What makes Japanese food in LA special?

Our 2nd and 3rd tier joints smoke the top choices in most US cities. I used to live in Philadelphia and just perused a recent eater list of top sushi bars - list still looks dismally pathetic. I still shudder at the thought of my former colleagues raving about sushi lunches catered from a local chinese restaurant… :tired_face: :grimacing::rolling_eyes::gun:


I wonder if the frequent debates have to do with how good our top end joints are today? Note that most of the very granular debates of authenticity and quality from the likes of @beefnoguy @BradFord @J_L are comparisons to the best that Tokyo has to offer. Perhaps a case of so close but yet so far… I certainly think that Mori compares comfortably in the realm of 1* sushi bars in Tokyo. And as @bulavinaka mentioned, the supply chain in Japan is just incredible, a huge hurdle to overcome for our local restaurateurs.

A lot of nonsense and sensationalism here.

“the old country”, jesus…

Now what the f- did I say that wasn’t true?

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Authenticity isn’t limited to what’s best in Tokyo. That’s one thing most travelers to Japan seem to fail to recognize if they spend most of their time in Tokyo.

that is particularly true of something like ramen which has a lot of regional variants.

i personally would prefer to eat in osaka with their ‘eat until you drop’ (kuidaore) philosophy. you won’t necessarily go there for a lot of fine dining vis a vis michelin rated places, or for say, sushi, soba, tempura etc. which are edo period categories, but the diversity & quality of the every day snack/street food puts tokyo to shame. and it’s all affordable.

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Re: Ramen. Lack of diversity. Mostly Tonkotsu everywhere I see. Which makes Udon and Soba under appreciated or under the radar imo.

Rise of the Izakaya recently is worth mentioning. Also what makes LA’s Japanese food scene awesome and better than most North America cities.

To really appreciate Japanese cuisine you have to understand the beauty of simplicity. Probably more than any other cuisine, including Italian.


@secretasianman, since you write so authoritatively, please tell me how many times you’ve been to Japan, and Osaka and Tokyo in particular, how many restaurants you’ve eaten at in Osaka and Tokyo, and provide a few of the names of restaurants and explanations as to why the diversity and quality of the places in Osaka put Tokyo to shame.

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To me, saying that the snack/street food of Osaka puts Tokyo “to shame” is as insane as saying that all Japanese food should be compared to the standards of Tokyo.

There are regional foods unique to Osaka, just as there are regional foods unique to Tokyo. Common dishes available throughout Japan often have regional seasoning and preparation differences. But, categorically, snack and street food diversity and quality that puts Tokyo to shame? Give me a break. There are good places in Osaka just as there are good places in Tokyo. There are also plenty of affordable places in Tokyo.

Most places around Tsukiji are less than 2000¥, with many less than 1000¥, and that includes much more than Sushi. And why focus on just street food? Because Osaka can’t compete with Tokyo when it comes to higher-end food? (An argument could possibly be made, but I have no opinion and could not care less.) To say Osaka puts Tokyo to shame for an entire category of food is ridiculous.

There are also plenty of places in Tokyo at reasonable prices that make similar places in Osaka look like Denny’s. Why don’t you compare Kushiage in Osaka to Tonkatsu in Tokyo? They’re​ similar dishes, but for the same price, you can get Tonkatsu in Tokyo that’s far superior - ingredient, technique and execution-wise - to Kushiage in Osaka.

Also, if you’re going to make this kind of gross hyperbole, why don’t you compare inexpensive Sushi in Kanto to Sushi in Kansai? Sushi can be a snack food - it originally was a snack food - and there are numerous standing Sushi bars. Because you really can’t because Kansai is more inland and the Sushi there is generally regarded by many Japanese as inferior across the board to what’s available in or around Tokyo, especially smaller port towns with fishing industries that support local Sushi places? (As much as I enjoyed the Kansai food I’ve had, in my limited time there, I found the technique and execution in Tokyo to generally be better, which might be reflective of the more casual eating style prevalent in Osaka. However, I haven’t eaten enough in Osaka or spoken with enough people who know the cuisines of both cities to verify this.)

