fat on it, which some people may deem as good, but I personally need a little marbling in my meat. Strike three.

I noticed that I was the only one eating ramen there. Everyone had rolls, gyoza dumplings and rice plates (katsu, chicken/beef teriyaki). I won’t throw New Japan out completely because after all, it IS better than eating at Benito’s. I’ll definitely try their rolls and rice plates next time I work late.

New Japan has an extensive, low-budget menu. You’ll find the popular dishes there, but just don’t expect it to be too delectable. When you’re tired/hungry/drunk, any kind of food is good. This place looks just like a dive minus the drinks. New Japan closes at 1:30 am. Checkout what other people had to say about NJ on

New Japan Take Out
11283 Santa Monica Blvd. (corner of Sawtelle)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 477-0557

Eat Drink Style Red Corner Asia - Thaitown

Last week, J and I went to Yai for some Thai fare. We were in the mood for noodles and again, we revisited Thaitown in a span of one week. I remembered reading Jonathan Gold's review on Red Corner Asia and how he describes it as one of the more popular places in Thaitown to eat at. We drove down and knew exactly where it was. You can't miss Red Corner Asia with its circus-like neon sign. Striped in green and yellow lights, the restaurant lures foodies like an angler fish in the deep sea. On the roof of the restaurant, a yellow banner is stretched across, noting their late closing time of 2 AM. We walked in and were immediately greeted by the manager, a kind-looking man, and three waitresses standing by the door. I think it's a Thai thing - to have the waitresses wait by the door. I like that. We were immediately showed to the table in the center of the room. But being foodbloggers, we had to be picky about our seating because we wanted the best lighting possible. We ended up sitting near the kitchen window and got a full glimpse of whole chickens riding the ferris wheel of death. Jonathan Gold writes about that chicken dish, known as the volcano chicken. Prior to serving, a whole chicken is doused in Bacardi 151 and lit up at the table. I can only imagine that the employees are quite sick of hearing the ooh's and aah's of this restaurant gimmick.

Funny, a fly just landed on my computer screen - right on top of the Red Corner Asia food photos. Does this place have flies? Or is it super hungry? haha.

Anyway, we perused the nicely layed-out menus and knew exactly what to order. I noticed that there were some pseudo-Thai dishes like Tempura, Kung Pao Pasta and Bangkok Calamari which we steered away from. It's a possible sign that RCA caters to the majority and offers watered-down Thai food. But you should try it for yourself. Here's what we had:

We started out with Angel Wings, which were stuffed with ground pork, vermicelli and veggies. Although they only give you two pieces, you can seriously make a meal out of this because they are gigantic. Talk about force-feeding a chicken to buff up their muscle mass. The chicken was crisp and fried beautifully and the pork mixture was flavorful. This comes with sweet n' sour sauce, but I prefer to use fish sauce. This can easily work as an appetizer for 4 people. $6.95

Next came the Fish Cake On Sticks. These consisted of fish paste, red curry paste, fish sauce and green beans impaled on a piece of lemongrass. Again, it was served with sweet n' sour sauce. I liked this dish a lot but prefer the version I make at home. It wasn't spicy enough. J didn't care much for this dish because of the chewy texture. $6.95 for 5-6 pieces.

Pad Kee Mow is a favorite of mine. Basically it's chinese Beef Chow Fun but with chile, basil and garlic. The beef was a bit burnt from the wok cooking but still had taste. Overall, this had nice flavor but definitely wasn't the best I've eaten. Try it out though. This dish convinced J that there are better tasting noodles in addition to her favorite, Pad See Eew. $5.95

Now for the dish I yearn for in any Thai restaurant. This is basically like Thai pho, only with beef, liver, tripe, beef balls in a hearty brown soup. You can't find this on the menu, so just ask the waitress for it. Compared to Yai's Thai Boat Noodles, this is lighter in the beef flavor and more watery. I appreciate the amount of veggies they give you but is still somewhat bland. For Thai Boat Noodles, give Yai's and Sapp Coffee Shops a shot. $5.95

I've only eaten at 5 places in Thaitown, and Yai, so far, has been reigning. I'll be reviewing Sapp, Palms, Ruen Pair, Ord and Sanamluang soon. I have yet to try the dishes Jonathan Gold has recommended, but as of now, I won't be back to RCA for a while. Thanks for reading.

