Sushi of Gari, UES (New York, August 2019)


My thoughts about sushi in Minnesota have been aired so often even I am sick of hearing about them. Suffice it to say that whenever we are in a city that presents the chance of eating actually decent sushi we take it. New York is such a city. We can’t afford Manhattan’s high-end sushi bars, so there was no question of a no-holds-barred omakase experience. In fact with our evenings pretty booked there was no chance of sushi dinner at all. And with the days dictated by things we were taking the boys to see and do the challenge was to find a decently rated but not extravagantly expensive place we could go for lunch without making it a destination in itself. The Sushi of Gari location on the Upper East Side fit that bill perfectly with its relative proximity to the Met. How did it pan out? Well, it was, as expected, much better than anything in the Twin Cities, but it wasn’t anything so very special either. Details follow. Continue reading

Ippudo Ramen (New York, August 2019)


As you ritually commit all my posts to memory you do not need me to remind you that we were rebuffed on our first attempt to eat at the 51st St. location of Ippudo Ramen. Well, not so much rebuffed as hit in the face by a minimum wait of an hour at 5.15 pm on a Saturday. On that occasion we decided not to chance the missus getting late for her theatre date and ended up eating a nice if expensive for what it was dinner at Empire Diner. And given the fact that Ippudo does not take reservations we resigned ourselves to probably not being able to eat there at all on this trip. One hour waits with young children are no fun for anyone and our weekday dinner plans for the next week were pretty set anyway. As it happened, though, we got in without any wait at all just the next day. Continue reading

Yakitori Totto (New York, August 2019)


If there is one thing our kids will reliably eat outside the home it is any kind of grilled meat. And ever since their first meal at Raku in Los Angeles they have been particularly enamoured of Japanese yakitori and related skewers. Accordingly, we’d planned to hit at least one yakitori specialist while in New York. We’d originally planned to do our skewering at Torishin but when I went to make a reservation I noted that they say that guests have to be above the age of 12. We fell back on another place not too far away from Torishin that had also been highly recommended: Yakitori Totto. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Bantam King (Washington D.C.)


My first report from our brief sojourn in DC last week was of our first meal: dinner at Baby Wale. I’d planned to go in order but instead here is a report of our last formal meal in DC: ramen at Bantam King. As with Baby Wale, Bantam King was a recommendation from the excellent community at DonRockwell.com. We’d originally planned to do our ramen eating at Daikaya but it turned out that they were participating in Restaurant Week and were only serving a Restaurant Week menu for dinner with a minimum spend of $35/head. We were only too happy to swap it out for Bantam King. And then we were quite happy with our meal. Continue reading

Raku, Again (Los Angeles, December 2018)


There’s a lot of eating out our boys look forward to when we plan trips to Los Angeles—dim sum, Korean barbecue and soups—but on this trip for the first time there was a specific restaurant they wanted us to return to: Raku. They didn’t remember its name from our lunch in late 2017 but they were clear that they wanted to go back to what the older brat remembered as “the Japanese place with the grilled stuff” and the younger one as “the awesome restaurant”. Luckily, it was near the top of our lists as well and we hit them up for our first family meal out after I got to L.A from Delhi, on our way to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Continue reading

Shin Sushi (Los Angeles, December 2018)


A visit to Los Angeles for us always means a good sushi dinner. As my readers in the Twin Cities are sick of hearing—and as many are enraged to hear—we have a very low opinion of the sushi options here (including the much-lauded Kado no Mise) and prefer to not eat sushi at all in the Twin Cities. Of course, we have the advantage of being in Los Angeles once or twice a year to visit the missus’ family and so going without is easier with anticipation of much better sushi to come. We’d thought that on this trip we’d eat that much better sushi at Shiki in Beverly Hills. We’d eaten a very good lunch there in 2017 and had been surprised to discover Chef Mori Onodera was then working there. Though he was not working that lunch service he’d invited us to come back and sit with him at dinner on our next trip. This we had planned to do. Alas, in the intervening period Shiki raised their prices through the roof (omakase there is now even more expensive than at Mori, the restaurant that still bears Chef Onodera’s name). So, it was off our list*. We thought of going back to Mori again—always a treat, if a very expensive one. Then I read reports of a new place in Encino, started by a Mori alumnus: Shin Sushi. Almost as good as Mori, sources said, for much less money. That sounded like a good combination to us and so off we went on a Sunday evening in late December. Continue reading

Tokyo Grill (Northfield, MN)


There isn’t much worth reviewing, food-wise, in Northfield, the small Minnesota town in which we live, and so I haven’t reviewed much: only El Triunfo, a small, unpretentious Mexican restaurant and store. For a town with two colleges, we certainly don’t have the usual college town staples: there’s no Thai or Vietnamese; the two Chinese places are execrable and the one surviving Indian place is not much better, despite a welcome change in ownership. Beyond that is mostly sandwiches and the Ole Store, whose food falls quite a bit short of its pretensions and its local reputation and popularity. Which brings us to Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant on Highway 3 that opened about five years ago (I want to say), and of which the best that can probably be said is that it is mostly inoffensive. I hadn’t planned to review it either—I’d only eaten there twice in the years since its opening—but a friend mock-criticized me for not reviewing more local places just a couple of days before I was scheduled to take a visiting guest there, and so here we are.  Continue reading

Ichiddo Ramen (St. Paul)

