Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lazy Ox Canteen [Little Tokyo/Downtown LA]

I went to Lazy Ox Canteen in Little Tokyo for New Year's Eve with a few friends (and friends of friends) after seeing the musical "Next to Normal." I'm a fan of gastropub restaurants/places that serve little gourmet dishes to share so I was pretty into the idea of coming here. The service was good, especially since it definitely sucks to be working on NYE.

The two gripes I had were: since there was no room inside, we had to sit outside at night. We had asked the hostess to let us know if any tables open up inside and she never once came out to give us an update. Kind of not cool. Secondly, the prices are a bit too much for me/the dishes itself. Don't get me wrong, the food was all delicious; if each dish was a few dollars less, then it would be more worth it and warrant a second visit. There were five of us, which meant we could try a whole bunch of dishes (they had a regular menu and a "blackboard" menu of specials). They also had a very nice list of unique beers other restaurants probably wouldn't serve, which was great. Since there are too many dishes to talk about (and I don't want to bore you), I'll let the photos do (most of the) talking.

Bellwether Farms ricotta fritters with saffron honey (7). I'm a huge fan of ricotta, so having them with a bit of honey was fantastic.

Dashi marinated yellowtail with avocado, hash brown and tonburi (15). The hash brown was a bit awkward in the dish, as the yellowtail and avocado has more of that citrus taste. Take away the hash brown, and this was a pretty good dish.

Beef lengua (tongue) and chorizo croquette with harissa. I didn't expect the tongue to be diced up so small but the flavor was still there. Subtle, but there.

Crispy bone marrow with lentil salad. Airy and light, I didn't even know I was tasting bone marrow! Pretty fun to try.

Rose (8) and Proseco (12)to start the festivities!

Marinated anchovies with piquillo pepper. I'm not a fan of anchovies, but I tried this anyway. The marinade was good; so were the peppers. This has a very anchovy taste which overpowered everything if you like that, this is right up your alley.

Squash blossoms with ricotta and prosciutto. Basically a squash tempura filled with ricotta. The batter was very delicate and light, which gave me more of the squash and ricotta flavor. I didn't taste any prosciutto though.

Hand-torn pasta with fried egg and herbs. The pasta was really delicious. I don't know what kind of sauce they used (actually I shouldn't use sauce, more of a drizzle of something but I want to know so I can make it!

I very rarely eat lamb (not a fan of gamey meat in general), but the taste wasn't overwhelmingly gamey. Very moist and tender.

Butterscotch pudding with pine nut cookie (8). I didn't have any of the cookie but the pudding was really delicious. A hint of salt and a slight bitter aftertaste counters the sweetness and richness of butterscotch. I was worried it would be too heavy, but it was a very light pudding.

The first rice pudding (9) I actually enjoyed. Light, airy and subtle, the hazelnut on top of the pudding, as well as the caramel and cream in the other two dishes, really elevated this dish.

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hironoya [Gardena, CA]

Let's start the new year off right with an awkward thumbs up photo and proof that I am, indeed, a glutton.
Hironoya just opened up in the Tozai Plaza in Gardena, right next to Lee's Tofu. The restaurant is so new that a huge yellow banner with "GRAND OPENING" still adorns the outside. The place is unassuming--the small restaurant sign is affixed right next to the entrance--with very little decoration. The servers were all friendly and ever smiling, and the main man behind the sashimi counter (who is also the owner) both greeted and bid us adieu.

The clientele is mainly Japanese, which is always a good sign.
Since I went with two other friends, I was able to sample a lot more than I usually could. We went there for lunch, so there were four lunch options, as well as the regular menu, the sushi menu, and a sashimi menu.

We chose the Hironoya Bento Box ($14.95), which comes with an assortment of really fresh sashimi, grilled fish, shrimp and veggie tempura, a sample of simmered summer vegetables and rice. The grilled fish was nicely done--not dry and with enough flavor that it didn't overpower the actual fish. Usually I'm okay with tempura, it's not something I need or crave. The tempura here had a very light batter and it wasn't oily, so I was pretty impressed with that. The sashimi--as well as our a la carte order of the hamachi (yellowtail; $7.95)--was really great. Since it was super fresh, it had a great taste (good descriptions, Vivian).

Close up of the grilled fish.

The sashimi that came with our bento box as well as our side order of hamachi.
We also ordered the tempura udon, which came with a side of eel rice--both good ($12.95). What I like about Hironoya is that the flavors are subtle with a lot of ~depth~ and you're not always going "I wish it was more salty/less salty/more, etc" which is always a great sign. The chicken katsu was also one of the better ones I've had. It wasn't dry, like many I have encountered, and like the tempura, the batter was not heavy. In the battle ratio of batter:chicken, chicken wins!

The place is a bit pricier than normal (although lunch prices are decent), but it's worth it for well made, really fresh Japanese fare. I'm definitely going again.
1745 W Redondo Beach Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247