Red Corner Asia
5267 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-6RCA

Eat Drink Style South Korea has Seoul.

One thing i love to do, to keep me busy in West Los Angeles during the weekdays, is to cook with a theme. So i guess i'd call it a one-man iron chef competition. Advertising has really defined mediocrity, so i had to find some sort of redemption. My first theme, being Korean week. After work, i headed over to California Market (Ka-Ju Mah-Ket) in k-town and perused the aisles. I'm so accustomed to chinese markets and know exactly where to go -- whether it be a market in Monterey Park or Rosemead. I now know how non-asians feel when they go into an asian market and attempt to shop for kung pao chicken ingredients.

So i'm in California market and go thru the veggies first. I must say that korean food has to be the healthiest. if you've been to a korean restaurant, you'll know that the side dishes (baan-chan) they serve you mainly consist of vegetables. i'm all for that.

I then headed over to the deli section and started talking to a lady that owned an in-store restaurant. her special was korean stews/soups (chi-gae and tang). great stuff. she basically gave me a low-down on all the ingredients i needed to make all th side dishes. i'm thankful for mrs. park, otherwise i would've spent another 2 hours there. probably would've been escorted out by the security for loitering.
I headed to the noodle section and befriended 2 young korean girls. they found my curiosity for korean food to be quite hilarious. god knows if they gave me the wrong information or were talking bad things about me. i don't care. i got what i wanted.

To top it all off, you can't have a korean meal without korean beer. i suggest Hite. it's probably the freshest beer i've ever had. so crisp and light; great with korean bbq.

So i went home and cooked like a madman. Here's the damage from a week's straight of cooking korean food. i even had a few korean friends come over to test the authenticity of it. and they loved it. maybe they were just being nice.

Eat Drink Style A Bowl of Heaven

I’ve lived in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) all my life and have seen the rise and fall of many, many Vietnamese Pho restaurants. I remember indulging in my first bowl of pho at Pho So 1 on Valley & Del Mar, next to Hawaii Supermarket, when I was 8. And when you’re 8, anything outside the realms of macaroni & cheese and pizza are completely foreign and ‘nasty’. The aroma of pho emanating outside of a restaurant is enough to make traffic stop. The taste of it is as refreshing as having a cup of ice water after a 30-minute treadmill run. This was 1986.

19 years later, I am still eating pho. And the San Gabriel Valley couldn’t be more saturated with Vietnamese restaurants. I may be bold in making this claim, but I truly believe that the SGV has better pho than the Westminster-based, Vietnamese enclave. Competition is way more intense there and uniformity is definitely prevalent. Pho brings the young and old together, and in most of my experiences, the sober and the drunk.

As a pho-snob, I’m going to list my top three places to eat pho. And again, I’m not going to bother mentioning Little Saigon. I’ve lived in Orange County for 5 years during my college years and frequented “Bolsa’ (another name for Little Saigon because of the avenue of Vietnamese establishments; much like SGV’s Valley Blvd.) During my college years, pho was my hangover remedy. I argue with people all the time about this and have changed their opinions like that.

A lot of people have this thing where they only go to pho places with a number in their name. God knows what those numbers mean. ‘88’ and ‘99’ supposedly allude to good luck, and the other numbers… maybe when the family first came to the states? Please fill me in on this if you know. I judge pho on the following criteria:

- Aroma
- Color of the broth
- Oiliness of the broth
- Quantity of toppings
- MSG residue

The aroma of pho should get you excited once the server hands you your bowl. It should automatically tickle your senses and nose hairs upon arrival. You should be able to see the steam rise up like a ghostly apparition into your nose, reeling you into its domain.

The color of the broth should not be white or too clear, otherwise your in for a bowl of pure MSG. A lot of shoddy restaurants can imitate the taste of pho, but only through the use of MSG. This is my preference, but I like the soup to have a brown tone to it. This is achieved through the amount of beef used in the broth, as well as the amount of roasted onions.

Oiliness. Who likes oily stuff? I believe it’s necessary to skin the top of the broth of any impurities from the beef. A little oiliness is nice for creating a shiny texture on the noodles, just not too much.

