Santo Market

Pin It Now!
Like most Japanese markets, Santo Market also sell snacks and sweets.  On Saturdays, Santo sells fresh, handmade strawberry mochis.  After having some at Okina for dessert (see post HERE), I've been looking to get my hands on some.
Small packs of strawberry mochi are laid out in the front so you don't have to search the store for them.  They come in either packs of two or three.
I'm in the minority of Chinese people that don't really care too much for red bean.  While the strawberries are fresh and sweet, there is a little too much red bean for me, but if red bean is your thing, then this strawberry mochi will hit the spot.

Address:                   Santo Market
                                  245 E. Taylor St.
                                  San Jose, CA 
Type:                         Japanese

Popular chomps:       strawberry mochi

Chomp worthy:         strawberry mochi      


Sushi Go 55

Pin It Now!
The seemingly deserted mall in Jtown has a couple of popular hidden restaurants tucked away.  Sushi Go 55 is one of them.

A tray of tasty pickled appetizers are presented before your dishes arrive to your table.  From left:  pickled cabbage, eggplant, and cucumber.

The jellyfish was one of the whiteboard specials of the night.  Not sure what I was expecting, but it was very similar to the jellyfish served in Chinese restaurants.  Large cuts of jellyfish tossed with sesame oil and sesame seeds make for a crunchy appetizer.
The tamago was sweet and spongy.  Not sure if they make this in house though.

The sushi combination was fresh and full of salmon, tuna, octopus, hamachi, kampachi and white tuna.
The chirashi presentation was unlike any that I've seen before.  Two boxes, which made me think they had sent two orders of chirashi to my table.
The first box was full of fresh sashimi that included uni, mackerel, salmon, scallop, octopus, hamachi, white tuna, kampachi, and tuna.  The fish was fresh and better than most sushi restaurants in SF, but I think Komasa's (see post HERE) is fresher.
Instead of laying the rice under all the sashimi in the chirashi, its placed in a separate box and topped with roe, ikura, shredded egg, and some pickled cucumbers.  I almost prefer this presentation since I usually end up putting some fish off to the side so I can eat some rice when I'm eating chirashi.

Address:                  Sushi Go 55
                                 333 S. Alameda St.
                                 Los Angeles, CA
Type:                        Japanese/sushi

Popular chomps:      chirashi
                                  sashimi/sushi combination

Chomp worthy:        nothing       


Jae Bu Do

Pin It Now!
I've had a lot of Korean bbq in my life, but Jae Bu Do was an eating experience I've never had before.  Korean seafood bbq!  No to mention it doesn't exist in the Bay Area.  Let's face it, regular Korean bbq is delicious, but its more like been there, done that!  Jae Bu Do is all seafood and also challenges your cooking skills since seafood cooks a lot faster than meat.
Jae Bu Do's menu - notice the different prices for cash and credit.

The waitstaff here can get pretty busy helping the diners cook their seafood, but if you absolutely need something, then ringing the bell always helps.
As with all other Korean restaurants, a handful panchans (banchan) are laid on the tables for nibbling.  The kimchee has a ton of spicy kim chee flavor.
Peppers, carrots, and cucumbers make for some fresh veggie noshing between seafood bites.

Just one glove is given so you can open and eat the shellfish without burning your hands.  Its a little Michael Jackson, but its a must do because even with the glove on some of the seafood is still pretty hot.

Whats Korean food without Korean beer?  Hite is the only Korean choice though, but still a must when eating bbq.
A seafood "ceviche" is also brought along with the banchan.  Lots of fish, squid, and shrimp are mixed with hot sauce and cabbage.

This seafood pancake is probably one of the better tasting seafood pancakes I've had.  Not oily at all, but full of flavor and nice crispy edges.
Love cheese corn!  This cheese corn was served in a very shallow pan.  Gloppy cheese mixed with sweet corn kernels.  Not as sweet or rich as others I've had, but still delicious.
The egg custard is a common item at Korean bbq.  This seafood one is no different.  Light and airy, although I've always found most Korean egg custards to be a little bland for my taste.
Believe it or not, this combination B is meant for 3 people.  A seriously large tray of seafood that includes: conch, oyster, shrimp, large clam, ork shell, abalone, squid, mussel, sweet potato.  Its hard to say what was the best seafood, but all of it was fresh and tasty.

