For lunchtime excursions slightly west of Japan
1100 S. Central Ave. #D (@ Chevy Chase, in Glendale)
Phone: 818-240-1556 | map
Cool green tea walls. Hyper-designed catering posters. A chaotic, colorful wall menu. Light pop and hip-hop drifting from speakers. The owners talking pleasantly in Korean.
What? Korean? Oh, don't worry about that. I will allow that you should not bring a visiting businessman from Fukuoka here for omakase, but Tottori reasonably translates Japanese fare with a nod to the American palate. It means that the spicy stuff is more likely to have that mouth-filling burn from red paste. I know it sounds hand-wringingly apologetic, but I really do get an occasional need for some Japanese-inflected cuisine within my lunchtime radius*.
Get past the peripheral items. The salad is basic and primarily for cooling. The miso soup is standard. The ginger is a rosy blush color, the wasabi properly fiery.
The sushi is not cut thick, but well-formed and fresh, without shredding apart from its own gravity. They do maki (cut rolls) quite well. The Love Love Roll is a favorite here: spicy tuna and avocado with a small scallop atop, wrapped with tuna sashimi instead of rice. The tuna is pliable and tongue-rich, the spicy tuna zingy. The Green Bamboo Roll has spicy crab with a kick, a subdued salmon tempura, and is draped with avocado; the combination is of warm and cold pleasantly chasing each other.
Speaking of Korean-influenced burn, the Red Pepper Chicken is moist with a gentle outer layer that's not quite char, not quite batter. Almond slivers rest on top. There is a slight cronsch, and halfway through, the Korean slow burn starts in on your tongue. The Spicy Chicken dish has more mouth feel, with green and red peppers, but I think the Red Pepper Chicken edges it out.
The ramen is tasty enough, almost orange with spice, its curly chijire noodles full and yellow, but seems too close a relative to some of the packages you might find in the Japanese markets.
The kalbi (BBQ short ribs) are another Korean endeavor, fatty and peppery, with vibrant green scallions. A basic teriyaki dish--chicken or steak--will result in a loosely chopped and well-charred creation that's more reliant on the flavor of the meat than the dark sauce drizzled atop.
* Please don't bring up Todai. Or Octopus.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Japanese, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Korean )
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