Toppings. You’ll know when a pho restaurant is doing well when they don’t skimp on the toppings. If you’re ordering Pho Dac Biet (means special and is usually the first listing you see on the menu), you should be getting a packed bowl. I’ve been to places and have ordered Pho Bo Vien (beef balls) and only got 4. Please.

MSG. Concerning MSG, you can read the section on the broth color. A good restaurant uses it sparingly. It is a necessity and completely avoidable. If you’ve eaten pho, you know how thirsty you can get. I usually end up drinking 4 glasses of water during the meal and 4 more at home. It makes you feel full and leaves an unpleasant ‘coat’ in your mouth and throat. There isn’t anything you can do about it besides going to a 7-11 and buying a big gulp to quench your thirst.

And now for the award ceremony.

Bronze medal goes to Pho 79 on Garfield/Main in Alhambra. This is a franchise and you can find them in just about any Asian enclave. Out of all the three I’ll be listing, this is the only one Zagat Rated, and with good reason. This is a typically large restaurant seating at least 120 guests and located in the new Downtown Alhambra. Movie-goers can drop by for a bowl of heaven. And you don’t need to bring elbow pads to avoid stickiness of the tables. Some of you may know what I’m talking about. Pho 79 is very clean. And the indoor plants they have add a nice ‘ambiance’.

Silver medal goes to Pho Pasteur on Valley/Rosemead in Rosemead. Pho establishments have started moving east on Valley Blvd, away from the main competition. I have to say this place is quite good. The pho, although MSG-laden, is very, very tasty and nice in broth color. They DO NOT skimp on meat. I used to be a LARGE pho bowl eater, but have downsized to the regular bowl because of Pho Pasteur. So if the waiter asks you to supersize it, just say NO! Doggy-bagging a bowl of pho is illegal. In addition to pho, a restaurant should serve good appetizers. After all, in that 8-10 minutes it takes for your order to come, you need to munch on something. I recommend their shrimp paste rolls with lettuce. Like cha gio (egg rolls), it is served with lettuce and fish sauce. It’s shrimp paste wrapped in bean curd sheets and deep fried. Oh man, heavenly. I wish these were on Jack in the Box’s finger foods menu. Oh yeah, expect a good 20-minute wait here on the weekends. It’s always family day at Pho Pasteur.

And finally, the gold medal goes to Golden Deli on Main/Mission in San Gabriel. I first went to Golden Deli in 1992 and the quality has remained consistent. This place has so much business where they can close down for the whole month of August for vacation. And trust me, people aren’t happy. That’s where the fore-mentioned restaurants start to prosper. But only for one month. Anyway, I HIGHLY recommend GD’s egg rolls – the best I’ve ever had. They give you FIVE, not four, crispy egg rolls. Their other appetizers, such as the fish paste (mentioned above), is also very good. GD also serves really good rice dishes. The other places mentioned above are not quite as good. And onto the pho, GD defines true broth color. Brown, full of onion flavor and not the least bit oily. My readers, this is truly a “Bowl of Heaven”. GD does not give as much meat as Pho Pasteur, but that’s okay. Expect a 30-minute wait here. If you want, you can also try “Vietnam Restaurant” across the street from GD. It is run by the same family of GD and specializes in “Seven Course Beef” cuisine. Also, very delectable and ‘fun’ to eat.

One final suggestion: please try out the restaurant’s broth before you ‘pollute’ it with the orange hot sauce (Sriracha) and sweet, brown sauce (Hoisin sauce). Those sauces will mask the truth behind each restaurant.

Thank you and enjoy. This is just my opinion.

Pho 79
29 S. Garfield Avenue
Alhambra, CA

Pho Pasteur
8821 Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA

Golden Deli
815 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA

Eat Drink Style The Useful Japanese Invention - Yakitori Grill, Marukai Gardena

One of my all time favorite parody books is Kenji Kawakami’s “101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions”. Most of you have probably seen this at Urban Outfitters or the Giant Robot Store. It’s page after page of hilarious, useless (or not!) gadgets. Known as chindogu, it is the art of the weird, strange and unuseless idea. Most of the gadgets, in a practical sense, seem to be crafted with ingenuity. In actuality, they would cause embarrassing social and personal difficulties. It’s amazing what lazy people will do to make their lives easier. Kawakami did not make a dime off the gadgets and found this to be a therapeutic hobby. Although the Japanese do have some wacky inventions, the book is simply a source for quick laughs. These products are not sold in Japan. Listed above in the picture:

A. Chopsticks with Cooling Fan - For hot ramen!
B. Butter-Stick - Simply twist like a Uhu glue stick and apply.
C. Dust & Sweep Slippers - I love these.
D. Handi-Roll of Kleenex - For those with constant sniffles.

