Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles is like the second Japantown in Southern California with all the Japanese restaurants in a three-block span.
While visiting my sister with my nephew and Mom last weekend, I suggested going to Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles for some ramen. But at dinnertime, Tsujita only sells ramen across the street at its new Tsujita Annex (opened in April).
There was a long wait for our table of five in the tiny annex, so we decided to get dinner at the original Tsujita, which serves a full menu of seasonal ingredients similar to popular izakaya in the San Francisco Bay Area. The original restaurant is just as tiny with just a few booths and tables in the front and long bar in the back, but our server was welcoming and accommodating.
Variety of Dishes
Diving into the menu, there were something for everyone, and a few unusual and unique dishes specifically designed by Tsujita’s chef. Our starter, for example, of tuna tartar with wasabi avocado sauce ($9.50) was a healthy combination of raw tuna and mashed avocado topped with a sprinkling of fish roe. The wasabi was balanced in taste, just a slight heat in the back end.
Hand-made tofu ($9) had a nice flavor, but the texture isn’t as silky as other hand-made tofu I’ve had in the Bay Area. Another tofu dish, Okonomiyaki ($12) was a play on the street food of pancakes and sauce, but this was a sizzling platter with tofu and topped with bonito flakes that danced with the heat of the dish.
I enjoyed my spicy tuna bowl ($9 for a half bowl) and fresh pair of yellow tail nigiri sushi, and my aunt got full on the beef sukiyaki ($12). But there were some missteps, like the ox tongue ($12) that my Mom ordered and thought was too rare or chewy, and a special uni tempura – while topped with fresh uni – wasn’t what was advertised.
The highlight, though, was the chicken kamameshi ($18), a chicken rice dish that takes at least 25 minutes to make, so our server put in the order once we knew we wanted it, and then it came at the end, served up with fresh chicken in tempura batter mixed with the rice and other vegetables and pickled ginger for a nice, comforting dish of contrasting textures.
The Last Bite
While Tsujita is popular for its ramen, the dinner menu is just as enticing, with delicate flavors and creative spins for a modern take on authentic Japanese flavors.
Tsujita LA, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles. PH: 310.231.7373. Open seven days a week, 6 p.m. to midnight. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Tsukemen ramen served at lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. tsujita-la.com
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