Review: Fat Spoon (Downtown Los Angeles)

Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo

This post is rather late, as I recently learned that dear Fat Spoon closed its doors at the end of November. How did I find this out, you ask? Hankering for some delectable tonkatsu curry, I merrily ventured off to Little Tokyo after an early morning doctor appointment in downtown Los Angeles, did a little shopping in Marukai, and walked over to Fat Spoon…where I came face to face with a sign declaring the sad news that they had closed. In my most Shatner-esque moment, I flung my arms akimbo, groceries hanging heavily in each hand, threw my head back and cried, “Nooooooooooo!”

The note told of re-opening, however, and having a sister restaurant, Toranoko, that I have yet to patronize and therefore cannot comment on. I was lying in wait for another visit to Fat Spoon so I could have more dishes to comment on, but alas, who knows when that will be. My hope now is that this post will encourage others to give the gang at Fat Spoon another go if and when they re-open elsewhere. I just hope wherever, whenever they reopen, the restaurant remains close (or closer) to me!

I first came across Fat Spoon at the L.A. Street Food Festival this summer, where their beef tongue curry woke up my worn out tastebuds and reminded me of a love I once had for Japanese curry. Over the years, I have grown disenchanted with J-style curry, though, as I increasingly found it to be a salty, gloppy mess covering up poorly executed tonkatsu or chicken-katsu. So when the Fat Spoon curry crossed my path, I made quite a fuss over them in person and they rewarded my enthusiasm with a $20.00 gift certificate. Sweet.


Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo
Daikon Condiments

Flash forward a month or so when I decided to meet up with one of my ‘net pals and I suggested Fat Spoon. Only problem? Totally forgot my gift card. D’oh. Still, the prices weren’t overwhelmingly awful, so we stuck with Fat Spoon for lunch.


Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo
Tarako ($10)
Salted cod roe, cream, dried seaweed & chopped green onion

Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo

I was waffling between this, the uni pasta and the tonkatsu curry ever sine my companion agreed to dining at Fat Spoon. Figuring I would use my gift certificate for the Uni Pasta another day, I went with the Tarako. The perfect blend of salty and creamy, this dish was comfort incarnate. When I was a kid, Fettuccine Alfredo was my favorite, FAVORITE dish and had I grown up in a home with Japanese flavors, I like to think this dish is what I would have called my favorite, FAVORITE!



Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo
Pork Cutlet (Tonkatsu) Curry ($10)

Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo
Curry Sauce

My friend Ana ordered this signature dish (I credit my non-too-subtle brainwashing attempts, including quoting previous reviews claiming this to be the most moist pork cutlet ever) and happily tucked in. We both admired the plating of this dish, keeping the meat, rice and sauce separate to let the diner measure out how much of what they want. This curry is very authentic; the hint of natural sweetness from a fruit such as an apple was subtly evident under the mildly spiced earthy curry. Oh, and the pork? Totally lived up to the hype.



Fat Spoon - Little Tokyo
Baked Sweet Potato (compliments of the chef)
vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce

The chef sent this out for us to gorge out on. Gorge we did, too, after securing our eyes back into their sockets (too gross? Sorry; wanted to illustrate how surprised we were by the gesture and the simple genius of the dish itself). Sweet, but not sugary, this dessert had our spoons competing for another scoop. Yum.

Ah, Fat Spoon. I had an incredible time visiting you and only snagged but a sampling of your delicious fare. My Christmas wish is that you will reopen in 2013 (somewhere easily attainable for me, She Who Does Not Drive) and serve up your flavorful, moderately priced albeit powerfully addictive food once more.

Stay Updated on Fat Spoon news:
http://fatspoonfood.com
and
Fat Spoon on Facebook

Mashiko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Seattle)

Mashiko - West Seattle

I’ll take a brief moment out of this post to let you know I’m hanging in there after my surgery. I developed complications brought on by a separate issue shortly after my release, putting me back into the hospital for an additional 6 days. I’ve been slowly but surely healing. Thanks to all of my friends for providing guests posts, I really appreciate it.

Now – onto Mashiko. My friend Liz has been talking up this little West Seattle joint for a while now; it’s a favorite for her and her husband. The bar that separates Mashiko from any regular old sushi joint is the fact that owner Hajime Sato has worked very diligently to make Mashiko Seattle’s first sustainable sushi restaurant. You’re not going to find some of your favorite sushi here – either because its numbers are depleting or because fishing methods are less than humane. Fear not though – there is plenty of skillfully prepared seafood to go around.
Bonus points for a well put together website that includes basic and in-depth information as well as an up to date menu.

Liz was careful to make reservations for the sushi bar – and reservations overall are a must as this place fills up fast. Though Hajime-san was not there we were catered to by Chef Mariah, whose deft hands could rival any Japanese-born sushi master.

Pour the Sake!

Art and Liz started the evening off by ordered a large drink of mu sake. It came in this adorable (pine? cedar?) box on a saucer and…that’s what you drink it out of. I had a sip; it was the most amazing sake I’ve ever tasted. I had to order my own box.

