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South Bay

Torrance: The New York Deli

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The Skinny:  Yesterday for my older brother’s birthday, we went to The New York Deli in Torrance that has been around since 1985.  It’s pretty much the only Jewish style Deli in the South Bay that I know of and they are known for  classics like Matzo Ball Soup, Kosher style meats, Chopped Liver, and hot and cold cured cut sandwiches.  The restaurant itself has the eclectic vibe of  that “Harry Met Sally” movie and the walls are covered with black and white photos of legendary actors from the past 70 years.   Pictures of the sandwiches on the menus are reminiscent of the stuff Dagwood would make in his comic strips.  It would be my first time here.

I ordered the Hot Beef Tongue New York High Sandwich which comes stuffed with Cole Slaw, Swiss Cheese, Russian Dressing, and your choice of bread;  I got the Sourdough.  On the side, I got pickles and a choice of Salad, like Macaroni and more Cole Slaw;  I got the latter.   My brother got the New Yorker, which comes with Hot Corned Beef, Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Cole Slaw, and Russian Dressing stacked inside 2 pieces of grilled bread.  My mom got a large Matzo Ball Soup and we all shared some French Fries and Red Wine.

The Good:  The Hot Beef Tongue in my sandwich was super beefy and tender, maybe a little bit too tender.   The Russian Dressing certainly gave the sandwich some more depth and the Cole Slaw in it helped bring all 3 components together into one delicious bit.   I also liked the Macaroni Salad and even though it took me a while, the Kosher Pickle flavors grew on me.  I did try the Matzo Ball Soup my mom ordered and I liked how it had real pieces of Roasted Chicken, freshly cooked Noodles and Vegetables.  Not exactly sure what a Matzo Ball is suppose to taste like, but it tasted fine to me. 

 The Bad:  My only complaint about my sandwich is that the Tongue was too tender, therefore it just felt too mushy in my mouth.  Other than that, everything was okay.

Would you come back again?  Yeah, sure, why not!…I would like to try their other hot sandwiches, like the Corned Beef and Pastrami.

More Info:  www.thenewyorkdeli.com | Torrance:  2424 Sepulveda Blvd | Torrance, CA 90501 | 310-891-1229 |  Pasadena:  25 North Raymond Ave | Old Town Pasadena, CA 91103 | 626-578-0010 | Not the cheapest sandwich in the world.

– MJ

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Gaja Okonomiyaki + Ryo Izakaya

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The Skinny:

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.

The High:

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.

The Low:

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.

More Info: www.gajamoc.com | 2383 Lomita Blvd. Ste 102 Lomita, CA 90717 | (310) 534-0153 | Ryo-zan Paku | 2589 Pacific Coast Hwy. Torrance, CA 90505, Torrance | (310) 530-8720

MJ


Sue’s Kitchen

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The Skinny: Sue’s Kitchen is a tiny hole in the wall Taiwanese restaurant found in the South Bay and I’ve been driving right pass it for the last 20 years.  From what I read on Yelp, the place is known for it’s Beef Noodle Soup and the workers not speaking a lick of English.  The place also serves other Taiwanese and Northern Chinese dishes….stuff I’m not familiar enough with to explain.

The Good: The Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup with Tendon I ordered was simply delicious.  I’ve only had it at least 4 times in my lifetime, but I never really took a liking to it or found it to be a special treat.   But for some reason, that day at Sue’s Kitchen, it just all made sense.  The Beef Noodle Broth seemed tastier than usual with the Star Anise and other spices being more pronounced.  There was a nice heat to everything and both the beef and tendon melted away easily in my mouth.  The long noodles weren’t as thick as I had hoped, but they did have a nice bite to them.  It could have been that I was just in the mood  for hot Soupy Noodles on a cold rainy day, but as of now I can understand how people can be as obsessed with Beef Noodle Soup as others are with Pho.

Along with that Beef Noodle Soup, I did get a side dish of cold Pig Ears.  I’m not sure why I got it, but I just felt like eating something odd.  The thin slices of Pork Skin and Cartilage tasted neutral on their own with subtle reminders that I was nibbling on a Pigs Ear.   If it weren’t for the Chili Oil that added another layer of flavor, I don’t think I would have continued eating it.  It wasn’t bad and I kind of liked it the more I ate it.

On top of the food being good, the people working at Sue’s Kitchen were nice and they did understand English, they just couldn’t speak it well.

The Bad: Nothing really.

Would you come back? Yes!  I have other stuff to try!

More Info: Yelp | 23918 Crenshaw Blvd. Torrance, CA 90505 | (310) 539-1992 | They do accept credit now! Yelp needs to update that bit of info. | Beef Noodle Soup only cost around 6 bucks.

MJ


Gardena: Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori

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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!

MJ


Lomita: Jang Mo Jip to Go!

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The Skinny: Jang Mo Jip, which means Mother In Law House, is a small  Korean restaurant in the City of Lomita that serves Kalbi Tang (short rib soup), Soon Doobu (tofu stew), Soondae (blood sausages), grilled meats and other hot pot stews.  I ordered their Sul Lang Tang with beef and tripe to go.

