I’m not afraid to eat alone. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I’m always amazed to find that many people do not, cannot, will not venture out on their own, especially to restaurants, for fear of being pegged as lonely or without friends. For me, this is a foreign insecurity; I don’t give a shit what other diners think of me. I’m too busy eating.
As was the case when I purchased a Groupon to R23, a Japanese restaurant located in downtown Los Angeles. Blocks shy from being situated in Little Tokyo, in what is now I believe called the “warehouse district” I made my reservation as early as dinner could be made, simply for the fact that not too long ago the area in question was not somewhere I would venture to in broad daylight, let alone the evening. The Gold Line light rail that now travels into Little Tokyo allows me freedom and ease I could only hope for when I was a teenager and trekking out to Little Tokyo on a weekly basis.
R23 is three blocks in from Alameda, in an old brick building that was once a railroad loading dock that splits its space with an art gallery. The restaurant is modest but comfortable, with chairs constructed of what appeared to be upcycled cardboard. I sat at the sushi bar, situated along the back. There was no booming “IRASSHAI!” from the staff, but a very serene welcome in soothing tones reserved for upscale places. Not your usual sushi joint.
The sushi chef was reserved and kept to himself mostly, never really engaging with customers other than fulfilling their orders. He wasn’t unfriendly, he just didn’t initiate any conversation – again, I’m not quite used to this more quiet sushi chef. It was different.
Oyster Shooter $9
Easily the best oyster shooter I’ve had in my life. With sake, quail egg, masago, and scallion. I began my meal with this and it was the ideal ZING! to awaken my taste buds.
R23 style Crispy Rice $15
Spicy tuna and avocado atop a bed of crispy rice with wasabi tartar sauce. A little heavy for one person, and I could do with thinner beds of rice, but otherwise very tasty.
Beef Sashimi $15
Ever since I ate at Guu, I’ve been on the hunt for its Los Angeles equivalent in beef carpaccio/sashimi. I wouldn’t trust just any place, of course, to feed me properly prepared raw beef. R23 did not deliver in full; it was not thin or raw as I was expecting, but still good. Just not worthy of the name sashimi. It was plentiful with a tangy sweet sauce. Nice portion size and the onions, mixed greens and wedge of lemon were appreciated additions.
Tsubugai Conch + Asparagus $15
Sauteed with creamy soy sauce. Wow, warm. Who saw that coming? A very flavorful sauce, creamy but light. The asparagus was just the perfect green to pair with both sauce and conch. The conch is chewy in texture, definitely not for everyone but I enjoyed it. I would like to try conch cold next time.
My love for uni knows no bounds, save that I will only ever order it in a restaurant that has its sushi in order because I feel like this is something that can go horribly wrong in lesser hands. The uni was luxurious in both satin smooth texture and burst of flavor. Every time I eat uni, I swear I’ve been sexually harassed…just a bit.
Hamachi Sushi $7
A clean finish to a lovely meal.
My voucher was $25 for $50 worth of food, but a little quick math will tell you that I went over by $23.00. R23 is definitely not a cheap eat, but a place to spoil yourself or someone you love.
Would I return to R23? Possibly. The food is good, but due to the prices, I would likely return with someone to split the food and cost.
Would I recommend R23? Yes, a good spot for dates and small parties looking to treat themselves.
923 E 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013