Saturday, December 09, 2006
This week, the LA Times published a story on how the Japanese government is looking to create "a sort of bureaucratic Zagat guide" to rate the authenticity of the Japanese restaurants here in the U.S. Truthfully, yes, there are plenty of restaurants here in Los Angeles serving crude versions of the real thing which native Japanese people will never patronize unless forced to by their "sakee"-loving American compadres. And those places do amazingly well cause, afterall, who doesn't love an extra heap of cream cheese in their fried crab roll?
As much as I think an authenticity guide would be helpful, I still don't think the good people of America would let it dictate their food choices. Food is food and the more the better. So bring on the California rolls and pour on the extra-thick teriyaki sauce. $7.95 combo meal with green tea ice cream? Lovely.
That said, if you're one of those few people seeking out authentic Japanese then head to Inaba in Torrance. I'd heard a lot of good things about it and finally made my way down there for lunch today. The menu is pretty extensive with wagyu beef, soba and tempura combinations galore. My super-sized stomach urged me to pick one of the 15 dollar-and-over combos, but the inner Japanese took over with a simple selection of cold zaru soba and tempura. (Authentic Japanese tip #1: Eating the soba cold is a good way to tell just how good the noodles are.)
I was utterly amazed when my tray came out. The noodles were as thin as ramen and nearly translucent. That gave away the fact that this was one of the rare Japanese restaurants in LA which make their own noodles, called te-uchi soba. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl in the springtime. The tempura was pretty good too. Crispy and not overly battered. The takikomi gohan (soy sauce-flavored rice with bits of vegetables) was also well done, but I just couldn't keep my hands off the soba -- slightly soft but nonetheless chewy. Mochi-mochi, is what you might say, I think.
Inaba definitely took me back to Japan. I just kept wondering how good of an experience it was for the handful of Americans in the room who ordered more than they could handle. (Authentic Japanese tip #1: Don't get the chicken teriyaki. It's only there to satiate the gaijin's large stomach. Japanese people really don't eat chicken teriyaki unless it's on a stick.)
Thank god for styrofoam boxes.