Between Art, Liz and Tori they ordered an array of sashimi and sushi rolls.

Skipjack Tuna - Mashiko
Skipjack Tuna

Temptation Island Roll - Mashiko
Temptation Island Roll albacore, tempura onions, scallions, and garlic sauce

Rainbow Roll - Mashiko
Rainbow Roll crab, cucumber, and avocado topped with assorted fish

Dragon Roll - Mashiko
Dragon Roll tempura namagi and cucumber topped with avocado & dynamite sauce

Goldeneye Roll
Goldeneye Roll (unsure what’s in it)

Glutton that I am, I of course took any opportunity to taste whatever was offered to me. I must say, that Dragon Roll is lethally delicious. Order two or three, you won’t regret it.
Now, of course I had to go big because, well, who else was going to? With egging on from my companions, I ordered the Honkaku omakase course meal. Two hours of miniature courses until I am so full I beg for mercy. All chef’s choice, all a surprise. Here is what was given to me:

Kinki Kobujime
Kinki Kobujime rock fish sashmi

Notes: Light and dainty, a very refreshing way to kick off the omakase.

Kumomoto Oyster
Kumomoto Oyster

Note: Heaven in a half shell. Oysters really do need their own food group.

Cherrystone Clam
Cherrystone Clam

Note: Not my favorite. In fact, I’ll never eat a raw clam again.

Geoduck - Mashiko
Geoduck

Note: I wouldn’t go out of my way for geoduck in the future, but the pink salt and masago helped.


Oregon Bay Shrimp Salad - Mashiko
Oregon Bay Shrimp Salad with sprouts and cherry tomatoes, ponzu & shio oil

Note: Very refreshing and light.

Sake Poached Oyster
Sake Poached Oyster with red onions

Note: Really amazing. I have limited experience with cooked oysters but this was absolutely delicious. The onions and sprouts really gave the oyster a tender depth I wouldn’t have conceived of on my own. I’m pleased to say you can order this solo.


Poached Abalone
Poached Abalone

Note: I thought it was going to be a lot chewier than it was. Still not my favorite, but good to have tried anyway.


Albacore liver
Albacore liver (?)

Note: I didn’t write down what part of the albacore this is, if it’s part of the albacore at all. A liver? I don’t recall, but it was pretty good.


Mu Sake
Sake in a Box

Note: Not part of the omakase but worth showing you. Delicious.

Uni - Mashiko
Uni

Note: I’ve only ever had good uni, but this uni takes the cake. Silky temptress of the sea…

Hawaiian Albacore Poke Salad
Hawaiian Albacore Poke Salad seaweed, sweet onions, garlic, and sesame oil

Note: This was good but I was happier to share it with Liz than eat it all myself.

Sashimi - Mashiko
Sashimi

Note: From far right to back left – Kibinago (blue sprat) with ume (least favorite), Washington coast ocean smelt, White King Salmon (favorite), Northwest albacore toro, spotted mackerel, seared black cod.


Chawamushi - Mashiko
Chawanmushi steamed egg custard with mushrooms

Note: I took one bite and handed this to Liz. I couldn’t get into a hot, eggy custard dish with overly earthy fungi. Just not my thing.

Sauteed Geoduck
Sauteed Geoduck with matsutake mushrooms


Note:
Now this I like! I can eat geoduck better when sauteed. Very tasty in a bath of garlic and butter, I believe.

Tuna Tartare - Mashiko
Tuna Tartare

Note: I was ready for one more course…and this is what Chef Mariah pulled out to finally keep my tummy still. Holy shit, I’m sorry this blurry picture does not do this piece justice. I had to share it with my friends because of the density and immense tuna-ness of it all. Amazing.

Green Tea Ice Cream - Mashiko
Coco-a-GoGo Bakery Nouveau brownie coated in panko & coconut, deep fried & topped with green tea ice cream

Note: I liked the green tea ice cream more than the deep fried brownie, but perhaps that is because I was up my eyeballs in food at this point. Shared by all.

Would I recommend Mashiko? Absolutely. Whether you’re a daredevil glutton like me or perfectly content for a few rolls, this is a fantastic culinary experience that I’d encourage all visitors and residents of Seattle to enjoy.

Mashiko Japanese Restaurant + Sushi Bar
4725 California SW
Seattle WA 98116
206.935.4339
website

Hours
Sunday – Thursday: 5:03pm-9:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:03pm-10:00pm

Guu saka bar (Toronto)

IMG_7094

Guu Saka Bar




Ask around for the best Japanese restaurant in all of Toronto and many Toronto residents will point you at Guu saka bar – either from personal experience or word of mouth. Guu saka bar is a bizarre mix of hyper-fusion and rigid traditional Japanese izakaya (tapas), located in the West Annex neighborhood. The menu is ever changing (as Spicy had to find out the hard way, having her heart set on fried macaroni and cheese balls) and sharing is encouraged (though very hard to see through). There are three dining areas to pick from: a common, family style area with long tables and benches, the sushi bar or the very traditional area which requires customers to remove their shoes before sitting level with their table.

