Gaja is a Okonomiyaki restaurant that allows you to grill up Japanese style savory pancakes for Lunch or Dinner. It’s located in the City of Lomita and sits in a tiny plaza next to two popular Udon Noodle shops. Along with the Okonomiyaki and the vast variety of toppings, like Cheese, Seafood, and mystery Meats, you can also get Italian style Pastas, Soupy Noodles, and Beer. A good time to go to Gaja is during lunch because they have specials where you get 3 personal size Okonomiyaki with 1 topping each, a side salad, and a drink for just about 15 bucks.
Ryo is a Izakaya not too far from Gaja and serves Japanese style Tapas, Sushi items, Ramen, and Yakitori. It’s located in the Rolling Hills Shopping Plaza in Torrance and sits right in front of an AMC Movie Theater. The interior has trendy old style wooden furniture and uses empty alcohole bottles as decorations.
Gaja was an interesting experience and cooking your own savory pancakes with a few friends is always fun. We ordered their “Sparking Beer” which either has Blueberries or slices of Grapefruits. Both were good and refreshing. Since I was in a party of 3, two of us ordered the lunch special to share and topped them with Cheese, Mushrooms, Scallions, Octopus, Teriyaki Chicken, and Shrimp. I ordered some Takoyaki with a Spicy Sauce. Of the 6 toppings that were ordered and shared, the Cheese was the best one, that is after we finally mastered the grill and made some decent well-done pancakes. The way the Cheese crisped up on top of the stove was pretty awesome. It was also fun seeing all the shaved Bonito flakes come alive as you place them on top of each cooked Pancakes. The Takoyaki balls were decent and the spicy sauce needed more spice.
After Gaja, I went to Ryo Izakaya with a party of 4. We shared Ramen with Pork, Yakitori items, a whole grilled Quail, Takoyaki, fried Squid Legs, Shrimp in Chili Sauce, Lamp Chops, Unagi, Asparagus in something-something sauce, and stewed Tendon in a spicy broth. Of all the items that stood out, the stewed Tendon was my favorite. It was gelatinous, tasty, and left a lovely sticky film on my lips. The Ramen that one of us ordered had the thick porky broth and it was as good as those specialty places that only focuses on making really good Ramen. The grilled items we ordered were the Chicken Hearts, Breast, Wings, Liver, Cartilage, a whole Quail and Lamb Chops. The Chicken Hearts were pretty beefy in flavor while the Quail and Lamb Chops were both juicy, charred, and seasoned just right.
I have no real lows about Gaja, it’s a fun place to eat at and once you master the grill, eating rare Okonomiyakis and half cooked seafood won’t be a problem. You don’t even have to cook the stuff yourself, you can ask the waiter to have the in-house cook make it for you in the back kitchen. Actually, one complaint I do have is that the Octopus came out raw and after grilling it with the pancake mix, it was super rubbery. I think they should have precooked or prepped seafood items like that before hand so it’ll be easier to cook later.
At Ryo Izakaya, the tapped Kirin Beer during happy hour seemed to be really watered down. It also came in a pitcher that has a pint size indent from the bottom for regular water to freeze up and keep the beer cold. That’s just BS. I didn’t really like the Chicken Cartliage, but only because it just isn’t for me. Other than that, no real complaints about the environment or food. The female waitresses were all friendly and the cook came out once in a while to see if the customers were cared for.
Would you come back?
Gaja: Only if I’m with a group of people. They have a menu that has as many combo items as a karaoke book has songs.
Ryo: Yes! It’s a fun place to drink and eat among friends.
The Skinny: The popular and always busy, Shin-Sen-Gumi’s Yakitori is in Gardena. It’s one of those dining experience where everyone is shouting as you enter, have your first drink of beer, and after you paid your bill. The place is as Japanese as it gets and it would be my 3rd trip there. This time I ordered the Pork Belly, Pig Intestines and Knuckles, little sausages, Asparagus wrapped in Bacon and the Tail End, Wing, Heart and Breast of a Chicken. Since I went with mi Madre, she was craving Duck, so we got that as well.
The High: For some reason, I love the promo videos (watch it here) they have playing at every location and the enduring quality of them. The music playing let’s me know that I’m in for something good and it kind of makes me feel like I’m slightly buzzed on the strip of Las Vegas. I bet drinking games can be made with how often the staff members look off to the side to read their lines.
Anyways, my favorite item at Shin-Sen-Gumi is the Pig Intestine. It comes out crispy like Bacon, slightly fatty on the inside, and sweet because of the Teriyaki sauce used to coat it . Also, the tail end of the Chicken was succulent and the hearts were tenderly tasty.
The Low: The sliced Duck Breast was served cold and it was forgettable. Mi Madre was slightly disappointed because she wanted the rendered kind of fatty Duck you get at a Chinese restaurant.
The Pork Belly is usually good, but that time, it was thinly cut and it wasn’t as juicy as the other times I had it.
Would I come back again? Yes! I actually left my lucky hat there and they kept it safe for me.
More Info: Shin-Sen-Gum | 8517 S. Western Avenue. Gardena, CA 90248 | Phone: (310) 715-1588 | NOT CHEAP!