Here is my second report on ramen in the Twin Cities. The first was of UniDeli, the quick service counter in the middle of the excellent United Noodles store in Minneapolis. Today I move across town to the St. Paul location of Ichiddo Ramen on University Avenue. They currently have thrree Twin Cities locations—the others are in Minneapolis—with more set to open in Roseville, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove. (Interestingly, they also have an outlet in Las Vegas.) I’m not sure which of the Twin Cities locations is the original but they all seem to have the same menu. They were recommended to me by a friend in response to my appeal, at the end of my UniDeli write-up, for more Twin Cities ramen recommendations. Accordingly, when I had to be in the vicinity last week for a spot of bidness we made plans to meet up there. Both our partners needed little arm-twisting to accompany us and between us we sampled enough for me to be able to say that I have a decent sense of their quality. That quality, I thought, is better than at UniDeli.  Continue reading

Tenno Sushi (Los Angeles, December 2017)


My Twin Cities readers who are sick of my criticisms of sushi in Minnesota and my constant praise of sushi in Los Angeles will be pleased to read this review of Tenno Sushi, a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo that is no better than the places I’ve found lacking here (though also no worse). How did we end up here despite our commitment to eating high quality sushi in Los Angeles? Well, due to the intersection of two reasons:  we needed to be at the Natural History Museum after lunch; and our older brat decided on this trip that he wanted to finally try sushi and we needed to find a place that was relatively kid-friendly. Continue reading

Kado no Mise (Minneapolis)


Well, it has been two and a half years since my last foray into a sushi bar proclaimed excellent by the local media. Since that less than inspiring meal a new contender has emerged on the scene: Kado no Mise. Unpromisingly, it features the same chef from Origami, Shige Furukawa, who presided over our disastrous lunch there in 2014, and it’s in the same space. At this point you would think that I would know better than to fall for praise that’s so easily dished out in this area but hope of good raw fish springs eternal in my cold, cold heart. And so when an old friend from our Colorado days blew into town on work I made a reservation at Kado no Mise’s bar and met her there for dinner on a Wednesday night. I’m pleased to say that the meal was not a disaster. I’m less pleased to say that it was, nonetheless, passable at best and that a few things were not very good at all.  Continue reading

Shiki: Lunch Omakase (Los Angeles, December 2017)


On our last two trips to Los Angeles we’ve done a big, expensive sushi omakase at Mori. On this trip we decided not to spend most of our sushi money on one meal and instead spread it around a bit more. Accordingly, we hit up Osawa a couple of days after we arrived; the plan after that was to go back for Kiriko’s lunch omakase and then see if we could find an acceptable budget place somewhere between Koreatown and downtown. The latter plan came to a bad end—more on this in a couple of weeks—and as it happens, we didn’t end up going to Kiriko either. Instead, we ended up at Shiki in Beverly Hills. I’d read accounts of their lunch omakase that sounded quite appealing and we decided we’d give a new place a go. And we were very glad we did. In the process I also ended up with my first and probably last ever bit of restaurant breaking news: the return of one of Los Angeles’ sushi legends to the sushi bar.  Continue reading

Osawa (Los Angeles, December 2017)


As I’ve said a number of times before, sushi is the one thing we no longer eat in Minnesota. Rather than be disappointed (at not insignificant cost) over and over again, we save our sushi dollars and get our fill on our annual trips to Los Angeles. On the last few trips this has involved a blow out dinner at Mori (see here and here). On this trip, however, going out to dinner sans the brats turned out to be a no-no and so we’ve had to pass on Mori (they stopped opening for lunch a couple of years ago). We decided instead to turn the cost of an omakase at Mori into a few more meals at mid-tier places. This is where Osawa comes in.  Continue reading

Aburiya Raku (Los Angeles, December 2017)


One of our favourite meals on our last trip to Los Angeles was at Kinjiro in Little Tokyo. We’d planned to return on this trip as well but prices at Kinjiro have shot up dramatically since our last visit (see the comments on that review) and that dimmed our fervour. Instead, we opted to get our non-sushi heavy Japanese fix at Aburiya Raku in West Hollywood. This branch of the famed Las Vegas izakaya opened a couple of years ago and has received very strong reviews from Los Angeles foodies. Unlike Kinjiro, they’re also open for lunch. And when I saw pictures of their lunch bento box, I was sold. It turns out that you can also order things from their regular menu at lunch, and as these figure lots of grilled meat dishes, we took our boys along. And they may have liked their meal even more than we did. The younger brat keeps asking when we’re going back to “the awesome restaurant”. So there you have it: Aburiya Raku is approved by Jonathan Gold and our six year old. Here’s why.  Continue reading

Mori Sushi (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Mori Sushi
Our first visit to Mori was almost a year ago—it was our very last meal out in 2015 and it was one of the best meals we ate all that year. It was not cheap—the most we’d spent on a sushi-centered meal so far. It was, however, an excellent meal—by far the best sushi we’d ever eaten and we knew we wanted to go back on our next trip in the summer (yes, it has taken me five months to finally finish writing up all our meals from our L.A trip in the summer). We’d planned to go back for lunch and eat slightly cheaper: we’d been told on our last visit that at lunch the omakase ran about $80 and served up 15 pieces of fish; that seemed like the sweet spot between our appetites and our wallets. Alas, right before we got to L.A. Mori stopped serving lunch. I thought briefly about going somewhere else for our anniversary meal but the missus suggested that we just bite the bullet and go back to Mori and just eat one less meal of sushi elsewhere in the trip. And so we did. It was very good again but the experience fell a bit short of our first visit. Continue reading