IMG_7069

Spicy was very wary about leaving her Fluevog shoes in a cubby, so she was permitted to take her shoes with her so long as they were off. The menu was extensive, with staples and specials. We were a little overwhelmed, unsure of what was what, but decided to just go for whatever sounded the tastiest.


Kimchi Udon
Kimchi Udon

Udon with spicy roe, kimchi, nori, scallion. I was intrigued by this odd dish. Ingredients I wouldn’t think to put together but that blend so beautifully I was kind of wishing I had more. Deliciously spicy with a mixture of textures to compliment one another. I must try this at home one day.



Negi Toro
Negi Toro

Chopped spicy tuna, nori to wrap it up. Pretty straight forward. It was spicy and tuna-y, what more could I want? Yum! Oh, and I didn’t need to bother with the soy (and definitely not the wasabi). My tuna was perfect just the way it was.



Magu Tata
Magu tata

Seared tuna, garlic chips, green onion, ponzu sauce. “The best tune I ever had,” said Spicy, and she knows her tuna. The texture was very nice, with melt in your mouth tenderness, and the tuna was well seasoned.



Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki

Yakisoba, tonkatsu, mayo. My first (I think) official okonomiyaki. It was spicy, sweet and savory. Spice wasn’t fond of the yakisoba’s flavoring and the sauce was a bit too abundant, but it was otherwise tasty. I don’t think I’d go out of my way for okonomiyaki but it was satisfying to finally try it.



Beef Carpaccio
Beef Carpaccio

My first ever beef carpaccio, thanks in part to Pixel, who had to bow out prematurely. Dear mother of meat, this was a treat! I don’t know if I will ever eat another of its likeness. Flavorful, tangy and juicy I just wanted to go behind a screen and have a private moment with this dish.

Would I recommend and return to to Guu? Hell to the yes. If anything, I wish I had gone back to Guu, with Zuzu and Mr. G in tow so they could experience the Japanese heaven that is Guu. Not only was it one of my best meals in Toronto, but I have yet to find its equal here in Los Angeles. Yet another reason (on my steadily growing list) to return to Toronto!

Guu Saka Bar
559 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON M5S 1Y6
(647) 343-1101
www.guu-izakaya.com

Guu Sakabar on Urbanspoon

Review: Ozumo Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

Ozumo in Santa Monica

I don’t know why I even bother to try new places when I’m not on the clock. I suppose, as a food writer, I have an inherent guilt if I don’t give something a go. Something on a whim, that I’ve never heard about from friends, family or Yelp. Sometimes this works out…as it was with the case of Santa Monica based tapas joint Bar Pintxo, which I wrote about in the August issue of The Place Los Angeles.

So I found myself in the Santa Monica area once again. I was a little woozy with the ninety-five degree weather and decisions about anything, let alone food, were difficult to contemplate. Did I want to eat at Bar Pintxo, some place safe, trusted, and delicious? Or did I want to try something new, perhaps something a little lighter? (Although, in hindsight, what the hell is lighter than tapas?)

My mum kept hard-selling the gourmet health-conscious food court on the roof of the Santa Monica Place, but when we got up there none of them looked appetizing. Off to the side of the food court was Ozumo and suddenly sushi sounded like just the refreshing food for an unbearably hot day.

Ozumo Menu

As soon as we went in we were greeted and sat at the more casual, lounge/bar area. Until I used the restroom I had no idea just how expansive the restaurant actually is. It’s very beautiful and aesthetically pleasing with wood chandeliers, private rooms, and an especially long sushi bar. I was kinda bummed we weren’t sitting in the dining room.

The Food

Sekiwake Roll

Order: Sekiwake: spicy tuna roll with hamachi and salmon, tobiko and tempura flakes.
Verdict: While good, not wholly worth the $14 price tag. The tuna was minced to bits and tasted rather cheap. The hamachi and salmon was sparingly used. Had it been cheaper, I’d have an easier time paying for it.


Gindara Bento

Order: Gindara bento РOzumo’s famous grilled black cod marinated in saikyo miso with dashi cream sauce. It was accompanied by rice, fresh fruit, pickled radish, broiled Japanese squash and seared burdock root salad. $15

Verdict: Fairly tasty, but salty as hell and left my mother’s mouth burning for hours.


Sashimi Bento - Ozumo

Order: Matsu Bento – 8 piece sashimi with sunomono, miso soup and a mini cheesecake. $14

Verdict: The sunomono was rubbish, but the sashimi was exactly the refreshing flavor I was seeking and the miso soup was like the soup of the gods. The mini cheesecake was a fun, tasty bonus. If they worked on the sunomono, it would be well worth the $14

Would I return to Ozumo? Not on my own dime.

Santa Monica is one of those places in Los Angeles you need treat with a grain of salt. It caters to the nouveau riche, power lunch professionals, Hollywood suits and wealthy tourists that think food can only be good if it has a hefty price tag. This is a regularly featured Southern California scam and I’m ashamed I fell for it.

Ozumo
395 Santa Monica Pl
Santa Monica, CA 90401