In light of that, I’ve found a pretty useful gadget, known as the tabletop Yakitori grill. If you’ve eaten at a yakitori restaurant like Musha, Shin Sen Gumi, Terried Sake House, Nanbankan, or Sasaya, you’ve probably seen the direct source of room pollution. They come from the rectangular-shaped grills 5’ in length and 7-8” wide to hold the skewers. A contraption like that could be well over a few hundred bucks if you were to construct it at Home Depot. But thanks to Marukai in Gardena, the Japanese superstore, table top yakitori grills can be found. J and I went there after the Bridge USA Food Festival in Torrance to look for my new toy. There it was for only $22.98. It’s made of a pinkish clay with a few dinky metal parts. MacGuyver could’ve built a better one with a trash can and 2 soda cans. The thing looks like a kids port-o-potty and is uglier than an AMC Pacer but beyond its ‘beauty’, it still does the job. I’m a huge fan of yakitori food, and it was only a matter of time that I would buy one.

Along with the grill set, you need to buy a round grill plate for only $2.29. Japanese charcoaled branches can be purchased at Marukai as well for a whopping $5.99 lb. I got maybe 8-10 nine-inch branches for about $7. Japanese charcoal burns at higher temperatures than your standard bbq briquettes, but does not last as long. The grill basin itself is only about 8” deep so you don’t to fill it to the brim otherwise your food will burn faster than it gets cooked. I suggest buying Trader Joe’s “Cowboy Charcoal”. It’s charcoaled wood that comes in a 5-lb bag for $4.99. Again, it burns hot, but does not last as long as standard charcoal.

Last Friday, we de-virginized the yakitori grill. I had been waiting all week for this moment. As soon as we got to my friend ND & JD’s place, I opened up the package. The grill stands about 12-13” high and weighs a good 10 lbs. There’s a small latch door made out of metal used to control oxygen intake. The wider open the door is, the hotter the charcoal will burn. I then lined up the inside of the grill with foil to catch any drippings and charcoal ash. ND lit up some of the Japanese charcoal in a separate grill for about 10 minutes and added the coals to the yakitori grill. Here’s what we had. (PETA requested that chicken gizzards and hearts be excluded from the posting.)

A. Japanese Charcoal - Solid, yet very light. If you bang them togeher, you get a slight metallic sound. I don't know what possessed me to even try that.

B. Cutting the Charcoal Branches - Since they came as branches, I had to cut them up into 3-4 pieces using a serrated knife. You only need to do a few swift cuts and break them up with your hands.

C. Isn't She Ugly? - Told you it looks like a flesh-colored port-o-potty. Actually the metalwork on it makes it look like it's wearing a lingerie or even a jock strap - depending on your preference.

D. Kryptonite - Never take photos of fire. They usually turn out like sh*t.

E. Skewers - Takes about 10 mins per side.

F. Sake - Again, I don't know much about Sake. Jeni had some at her place and we ended up killing the whole bottle. The sake tasted like tequila and cognac and I don't recommend it.

G. Agedashi Tofu - Photo makes it look like swamp food but it turned out tasty. I boiled the pre-fried tofu packets for $.69 (4-pack) in soup base, dashi no moto and water. Served it with furikake seaweed and radish sprouts. My friends kid's loved them.

H. Chicken Karage - A dish you'd always find at an izakaya/yakitori joint. Recipe can be found here.

I. Chicken Thigh with Negi Leeks - I had the best tare negi at Shin Sen Gumi. This is my version of it. I used yakitori sauce from Marukai and basted the chicken three times: before grilling, during grilling and after grilling.