The servers put each of the seafood on the grill methodologically and come to check on it every once in a while so you don't have to worry too much about overcooking it.

As always the usual sauce for Korean bbq, but I think the seafood is fresh enough that no sauce is really needed.
A large bowl of noodles and vegetables finished off the meal.  Also, if you had more room the roasted sweet potatoes under the grill make for a tasty sweet snack.
Address:                    Jae Bu Do
                                   474 N. Western
                                   Los Angeles, CA
Type:                          Korean

Popular chomps:        seafood platter                                 

Chomp worthy:           seafood platter     


Bulgarini Gelato

Pin It Now!
Bulgarini Gelato is hidden inside an empty plaza in sleepy Pasadena.  Up to this moment I thought that SF for sure had Southern California beat in the ice cream/gelato category, but wow, Bulgarini Gelato has shown me that they know a thing or two about making the best of fresh ingredients. 
The peach sorbet was so fresh and delicious, you can practically taste the fuzziness off of the peaches.  All the flavors here are excellent, but the absolute winner here is the goat's milk gelato.  The texture is more icey than creamy, but the taste is unbelievable!  You can practically taste the green grass from the goat milk, its that fresh tasting!  Its unlike anything I've ever tasted.  Little cocoa nibs break up the smooth texture of this delicious scoop of gelato.
A scoop of chocolate and another scoop of chocolate with sea salt.  Rich and chocolately with a smooth, creamy texture.  The chocolate with sea salt had surprising nibs of sea salt crystals hiding throughout the scoop of chocolate.

Address:                Bulgarini Gelato
                               749 E. Altadena
                               Pasadena, CA
Type:                      ice cream/gelato

Popular chomps:    goat's milk gelato
Chomp worthy:       goat's milk gelato        


Mikawaya Mochi

Pin It Now!
LA's Japantown is speckled with all types of sweet treats.  Of course, one of them has to be mochi ice cream, although there is a regular mochi store down the street.
Besides the mochi ice creams, Mikawaya Mochi also sells shaved ice and regular ice cream.  The mochi ice cream comes in the regular flavors (green tea, mango, vanilla, chocolate, etc), and they also come in the more exotic flavors for a little extra.
From top, left:chocolate mint, coconut, creme brulee, and plum wine.  Also, on hand were guava, toasted almond, and pistachio.  All were pretty disappointing and nothing close to the fantastic mochi ice cream at Jimbo's back home (see post HERE).  Most of them were much too soft, both the mochi outside the ice cream and the ice cream itself.  The ice cream flavors were bland and didn't have that pop where you could distinguish what flavor it was.
The inside of the mint chocolate chip mochi has mini chocolate chunks.

Address:                  Mikawaya
                                 118 Japanese Village Plz Mall
                                  Los Angeles, CA
Type:                         Japanese/desserts

Popular chomps:       mochi ice cream

Chomp worthy:          nothing  


Bob's Coffee & Donuts

Pin It Now!
When I first heard that Bob's Donuts in LA was one of the most famous donut places I immediately thought it was somehow related to the Bob's Donuts in SF (see post HERE), especially when I heard that people raved about their apple fritters.  Well, its not.  Nestled in the maze of shops in the farmer's market in the Grove, this donut shop is quite popular. 

I never get plain donuts and skip right over to the glazed, but their plain donuts were one of the more popular items here.  Even though I don't really care for cakey type donuts, this one had a nice dense texture and was pretty tasty.
Even looking at the outside appearance of the apple fritter, its burnt exterior looks almost like Bob's in SF.  The outside is extra crispy, but it doesn't have much of a fluffy inside like Bob's in SF.  Instead of mixing the pieces of apple inside the fritter, Bob's in LA has a layer of apples on top.  Not really feeling this type of apple fritter, I still prefer SF's version.

The cuteness of these dinosaur donuts are hard to pass up.  They also have kitty face donuts, if that's more your thing.  While they are fun to look at, I found the frosting too sweet for me.
Bob's also sells beignets, which would seem like a good fit, but the beignets here aren't a true beignet.  They lack the light airiness of a real beignet.  It was more like a powdered donut.

