We got back from Los Angeles about 10 days ago. Given how maniacally we ate out while there, we’ve been taking a break from eating out since we go back. We’ll probably get back on the horse next weekend. Until then I’ll be posting more meal reports from the Los Angeles trip. Unlike from trips past—where I have posted reports 6 months to a year after the meals were eaten—I’m hoping that this time I’ll be done with all of them before we get too far into February. Here now is the 4th report of the 10 meals we ate out. It is, as it happens, an account of our very first restaurant meal on the trip: at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori in Gardena.
Gardena, like neighbouring Torrance (home of Sushi Nozomi), has a very large Japanese population. I’m not sure if this is still true but at one point I believe it had the largest concentration of Japanese Americans of any town in the US. Consequently, it is hard to throw a stone in Gardena without hitting at least three Japanese restaurants. In fact, odds are good you’d hit an outpost of Shin-Sen-Gumi: they have five locations in Gardena alone (plus another nine elsewhere in Southern California). Of these, Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori—a tiny establishment on Western, right as you get off the 405—is the original. Yakitori enthusiasts will tell you that they are not the best in show for yakitori in the South Bay. This is probably true. But unlike the places that get more plaudits, they are open for lunch and still had outdoor seating in late December. And so that is where we went.
My mother-in-law joined us at this meal and so we were three adults and two children. The children eat like adults when it comes to grilled meat on a stick though, so it’s not like we stinted on the ordering. Before I tell you what we ate, however, I should tell you that there were two tables set up on the sidewalk outside the restaurant and both were available when we arrived shortly after they opened at 11.30 am on a Monday. As to whether they still have these available for lunch, I don’t know but I hope so—I expect more places are probably bringing their outdoor options back as omicron spreads. The restaurant itself filled up in short order not too long after we got there. Everyone was masked as required but I have to report that proof of vaccination was not being checked and nor were tables particularly spaced. We, however, were outside on a lovely, sunny day and had a good, stress-free meal.
What did we eat? A lot of skewers, yes, but also a few other things. The menu has a large number of appetizers and larger dishes on it in addition to grilled skewers and we quite liked most of the dishes we got from that end of it: the kinoko salad with various mushrooms, the spicy cucumber tataki, the agedashi nasu/eggplant, the takowasa (octopus marinated with wasabi etc.), the grilled mackerel, the chicken karaage, the deep fried oysters and the pork omelet. Yes, we did also eat a bunch of skewers. Our selections: beef tongue, beef flap meat (we got a second of these later), pork belly, chicken gizzards, salted chicken thigh with green onion, chicken thigh with green onion and yakitori sauce, special chicken heart, chicken wing, asparagus with pork belly, shishitos and shiitakes. All were good. I think the consensus favourites were the chicken heart, gizzards, the beef flap meat and the chicken thigh with yakitori sauce.
For a look at the the restaurant, the menu and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.
The total after tax and tip (and with rice and tea) was just short of $125. Not bad at all for the quantity and quality. On our next trip we’ll be glad to compare them with the more highly recommended places in the South Bay—such as Torihei and Torimatsu. I can say for now that we liked our meals at both Yakitori Totto in New York and especially the late, lamented Raku in Beverly Hills quite a bit more. Coming from Minnesota, however, we had no complaints. And in the time of covid, a very good meal outdoors trumps the possibility of an even better meal indoors.
Alright, coming next on the restaurant review front: more from Los Angeles. I’ve already reported on our second meal (Holbox), our third meal (Nozomi) and our fifth meal (Capital Seafood). On Tuesday I’ll have a report on our sixth meal, which involved Korean food in Garden Grove.