J. Bacon-Wrapped Quail Eggs - This is for Pirikara and Rickmond who bashed me for not trying the version at Shin Sen Gumi haha. I used Berkshire pork bacon also from Marukai, which is more expensive. You can use any type of bacon. The only thing to watch for is the quail eggs... they explode if you overcook them! Q-bombs are no good!

We had a great night drinking and eating chicken parts. For $23, you can cook a bunch of food for little money. The only pain-staking thing about yakitori is the skewering. I wonder if the "Unuseless Japanese Inventions" guy has a solution for that. I'd definitely buy it. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style The Art of Not-Working - Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori, Gardena

One of the best things about working in advertising, besides spending hours on AIM, Youtube, MySpace, expensing crap and taking 2.5 hour lunches on a regular basis, is the freedom to consume alcohol in the workplace. One agency I worked at believed in boosting employee morale not with fat paychecks, but with aluminum kegs almost every two weeks. I'd be working from 10-11, then take a 2-hour lunch, and come back by 3 pm to start drinking with my coworkers. I mean, everyone participated. We'd drink till 5 pm and sometimes start Round 2 at a local dive bar. To me, that is a good work environment - one that lets you work the least amount of hours possible.

Those days are long gone, but I was happy to see that the Japanese folks over at Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori restaurant still practice the ancient "Art of Not-Working". Shin Sen Gumi is the name of a Samurai group in Japan, purportedly, one of the last Samurai clans. They, along with Tom Cruise's help, were dedicated to providing security for whomever with the utmost commitment to excellence. In layman terms, they were thugs with swords. In remembrance of the samurai group, the same work ethic is now passed down to us, only in a skewered-chicken form. Pictured above is Ayumu, probably the manager of Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori. He's a fun, LOUD and energetic man with a bottomless stomach, who obviously loves what he does. He is doing anything but working - hilarious. If OSHA members ever eat here, they'd have a heart attack watching customers drink with Ayumu. Why? Because Shin Sen Gumi loves to participate in the Japanese tradition of binge drinking with customers. It is a show of respect for the chef/food when a patron pours one for the homie.

My friends and I headed over to Shin Sen Gumi on a Friday night for some grilled/skewered chicken parts. Absolutely one of my favorite Japanese foods. I spoiled myself with yakitori when I was in Japan in May and was bummed that I may never find a comprable yakitori joint in California. Enter: Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori. You may have heard of them before because they also produce delicious, Hakata-style ramen. Chinese noodles, Berkshire pork and green onions swim in a beautiful, cloudy broth of pork bones that takes over 15 hours to make. After a 45-minute wait (no reservations taken), we walked into a packed restaurant occupied by red-faced patrons, sounds of clanking beers, Ayumu's loud screaming and the heavenly scent of chicken parts grilled over a robata. The place is small and holds about 40 people.

Warning: be prepared for high-decibel sounds. Here's Pam's review on Shin Sen Gumi's high-decibel ramen shop. Restaurants have funny policies when it comes to greeting. At TGIF, they make the employees wear stupid flair like buttons and pins. At Chuck E. Cheese, you're greeted by a giant rodent wearing a stupid vest and ugly hat. Clothes only magicians like Siegfried and Roy could pull off. But here at Shin Sen Gumi, you're greeted by employees screaming at the top of their lungs, wearing traditional Japanese uniforms. Anything you say, order, question comes back to you at about 300 decibels - 5 times louder than the normal conversation level. I had to drink as fast as I could to get a buzz and only then was I able to tolerate the noise level.

Here's what we had:

A. Cabbage With Vinegar/Sesame Oil - We started off with rabbit food, "on-the-house". For a few minutes, I was eating this dry cabbage, thinking... the fuck am i eating? I then looked over at the next table and saw that people were adding a mixture of vinegar/sesame oil over the rabbit food. A-ha, ok, tastes better. But again I thought... the fuck am i eating? $Free.99

B. Chikuwa Cheese - I call these Ameri-pan snacks. These are deep-fried cylindrical fishcakes stuffed with monterey jack and cheddar cheese. Gross? No way. With a squeeze of lemon, these are quite tasty. Pretty soon, there will be deep-fried tater tots stuffed with cod roe. $4

C. Suigyoza - Literal translation, boiled dumplings, or as in Chinese, sway-gao (sway-jiao). These were overcooked and very boring. Save your $3 and try something else. $2.75

