Episode 3: One Minute Gourmet: Benitora

Once in a while, I get hit with an intense craving for some nice, juicy gyoza. I like dim sums too but there’s a special place in my stomach for the Japanese-style dumplings.

Today was one of those days so we drove to Benitora in Sawtelle Japantown to satisfy my raging urges.  I was tempted to veer off from the original plan and go with the white sesame dan dan tsuke men (ramen with dipping sauce) when I saw the mouth-watering photo on the menu, but I stayed strong and stuck to my initial instinct and devoured Benitoro Big Gyzoa … I was happy with the decision.

Benitora
2002 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

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Itameshi Love: Hamada-Ya Bakery

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Hamada-Ya Bakery inside Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance is my new favorite vender inside the Japanese food court.  Of all the trips my husband and I’ve made here over the years, I can’t believe this was actually my first time trying this Itameshi (“ita” is shortened for Italian, and “meshi” means food) place.  What a hidden gem!

This place is attached to the boulangerie inside Mistuwa (which bakes up amazing breads) and offers a colorful selection of cakes and pastries, in addition to Japanese style Italian plates.

Itameshi-style spaghetti with Bologne sauce has occupied a special place in my heart, as well as stomach, ever since I was a child.  I don’t know what’s so different about the Japanese meat sauce versus the traditional Italian kind, but the former is something I just can’t get enough of.  But I always overlooked Hamada-Ya Bakery because I always felt like I should try something I can only eat in Torrance (I can always make a meat sauce at home, whereas a bowl of ramen from, say, Santouka, is hard to come by) since we drove so far to get here.

Let’s just say I’m glad I decided to make a change on my last visit to Mistuwa.  I have to say that the food here is not extraordinary.  In fact, it’s just slightly above average, but it’s the closest thing to the plate I once enjoyed as a little girl in Japan, and that’s more than good enough for me and my hungry stomach!

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Omurice (ketchup-flavored rice covered in fluffy egg — the word omurice comes from “omu” shortened for omelette, and rice, well, that’s self explanatory) is quite delicious too.  And our daughter loves eating the spaghetti with her bare hands!

Hamada-Ya Bakery (Inside Mitsuwa Marketplace)
21515 S Western Ave, Ste 146-B
Torrance, CA 90501
★★★★☆

This Ain’t No Fear Factor

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I have a bone to pick with people who think Takoyaki, or octopus balls, are made out of octopus testicles and brag about eating them as if they were a contestant on The Fear Factor.  The octopus ball got the name from its round shape, not from the ingredients.  In fact, there’s nothing suspicious inside the Ebelskiver-shaped goodness – just a good old flour, eggs, dashi, chopped scallions, red ginger, and yes, octopus pieces. So, please don’t pretend that you triumphed on The Fear Factor, Man vs. Wild, or any other TV shows that make you eat some weird bizarre sh#@.

IMG_7657Oh, and Taiyaki, or baked sea bream, is not a fish dish either.  It’s a red bean dessert baked in the shape of a fish.

These delicious dishes are from a little shop inside Torrance Mistuwa Marketplace food court.  Sorry, I forgot the name of the place.

That is all.

Ramen Burger

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Cronuts are so yesterday. Ramen Burger is the newest buzz in the culinary world.

When I first heard that a mystery food called ramen burger was introduced in NYC — sandwiching hamburger patty between two “buns” made out of ramen noodles — I wasn’t really sure how that would work. Sure, the idea is noble – why not marry two of people’s favorite comfort foods for the ultimate East meets West deliciousness? But in practice? I wasn’t too sure.

Then, I experienced the original Ramen Burger made by creator and true Ramen fanatic, Keizo Shimamoto, and I finally knew what the buzz was all about!

I’ve been following Keizo’s ramen journey through his blog, Go Ramen, for many years.  Although I’m not a ramen fanatic myself, I love reading about his passion for the Japanese noodle dish.  In 2009, he quit his job and moved to Tokyo to work for a ramen shop across the ocean.  I think many of us dream about quitting our day job to pursue our dreams, but he’s one of the few that actually had the courage to do it.

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The Original Ramen Burger came to Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance a few weeks ago to serve up 500 of its now famous burgers to the So Cal food lovers. The last time they were here, the line wrapped around the entire building (check out the craziness here), so we were a bit scared what would happen this time around.

Kevin, Pon Pon and I arrived at Mitsuwa around 10:00 a.m. to get our wrist band (Pon Pon got one too so we can have the extra burger  lol ). Luckily, the line was still very short, with about five people deep, although it got really long in the next 30 minutes. The line moved pretty quickly, thanks to the kitchen’s efficiency.