Address:                   Bob's Coffee & Donuts
                                  6333 W 3rd St.
                                  Los Angeles, CA
Type:                         donuts

Popular chomps:        plain donut
                                   apple fritter
                                   dinosaur donut or kitty donut

Chomp worthy:          plain donut
                                   apple fritter   


Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi

Pin It Now!
Southern California is so lucky with all their ramen choices, especially with most of the choices being top notch.  Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi is probably one of the top five ramen spots in LA and rightfully so, I'd rank it in my top three in California.  One of the best things about Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi is you can customize your ramen however you like it.  Side note - most ramen places do allow you to make these custom choices, but not in the openly inviting way that Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi does.  Once seated, you fill out a paper deciding the size and type of order (half or regular;won ton, Hakata style, yaki), firmness of noodle (soft, normal, hard/chewy), soup broth (light, normal, strong), and strength of soup oil (light, normal, thick).  It definitely takes a couple times to figure out your perfect combination.

The Hakata ramen looks a little sparse in toppings with only green onions, slices of pickled ginger, and a slice of pork to decorate the ramen bowl.  But the soup - wow, delicious!  It doesn't have quite the depth of flavor that Santouka (see post HERE) does, which is my #1 favorite ramen in California, but it does have a hearty flavor.  My custom combination was regular broth, dense noodles, and normal soup oil.  Next time I think I'll kick up the broth even more with the "strong"soup base option.  Loved the chewiness of the "dense"noodles.  For those that have watched how to make a perfect bowl of ramen in Tampopo, the ramen broth is so delicious it makes you want to drink every last drop!
There a few sides and appetizers to choose from.  The crispy pig ear was crunchy and perfect for dipping into the flavorful broth.
Of course, what's ramen without the egg.  Two choices of eggs, but apparently, I ordered the hard boiled one instead of the regular soft boiled egg.
   The plate of sliced pork was a little sad and dry, but a dip in the broth made this meat salvageable.

Address:                 Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi
                                132 S. Central Ave.
                                Los Angeles, CA
Type:                       ramen/Japanese

Popular chomps:     crunchy pig ear
                                 hakata ramen  

Chomp worthy:        hakata ramen
                                 crunchy pig ear       


Marugame Monzo

Pin It Now!
Marugame Monzo is located right next to Daikokuya (see post HERE).  Its making quite a buzz in Japantown that part of the crowds in front of Daikokuya are actually in line for Marugame Monzo.  Although it depends if you feel in the mood for ramen or udon, Marugame Monzo is worth the wait.  Their traditional udons as well as their fusion take on udon is innovative and delicious.
The best seats in the restaurant are front and center!  The counter seating allows for a clear view of the careful udon noodle making process.

First thing to note is the handmade udon noodles are amazingly chewy and fresh.  They have a springy, dense texture.   
The squid roe udon is immerse in a light, flavorful broth that full of roe.  The squid is soft, but chewy.  This bowl has so much taste and textures going on, from the slight popping of the roe to the chewy pieces of squid.  Its hard to say which udon was better, but the noodles and the well made broths make me want to try all of their soups.
The most popular udon here is the sea urchin udon.  Its super creamy broth reminds me of alfredo sauce since coats the noodles quite well.  The rich sauce is mixed with bits of uni, so much uni that there are pieces in every bite.  Surprisingly, this udon wasn't as heavy as it looks, but I wouldn't suggest scraping the bowl since the richness may be too much of a good thing.
The tempura here is perfectly fried, so perfect that the owners of Marugame Monzo should think about opening up a tempura restaurant.  Unless you order the tempura udon, the tempura pieces are a la carte.  Besides the usual fried items like shrimp, they have tempura egg!  A first for me and one of those items that make you wonder why are there not more of these.
Lightly battered with a slight crispy exterior, this egg has a nice runny inside.

Address:                  Marugame Monzo
                                 329 E 1st St.
                                 Los Angeles, CA
Type:                       Japanese

Popular chomps:     miso carbanera
                                uni cream udon
                                tempura egg
                                mentai squid udon

Chomp worthy:       uni cream udon
                                tempura egg
                                mentai squid udon