D. Arabiki Sausage - A friend text messaged me to try this while I was there. Tasty, but quite similar to Jimmy Dean. Or as the Japanese would say, Jimi Dee-nu! $4

E. Agedashi Tofu - This is basically fried tofu served with a warm soy sauce/sake mixture and is topped with fresh daikon, seaweed and green onions. Tasty. $3.75

F. Braised Pork Belly - Another one of my favorites. The pork belly is braised in a soy sauce/sake/ginger/sake broth. Super moist and tender, served with fresh mustard. I prefer Musha's over this. $6

G. Orion Beer - This is my first time trying this beer. A fellow reader suggested that I try it after spotting it over at Sushi Karen in Culver City. Not bad at all, but I still prefer Sapporo. $5

H. Cold Sake - This was the cheapest one on the menu. I really can't taste the difference between sake so it really doesn't matter if I'm drinking the Charles Shaw of sake. It got me buzzed and did its job. $6

Now for the Main Event:

G. Chicken Wings - A favorite of any yakitori-enthusiast. These were nicely coated with SSG's house sauce and sesame seeds. $5.75

H. Chicken Karage - Always available at any izakaya-style restaurant. These were a little bit dry inside, but the batter was nice and slim on the oil. $5

I. Chicken Hearts - I heart these. These were the best hearts I've ever tasted - even better than the ones I had in Japan. SSG really knows how to make a good yakitori sauce. These were cooked a little bit rare and oozed out a little blood every time I bit into one. Yum. I had about 5 skewers. $1.75

J. Chicken Thigh and Negi - This was by far my favorite of the night. Moists pieces of chicken thigh were tightly packed with Japanese leeks (negi). Again, the same sauce was applied to it, making me order about 4 of these. $1.95

K. Chicken Skin - Oooh, another one of my favorites. I love that the Japanese spare no parts. Skin from the thigh and breast are neatly skewered like an accordion and are grilled till they are crispy. Chicken skin for President! $1.75

L. Chicken Butt - These are moister than the chicken thigh. It didn't come with any house sauce, so I simply dipped it into the finished plates. I can do without this one. $2.50

M. Chicken Wing - These looked like Chicken lollipops. I didn't get to try this but my friends seemed to be smiling with content. Or maybe they were just drunk. $2 each.

N. Chicken Gizzards - These are like cornnut snacks. I can eat a popcorn-sized bucket of these. These came out dryer than what I'm used to and a bit salty. I didn't care much for these.

We all had a great time. We happened to know a group of people there that gladly offered us and Ayumu some sake bombs. All of a sudden, we didn't mind the high-decibel chatter and drunkenness. I think we ate enough chicken parts to construct our own chicken. It wouldn't look too good though. Yakitori is definitely a different culinary experience. If you're sick of fake japanese food like teriyaki beef and ninja rolls, give the chicken a chance. And don't forget to bring the ear-plugs. Talk to Ayumu and offer him a drink - he's cool.

Thanks for reading.

Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori
18617 S. Western
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 715-1588

Eat Drink Style The Yuzu Tree by Shiro Sirversteinu - Yuzu-Citrus Fruit

Remember during elementary school when the teachers would pass out the monthly book club catalogs, full of adventure books, mystery novels and sticker books. The kids, including myself, used to go nuts over these. But I was an underprivileged kid – I never got to order any of these thanks to my Chinese parents, who also never bought me the ‘good lunches’ consisting of Lunchables, Capri-Sun and Sunkist Fruit Snacks. My only children’s books happened to be written in a language completely foreign to me. And it wasn’t even in Chinese either. Sometimes my children’s books would be found under my dad’s mattress, but that’s another story. So after begging my mom to let me finally order a book, I gladly showed her my pick from the catalog. I had circled nearly 20 different books with my No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil. My mom looked at me and said, “only one.” After careful consideration, I went for the most expensive one – Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. Valued at $15.95 (which was a lot back in the late 80s), this book had cool illustrations and a wonderful story that I had read over and over again. For those that haven’t read this, the title of the book says it all. It’s the story of a boy and his leafy & barked friend. As the boy grows older, he asks the tree for its vital organs so that he may progress in life. Eventually the man dies by the tree that had provided sustenance since he was a little boy. *Sniff.