The High: For 8 bucks you get everything you see in the pictures.  That’s what great about soupy Korean food, it’s one of the easier kinds to contain and order to go.

The Low: The thing I love about Sul Lang Tang is the collagen and fat you get on your lips thanks to the long hours of ox tail bones being stewed and the marrow that gets pulled out.   The Sul Lang Tang at Jang Mo Jip did have some of that effect but not even as close as Han But, my favorite Sul Lang Tang place in Koreatown.  Their take on it was pretty bland, even with the use of the salt provided.  I actually emptied the whole serving  into half a bowl of what is seen in the soup container, but it didn’t make a difference.  And even though there was no real taste to the tripe,  it did have that tripey “back in mouth” action going on.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but it wasn’t good either.  The sliced beef that were also in it were tasteless and dry in texture despite being bathed in hot broth.

As for the Ban Chan, the Mu (Daikon Radish) Kimchi they gave needed more time pickling because it was offensively raw in pungency.  The other Ban Chan selections were good though.

Would I come back again? Probably not, but if I am there again, I’ll probably try the Kalbi Tang instead.

More Info: yelp | 1824 Lomita Blvd. Lomita, CA 90717 | (310) 530-6017 | 8 bucks for Sul Lung Tang that comes with Ban Chan and rice…is a good deal!

MJ


Giuliano’s Delicatessen & Bakery

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The Skinny: Ever Since I was a little kid and first moved to Torrance I’ve become increasingly attached to this Amazing Italian Deli.  The delicatessen has tons of Italian meats, cheeses, pastas, sauces, etc.  And they serve some of the most legit sandwiches in Southern California.  Giuliano’s has it it all; whether you’re looking to get lunch or buy some ingredients for an amazing Italian home cooked dinner…

The High: Since 6 years old I’ve been obsessed with their Torpedo Sandwich.  It’s an amazingly perfect balance of Italian Salamis and Meats with Cheese, Lettuce, Pepperoncinis, and Fresh Baked bread…YUMMM,  The meat is cut perfect and melts in your mouth as it mixes with the cheese and Italian dressing(that you need to add) as you take each bite.  It’s comfort food…it’s gourmet comfort food I guess, because this definitely ain’t some plain ‘ol Bologna sandwich. I Feel Strongly that the key to this sandwich is in the Bread….and yes the bread is amazing and can be purchased in store and even delivered if you have a business that needs amazing breads.

The Low: The Torpedo Sandwich is amazing.  It’s the only thing I order here and I’ve tried other stuff there which is also really good, but there is nothing quite like a good torpedo.  I’d say the worst thing about this place is that it’s in Torrance and I live in LA now….and have yet to find an Italian Deli that can match the Zen like balance of this Sandwich…So I can only satisfy this craving when I visit friends and family out there.

Would I go to again? I’ve been going here since I was 6….nuff said.

More info:
Torrance
 3849 Torrance Blvd. 
Torrance, CA 90503
 | (310) 540 – 2500
Redondo Beach
 1700 N Aviation Blvd
. Redondo Beach, CA 90746 | 
(310) 376 – 0416
Gardena
 1138 W Gardena Blvd. 
Gardena, CA 90247
 | (310) 323 – 6990

Echo


Gardena: Shin-Sen-Gumi’s Hakata Ramen

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The Skinny: Shin-Sen-Gumi is a brand name associated with a chain of high quality Ramen, Shabu Shabu, Sushi, and Yakitori restaurants in both Japan and the USA.  Hakata is a popular hot spot in Gardena that usually has a long waiting list.  The Ramen shop allows customers to customize their order by letting them use a sushi-like check-list where they can dictate how al dente the noodles will be and the strength of the broth.  You can also get combo meals by adding chicken fried rice, gyoza, and other stuff.  And if you’re still hungry after killing a bowl, you can order more noodles and broth without having to wait

I’m not sure I should even bother reviewing the place because many people have already done so and we all pretty much like the place.  Anyways….

The High: One of two things I enjoy doing while waiting at a Shin-Sen-Gumi spot, in this case Hakata Ramen, is to watch the awkward but endearing promo videos of the staff members acting out skits.  When I’m with friends, I always play the “where’s the cue card the poor employee is reading from?”  Since there’s always a wait, the 2nd thing I enjoy doing is putting a name on the sign-up sheet that doesn’t fit me at all.  One time it was “Tyrone” and the last time it was “Jethro” to represent the redneck that is in me.

As for the Ramen itself, I’m personally a fan of the kind that has a clear broth, but the stuff at Hakata is solid regardless.  If you like that thick porky broth with those melt-in-your-mouth char-siu cuts, you’ll love the stuff at Hakata.  I can’t say that I’m a dedicated fan of the stuff, but I certainly didn’t hate it.  Their chicken fried rice is as tasty as chicken fried rice gets as well.

The Low: My only complaint about Hakata is that their broth is sometimes inconsistent and the style of their noodles are little too thin for my liking.  But other than that, it’s all good.

Would you come back again? Sure, why not!  They serve beer!

More info: www.shinsengumiusa.com | 2015 W Redondo Beach Blvd. Gardena, CA 90247 | Credit Friendly | Expect to spend around 10 bucks per person

– MJ