Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tokyo Table @ La Cienega's Restaurant Row

Tokyo Table had a quiet opening last December, partly because Japan enthusiasts didn't know what to make of it. Unlike Famima, it seemed to have no homeland lineage to back itself up. So after some momentary head-scratching ("Is it really Japanese?") we just sorta forgot about it.

Well, this weekend I had an itch for something new so I borrowed my grandma and headed there for lunch. My overall assessment?
Not bad. I'd have to both agree and disagree with Omotesando on a recent Chowhound thread that yes, there's definitely some semblance to Denny's in Japan. But in my humble opinion, what's not to love about Japan's version of the long-standing restaurant chain? (Believe me, its American counterpart pales in comparison.)

Granted, neither Tokyo Table nor Denny's Japan are exactly gourmet, but with a photo-filled menu and a wide stock of dishes ranging from homemade tofu salad to teriyaki chicken pizza and
yukari fries, Tokyo Table invoked memories of my exchange student days when us gaijins would crowd into a so-called fami-resu (family restaurant) and order everything that caught our eye.

I love Tokyo Table's
agedashi tofu ($6.95) -- a block of soy bean curd floured, deep-fried, garnished with scallions and dried fish shavings, then placed in a shoyu-based sauce. A good indication the dish is done well is if the age (fried batter) is golden brown. If not, send it back!

No, that's not silly string. It's their teriyaki chicken pasta salad ($8.95) topped with mayonnaise. Not sure why I ordered this except that I thought my grandma would have an easy time chewing this with her dentures. Then I remembered that lettuce is the hardest thing for her to gnaw on. The fried wonton and grilled chicken add substance, but there's definitely tastier things on the menu. Like this ...

Now this is something my grandma certainly would have needed the Heimlich maneuver for. It's their mochi-cheese gratin ($6.95), or as Japanese people say,
gu-ra-tan. When I spotted this on the menu, I could hear every young Japanese high school girl squealing in gastronomic delight. The waitress mentioned it's the most popular dish at their Honolulu branch, Shokudo. Cheese and mochi are a potent combination. And when it's baked crispy on top and melted hot and chewy within, it's simply lethal. I ate the whole thing myself and I don't regret it. My grandma enjoyed drinking the cheesey residue.

I'd stay away from their pan-fried gyoza, which tastes suspiciously like it was thawed out from Nijiya market.

Here's what I'm looking forward to trying on my next visit:
  • Morioka-style reimen (cold noodle)
  • Garlic pizza, teriyaki chicken pizza (Is it as good as Pizza-La?)
  • Yukari (shiso leaf) fries (I'm thinking Lotteria's shaka-shaka potatoes)
  • Shaved daikon salad
  • Thick honey toast topped with cream
  • An assortment of shaved ice
Overall, Tokyo Table is simply a fun place to go, and incredibly reasonable compared to its high-brow neighbors. Oh and yes, its owners hail from the motherland ... though that doesn't exempt you from leaving tip. =P

Tokyo Table
50 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

(310) 657-9500

Tokyo Table on Urbanspoon


In other news... I'm still feeling the buzz from last night's live "This American Life" performance in Los Angeles. In the words of The OC's Summer Roberts, it's "that hipster know-it-all show about how fascinating ordinary people are." I listen to it on 89.9 KCRW while doing errands on the weekends, sometimes finding it hard to peel myself away from the car radio.

Aside from the charmingly self-effacing host Ira Glass, one of my favorites from the live show was writer John Hodgman, who reflected upon his new-found fame as "The PC guy" for Apple's "Get a Mac" commercial campaign. Pulling you deep within his inner consciousness, he recounted his journey from being freelancing nobody to getting the proverbial knock-on-the-door to stepping into a Mac Store one day and causing utter chaos. "...And then they started playing my commercials on the big screen..."

Monday's show will air this Saturday, March 17.
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BoLA said...

mmm... cheese and mochi... sublime! gonna try making this on my own... kekek!

katsobushi? bleh... i *hate* the fishy flakes my cat used to go crazy over! LOL!

i'm a mac baby, all the way. and in more ways than many know! ;)

Anonymous said...

This is the first review I read of the Tokyo Table- thank you for taking your time to do this - I wanted to hear the review before I tried

Anonymous said...

where do they have the american life readings?? I love that program. could you email me the details at alag37@yahoo.com

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Holy mochi mochi.......I think I am gonna "squeal in delight" over this gratin. I used to order this kimchee/mochi/cheese gratin at an izakaya in Shibuya and aside from the choking hazard, I loved it so. Will have to try. Maybe I'll suggest they add kimchee!

Pirikara said...

Yeah, who woulda thought that cheese and mochi would taste good together. I'm just hoping that through this dish more people will start to figure out that mochi doesn't necessarily include ice cream.

Carlos said...

so my first comment on this site...I don't know how I never heard of it. anyway, I've been to Tokyo Table before and I gotta say, it was a disappointment. For all the money I spent I was expecting more quality. To be fair though, the ambiance and decor of the restaurant were nice and modern.

Love the blog :)

H. C. said...

I was at that performance of This American Life too --- the TV version looked surprisingly better than I expected (poor Dungeons & Dragons boy, he'll never hear the end of "I'll never fall in love").

and YUM at the mochi/cheese goodness.