My reason for digging up old bones? I found my Giving Tree - a Japanese citrus-fruit tree called a yuzu tree. If Shel Silverstein had been born Japanese, he would probably be writing about a yuzu tree, and not an apple tree. The fruit originates from China and ranges between 5.5 and 7.5 cm in diameter, but can be as large as a grapefruit. Its taste is similar to a grapefruit/mandarin orange. The Yuzu is not eaten as an orange is, but is used for garnishing, marinating and producing citrus-based sauces like Ponzu. The peel and rinds have a oily, robust-lemon and lime flavor. The Japanese sometimes dunk whole yuzu fruits in spas and bath tubs for an aromatic time. I have yet to see Bath & Body Works start a line – not that I would care.

I’ve eaten beef and tuna tataki many times with ponzu sauce but have never experienced the taste of yuzu as an isolated ingredient. Chef Toshi at Sushi Karen makes a great amberjack kanpachi sushi using puréed garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce and fresh yuzu. After I had this, J and I attempted to make this using a ponzu sauce. It was good, but just not the same.

Since I couldn’t find this fruit anywhere in LA Japanese markets, I thought it would be easier to just grow it on my own. Kirk, Elmomonster and Pirikara all helped me out in seeking this delectable fruit. Thanks for the help guys! Yesterday, my mom and I took a peek at the San Gabriel Nursery and found 4 yuzu plants ranging from $39.99 to $79.99. The one I picked was the cheapest yet also bore the most fruit – 8 to be exact, yet unripened. I kept 1 yuzu fruit in my pocket to taste it later on. Yuzu is typically expensive because it supposedly only grows fruit once a year. If this plant does well, I'm going back to San Gabriel Nursery for a Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange tree. As soon as I got home, my mom and I removed the dying plant in the spot we had decided on. I then cut off every single evil thorn on the plant - nearly 65 thorns, some as long as 3". The yuzu bears beautiful, fragrant fruit, but it's also obvious that it is cheap and thrifty. I wonder how many hummingbirds have been impaled on the yuzu tree.

To my Yuzu tree, I only ask that you give me your fruit to make bombass sushi – that’s all I want. Well, maybe some key-yuzu pie. Or how about some yuzu-flavored cookies. Wait! And the sound of Yuzu sorbet sounds great too. I'lll hopefully have a list of different yuzu-infused recipes once this tree decides to 'give'.

Thanks again to Kirk, Elmonster and Pirikara. I’m one happy man.

Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style DIY Sushi Karen - Sushi Karen, Culver City

After frequenting Sushi Karen nearly 7 times and achieving the Cheers (where everybody knows your name) status, I decided to try my hand at this. I took J there last week and she really liked SK's Amberjack Jalapeno Kanpachi sushi: a thin slice of fish similar to Hamachi (yellowtail), fresh pureed garlic, a jalapeno slice and fresh yuzu soy sauce.

We went down to the Mitsuwa market in Little Tokyo and bought a decent block of yellowtail for about $9. We couldn't find fresh yuzu, so we purchased the bottled kind for about $5. If anyone knows where I can find FRESH YUZU fruit, please inform me. I will gladly grow a Yuzu orchard in my front yard. Once we got back, we used a sushi rice recipe that we found from Ming Tsai that called for mirin, vinegar and sugar. J had already made some rice and we unplugged the rice cooker, leaving the rice to cool down a bit. If the rice is too hot, it'll cook the raw fish. No goohr.

Since I didn't own a sashimi knife, I made sure to bring my Global Santoku knife for slicing the fish. I made 2" diagonal cuts on the beautiful block of fish, which yielded nearly 20 slices. This was my first time making sushi as I was quite nervous and afraid they'd look ugly.

Here goes the first one. I made an oval-shaped lump of rice and added the fish on top of it. I then topped the fish with some freshly-pressed garlic, a thin slice of jalapeno and a few drops of soy sauce/yuzu.

Everything tasted really good and fresh, only the rice could've been better. The rice didn't clump together as I had hoped, and I think we put too much vinegar and sugar. We will try less next time. Overall, you can't complain about a $10 sushi meal.

Does anyone know a good place to get sashimi knives for a reasonable price?

Thanks for reading.