Still, this kind of judgmental and narrow-minded opinion highlights one of the biggest problems I see with people who critique Japanese food, which was the point I was trying to make earlier. Most people’s idea of Japanese food is so limited in perspective and context because they either do not know, refuse to or do not see, the breadth of what’s actually available in Japan, e.g., applying a standard that all Ramen should be compared to Tonkotsu Ramens, all Sushi should be compared to Edomae Sushi, all Okonomiyaki should be compared to Hiroshima-style, all Sake should be compared to Niigata Sake, and on and on. Applying a narrow perspective to Japanese restaurants here, especially those that do not fit an expected standard, diminishes the perceived “authenticity” of these restaurants, when the problem is the incorrect perception of “authenticity” of the eater.

What I’ve learned from speaking with people in Japan is that while there may be consensus that one place or dish may be ONE of the best, there’s often no consensus as to what is categorically the best in Japan because there is uniqueness to each of the many excellent restaurants that serve a specific dish or have a specialty and many Japanese consumers generally appreciate the differences, rather than trying to rank places in some master hierarchy or list.


i haven’t been to japan yet, but i do have friends who’ve visited both cities and their mindset is similar to mine. if you google something along the lines of food osaka vs. tokyo i imagine you’ll find others expressing similar sentiments. clearly it’s really important to you to refute my comments, so have at it. but i’m done.



Good Lord.
WHat is this site coming to?
I may do a write up of the French Laundry since I have never been there.


noted. i’m still done, and i’m still here.

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It’s not important to refute YOUR comments, it’s important to refute baseless, ignorant comments because people who read FTC put some trust in what we write here. You don’t deserve that trust.

You’re a poseur when it comes to Japanese food.

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maybe he stayed at a holiday inn express last night.


Let’s go to karaoke tonight. Let’s sing it LOUD.



How about stories about Little Tokyo and the changing face of it, including the small mom and pop restaurants that are slowly closing or being forced out by raising their lease.

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As some food for thought from someone who eats a lot of Japanese food, both at home and at restaurants, in Japan, in the US, and elsewhere, I’ve noticed quite a few issues that contribute to people’s negative experiences with Japanese food. In Los Angeles, as with many places in the US, people’s obsession with authenticity can often get in the way of a good meal experience. That’s not to say that not being authentic will create a better experience, but rather that people misunderstand what is authentic and what is not based on portrayals by media. There are also different expectations that diners have here. For example, one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles is Yakitoriya. Even when I go to Japan, I have trouble finding places that I like better than Yakitoriya. However, there are quite a few items that I like to order that are not on the menu, service is extremely slow and dinners tend to be long, and their expectations that the restaurant has a view as a diner. For me, this is a normal experience… Many places in Japan are similar. But for many people here, I read complaints about the service, not understanding how food so simple can be so expensive, and not understanding why people get “special treatment”. There are a lot of cultural hurdles to overcome. The expectations of diners here differ from the expectations and needs of diners in Japan, and not all restaurants and up catering to Americans well. People are also offended by those who speak Japanese getting better service or having access to things that they don’t have access to themselves. I understand that these are all potential problems and can be frustrating, but the point of all of this is that understanding culture and true authenticity can be difficult for people without a frame of reference and a lot of experience. Many of the food writers who write on these things don’t have that experience. Even people that travel to Japan and up eating as tourists rather than eating the way that most people do there. Moreover, there is a big difference between normal Japanese people that don’t care as much about food and serious food people in Japan. Even though I live here, when I am in Japan, I often know more about the food and restaurants than the Japanese people that I’m with, because it’s something that I’ve spent extensive amounts of time and money studying and learning about.

If there’s one thing that I would like to see less of, it would be assumptions based on what people believed to be authentic or not. Also, I think people often believe that more expensive is necessarily better with Japanese food, and this is not always the case. People feel obligated to spend massive amounts of money on sushi thinking that it is better, when there are sometimes options that are less expensive and have much better technical execution. Maybe we just need more food articles that walk people through how to act, how to order, what kinds of expectations are reasonable, and provide a little bit more cultural depth and frame of reference for the diners. At least with me, I found that that’s what helps me introduce my friends to Japanese food with the best possible experience.

As to what makes Japanese food in LA so special, it’s nothing. We just happen to have some of the best Japanese food within the US… Well us and New York, though we have a wide variety of options at lower price points relative to New York. We do have some really good options here, but most of what’s popular Are not places that I would take visitors from Japan to.

One last note… The way that Japanese customers order is extremely different from the way that American customers order, and this leads to very different experiences at the same restaurant.


Hey, great post! Very cool!

I would love to read more details from you if you care to share them!

I would be especially interested to know what some of the differences are regarding this! Sounds fascinating!

Would you please clarify the differences between Japanese and American expectations?

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