Monday, November 8, 2010

Itacho: Japanese comfort food in a non Japanese neighborhood

I love Japanese izakayas (pubs). I love the small plate menus. I love all that fried food. I love the prices. I do have my favorite izakaya that I frequent– Sasaya in West LA. It’s my go-to place. The food’s affordable and always satisfying. So when I got the BBE 30% discount for Itacho, I felt a bit guilty for cheating on Sasaya.

Itacho is located on Beverly Blvd and it held a Michelin award for Bib Gourmand in 2008 (when they used to publish the Michelin Guide in LA). The last time I dined there over five years ago, and I was seated right next to Billy Corgan. And no, he was not with Courtney Love.

We started with the usual. Apparently on Wednesdays, they have ½ off bottles of wine and Sake.

Edamame - Boiled Japanese soy beans

Sautéed Japanese green pepper

Salmon skin salad - Crispy salmon skin over a bed of greens
I really liked the citrus dressing and the huge pile of greens. I don’t like salmon but I attempted to eat a few pieces. The salmon skin was crispy and salty, and the meat itself was tender with some fattiness to it.

Sea urchin, hamachi and albacore sushi
Very fresh, especially the uni. That’s a sign of a good Japanese restaurant. But it’s not cheap by any means. The uni sushi was priced at $10, not the cheapest in town.

Nasu miso - Sautéed eggplant mixed with sweet miso sauce
I'm a sucker for miso anything, and miso eggplant is my favorite izakaya veggie dish. It was cooked till soft and almost buttery. The normally bland eggplant was sweetened by the strong miso sauce.

Agedashi Tofu - Deep fried tofu cubes served with a flavored sauce
Even if you're not a lover of tofu, you'll like this dish. It's fried! And the sweet dashi sauce is so flavorful that you'll want to eat every last drop with a bowl of plain rice.

Grilled Curry Prawns
The curry tasted more like Indian tandoori than Japanese curry spices. I thought the prawns could have been cooked a little less because it was a bit tough.

Saba shio - Broiled mackerel served with lemon
My favorite Japanese fish dish is the miso cod, but grilled mackerel is a close second. It's salty and fishy, and the squeeze of lemon juice was a great compliment. The fish was cooked to a perfect flakiness. The best thing about this dish is that it's simple, light and healthy.

Buta Kakuni - Cube cut pork simmered for two days in rich broth of sake and soy sauce
This is my izakaya staple. Itacho's version was standard, but I thought the meat was not as tender as I've had at other places such as Sasaya and Furaibo. It wasn't fork tender or fell apart upon touch, but the flavor of the sauce was good.

The restaurant seems to be doing pretty well, despite not being in a Japanese neighborhood like Sawtelle or Little Tokyo. In fact, Itacho's neighbors are Angelini Osteria, Milk and El Coyote. With the BBE 30% discount, our bill came up to $100 including tax and tip for three people (don't forget to tip on the balance before discount). That’s $33pp for a full meal and two drinks each. It's still affordable without the discount, but I noticed the prices are a bit higher than at Sasaya and Furaibo. But I guess that's the price you'll have to pay to catch a glimpse of Billy Corgan.

Hits: sushi, saba
Misses: dry pork
Rating: **1/2

Itacho Restaurant
7311 Beverly Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-9009


Diana said...

Ack! My BBE just expired three days ago! Why didn't I take advantage? Kicking self. Hard.

BTW, totally didn't know Itacho received a Michelin star! Crazy!

Marie said...

I drive by Sasaya all the time, but wasn't sure if it was a good place or not. Ditto with Itacho, but I am guessing Sasaya might be more affordable?

stuffycheaks said...

Diana - The BBE 30% really is a nice plus. But without it, I might not head back cuz there are so many other izakayas out there that are awesome

Marie - Yes, try Sasaya. Its def more casual and cheaper.