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From Izakaya to Omakase: Sharing top picks for Japanese food in LA

There isn't much better than being handed a freshly rolled maki for lunch, by the chef himself (even if he's a little bit grumpy!)
There isn't much better than being handed a freshly rolled maki for lunch, by the chef himself (even if he's a little bit grumpy!)
Photo by Seb Ruiz via Flickr Creative Commons

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Whether it's a spicy tuna roll for lunch, or salmon sashimi for dinner, Japanese food is a staple in our culinary routine. But now, we are seeing a revival of this century-old cuisine in Los Angeles. 

Garrett Snyder, food editor for Los Angeles Magazine, says it is easy to underestimate how important Japanese cooking is to our food culture. From Sawtelle to South Pasadena, Snyder has been sampling an array of dishes.

"We've really taken it for granted ... you think of what are maybe the two most iconic dishes have a really defined our culture in L.A., and I think of the taco and sushi," he told Take Two's A Martinez. "Let's take a minute and realize how much this cuisine has laid the groundwork for what food culture is in L.A."

You can find some of Snyder's favorites in The Essential Guide to L.A.’s Best Japanese Food. Below are some dishes and restaurants he highlighted for Take Two.



"When you talk about ramen in Japan, you really have to talk about the broth. There's places that spend two days or longer straight just boiling these bones ... and there's the toppings ... it really is kind of an art form building the bowl, and it's like a visual thing as much as it is taste. To me, the king [of ramen] is still a place called Tsujita, it's a Japanese chain that moved here ... I also like a place called Ramen Tatsunoya, they a kind of pork tonkatsu broth." 

Bento Box


"The best way to think about it is a little sectioned-out lunch box. It's got a little square tray and it has little compartments for elements of the meal – maybe some rice, maybe a little piece of fish, some pickled vegetables. There are a lot of places who are doing higher-end versions, places like Aburiya Raku, which is really one of the best Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles ... if you go during lunch, you can have a bento box of all their greatest hits."


Aburiya Raku
Aburiya Raku

"There's a whole style of restaurant in Japanese cuisine called the izakaya. A pub is the best translation. It fits in with how our current dining culture is with small plates and gastropubs and things like that. You have a couple of grilled skewers, maybe you have some noodles, maybe you have some pickled dishes and then you just have some beer. There's a great place that just opened in Venice called Mountain that's really interesting ... really well-executed classic Japanese food. I also like this place called Yakitoriya, and 'yakitori' [refers to] specifically restaurants that do grilled chicken. Chicken and beer. Universal. Definitely something worth looking up if you haven't experienced it before."

Of course, after the meal, there has to be room for dessert. Click on the blue media player above to hear the full interview and to hear Snyder dish on his dessert picks.