If you’re looking to imbibe some Japanese culture and food in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles), here some hot spots you shouldn’t miss:

Mr. Ramen

There are lots of specialty eateries on First Street just East of Downtown Los Angeles that constitutes the heart of Little Tokyo. I was starving, so my wife and I went into one without a line. Mr. Ramen had a glaringly charming anime themed-wall, and the food was quite delicious. I ordered the red curry ramen soup while my wife got the Miso Tanmen. As we sampled each other’s selection, I initially convinced that she got the better, but as I continued to savor my own, my opinion changed. Dianna ordered some vegetable gyoza to compliment the meal.

I suppose I should have deliberated and found the best place, as evaluated by Yelp, to hit in Little Tokyo. But I wasn’t disappointed. And it wasn’t overly filling, so we could get some nice desserts (see below). Here’s their menu:

Mr. Ramen
341 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 9012
213-626-4252
$

A bamboo steamer in an essential part of kitchen equipped for Asian cooking. You can purchase yours on Amazon here.

ChinchikurinTanota Takoyaki

I must confess: I didn’t even know that Hiroshima was rebuilt after the Americans dropped the A-bomb on it to end World War 2. I guess I always supposed that it was wiped off the map once and for all. But no. There were survivors. Structures remained only half destroyed. The people of Hiroshima showed character to rebuild this city and make it beautiful. Somehow or another, the also invented their own food. The issen-yoshoku starts with a round layer of dough cooked crisp on a griddle. On that are piled and cooked: dried fish powder, cabbage, tempura crisps, bean sprouts, protein, noodles, egg, Otafuku okonomi sauce and seaweed.

Chinchikurin in the heart of Little Tokyo serves up this marvel.

As I watched them make them right in front of me, I realized that this was a better show than the Tokyo Waco’s teppanyaki display. To melt the cheese, the cook fired up butane torches and flamed them. Wow! The okonomi sauce — a sweeter descendant of Worcestershire sauce — was out of this world. Without giving away their secret recipe, they list sugar, white vinegar, molasses, salt, tomato paste, apple, carrot, peach, dates, onions, raisins, mushrooms, garlic, kelp and spices in their ingredients. Here’s the menu:

 

At the same time we ordered some takoyaki, piping hot dough balls with squid, tenkasu, pickled ginger and green onion. They are delicately flipped and cooked in a griddle that looks like a cupcake pan only with golf-ball-sized half spheres. They are bathed in Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise.

The takoyaki is actually cooked by a separate establishment inside the same restaurant as Chinchikurin. It’s called Tanato Takoyaki.

We rounded off the meal with Japanese-style shaved ice, which was good even in winter.


Chinchikurin
350E East 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-626-0480
$$

A bamboo steamer in an essential part of kitchen equipped for Asian cooking. You can purchase yours on Amazon here.

Mitsuru Cafe

We hit Mitsuru Cafe for dessert (no, not the same night as when we got shaved ice), and Dianna got her favorite imagawayaki, pancake-like dough cooked into biscuits with sweet black bean paste inside.

I got the ice cream macaroons, which is easily a step up from regular macaroons.

Mitsuru Cafe
11`7 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-613-1028
$

A bamboo steamer in an essential part of kitchen equipped for Asian cooking. You can purchase yours on Amazon here.

HoneyMee

On another night, Dianna and I ventured into HoneyMee, which sweetens its ice cream with unadulterated honey. You can mix in other flavors. Of course, I got the coffee, and it was sensational.

This is one of those desserts you drive a long distance for. It’s unique and satisfying.

Honeymee
120 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
714-626-0580
$

A bamboo steamer in an essential part of kitchen equipped for Asian cooking. You can purchase yours on Amazon here.