Friday, July 17, 2009

Impromptu dinner @ neighborhood gem Sasaya

It's Friday and plans to hang out with the family were thwarted. A few minutes later, I get a text from Heather. Plan B. Something mellow perhaps. Sasaya sounds perfect.

Sasaya is a Japanese izakaya a few blocks from my place. An izakaya is a Japanese bar that focuses on sake/beer and small plates. You will NOT find sushi at Sasaya. The menu is extensive and even though I've been many times, there are still a handful of new items that I'd like to try. Tonight was no different.

After a hectic day at work, a glass of pinot grigio made my day. Heather got the sake sampler which includes 3 types of sake that you are advised to drink sequentially from left to right. The sake was served with a note with descriptions of each sake, and a side of seaweed salad.

We decided to start with 4 dishes, none that I've tried before. We also wanted the miso cod but they ran out. They've actually run out of miso cod on at least 3 other occasion when I've been here.

Buta Kimchi. This was the best dish of the night, in my opinion. The pork was thinly sliced and tender, and the kimchi gave a spiciness and sourness to the dish. I thought that the flavor was unique.

Mochi gratin with bacon, dried seaweed and cheese. It was very greasy and the mochi was swimming in oil. I did like the chewy mochi while Heather preferred the cheese and bacon. I doubt I'd get this dish again.

Kurobuta Wiener boiled pork sausage. This tasted exactly like the vienna sausage that my mom would boil for breakfast before she shoved me onto a school bus. The sausage tasted good but I didn't think it belonged in a izakaya. It just seemed ordinary.

Rock shrimp tempura with green tea salt. Oh, this was delicious. It was perfectly fried and the shrimp was plump and juicy. The tempura was served with green tea salt in a shaker. I really didn't taste the green tea or felt that it added a better flavor to the shrimp.

I ordered another glass of wine while Heather ordered sake. Unfiltered sake Nigori shou Chiku Bai, a creme de sake which is sweet and tastes like rice. It was full bodied, creamy and rather easy to drink. We also decided to order two more dishes.

Pork and egg simmered in sweet soy sauce broth (Kuro Buta Kakuni). I've ordered this before and it never disappoints. The pork was tender and the sauce was so tasty. The pork had a fatty piece which was rich and delicious.

Our last dish was Tori Karage, which is chicken marinated in soy sauce and fried. It was served hot, with a side of aioli and curry powder in a salt shaker. The lemon juice gave the karage a great tangy flavor. I also thought that the curry power was a good addition which made this dish different from regular karage served elsewhere. The aioli on the other hand, could have been omitted. I thought it was too heavy; the dish was already heavy enough with the fried batter.

Sasaya is a lively neighborhood joint with a homey feel and great Japanese comfort food. There is a wise variety of flavorful dishes, most priced below $10.

Hits: Fun & casual atmosphere, reasonably priced, rock shrimp tempura, pork kimchee
Misses: ran out of black cod ;-(
Rate: ****

11613 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 447-4404

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