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So, the flavor – delicious.  Absolutely delicious!  The burger was more like a deconstructed ramen, as opposed to a fusion burger.  When you bite into it, the noodle, which is perfectly cooked at al dente, falls apart nicely in your mouth, creating the illusion that you just slurped a good bowl of ramen.  The beef patty adds a nice volume to the spicy arugula and crunchy scallion.  But the real hero here is the sauce.  I was expecting a teriyaki-like sweet flavor, but this tastes just like the perfectly salty, umami-packed, condensed version of a shoyu ramen broth.  When you close your eyes, you’d think you’re eating a real bowl of ramen.  Aaah, I salivate just thinking about it.

I think there are lots of ramen burger knockoffs everywhere now.  I don’t blame people for wanting to imitate Keizo’s creation because it’s so money, but I hope you get to experience the original version.  You can really taste his love and passion for ramen in this little, heavenly morsel.

For more ramen goodness, check out his documentary, Ramen Dreams. While you watch this, please help me answer the question that I’ve never been able to decipher:  How can someone who eats so much ramen stay so slender?  I’m jealous.

Super “Bowl” Party

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My husband and I hosted a small Super Bowl party tonight at our place.  It was an intimate get-together with just us and our friend Nicole, but we had an absolute blast! I am not at all a football fan — in fact, I think the last football game I watched in its entirety was back in high school and that was only because I had a crush on a boy on the team — but I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to host a fun home party with a wonderful friend.

Instead of a traditional football viewing party with nachos and hot wings, Kevin whipped up a variety of “bowls” for the occasion lol, including unagi (eel), oyako (chicken and egg), and poke (tuna). The idea was a little tongue and cheek, but the food came out delicious and the party was a touchdown!

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Unajyu (eel bowl)

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This is “Oyako don,” which loosely translates to “parent and child bowl” because the egg (child) comes from the chicken (parent). It’s kinda gross if you really think about it .eek

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Poke, made with chopped raw tuna, onion, and cucumbers.

We spread the toppings on the dining table, buffet-syle, and we created our own bowls. I couldn’t eat the poke bowl because it’s made with raw tuna but the unagi and chicken definitely hit the spot!

Special thanks to Nicole for coming over (with fabulous gifts), and Kevin for doing all the cooking (my only contribution today was smashing avocados for guacamole and open the container of salsa) … I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be married to such an amazing chef!

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Of all the Super Bowl commercials, my favorite was the Budweiser’s “Brotherhood.”  Thanks to my prenatal hormones, I got so emotional watching it. I definitely got teary eyed, especially when two soul brothers reunite at the end!

Friday Date Night

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Kevin and I are incredibly disappointed to learn that our favorite curry place in Downtown LA, Fat Spoon, has recently closed its door. 😦 I wish I had known so I could have enjoyed the amazing curry one last time. I almost cried when I saw the closure notice posted on the wall. I really loved this place and I’m going to miss it so much.

We were going to see a show at Ahmanson Theatre that night and needed to find a place real quick, so we went to a nearby TOT (short for Teishokuya of Tokyo) for dinner. Man, I wish we picked a different place because both the food and the service were less than ideal, and everything were overpriced!

I ordered the Tofu Steak with ginger sauce, with French fries, broccoli, and corn on the side. I was so bummed when tofu and corn came out cold (corn tasted like it just came out of a freezer) and the fries were soggy. I was hoping that the food would come out sizzling on the teppan grill but no. Fried squid were okay but nothing special. Kevin said that his Chicken Nanban Bowl Combo was mediocre and not worth the whopping $14.50.

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The service at the restaurant was slow but we made it to the theatre in time to enjoy the show, Anything Goes. I watched this with Maya in New York last year and had a blast, so I was really excited to watch it again here in Los Angeles! I thought the cast was great (Rachel York was amazing as Reno Sweeney), and although I didn’t think it was as good as the Broadway version, this production was still incredibly lively and entertaining! Pon Pon was responding to the music, especially during the amazing tap dance sequence in the song “Anything Goes,” by kicking my stomach! 🙂

I must to admit that it’s getting tougher and tougher to sit in a seat over a long period of time. I didn’t feel uncomfortable when I was here to watch Seminar a few months back, but I guess my body is slowing but surely changing, as I enter the third trimester of pregnancy! I’m so thankful for the seats we have for our annual membership here. They are in the nosebleed section but we have two corner seats so we can stretch our legs a little, without landing an accidental roundhouse kick on the people in front of us.

Happy Friday night, everyone!