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Mitsuru Café is one of three Japanese places that I can literally remember going to for as long as I’ve been alive; the other two being Sakae Sushi and Sakura-Ya in Gardena. All of these places serve very simple Japanese dishes that I love and fondly remember.
Mitsuru Café is a little café located in Japanese Village in Little Tokyo. While they have renovated the outside, the inside still looks like it’s from the 60s with old faded walls with specials taped on them, a counter with an open kitchen and old wooden tables. At the front window they have a griddle that cooks the imagawayaki as well as a display case showing a variety fried foods and other stuff such as dango. Its super old school and really brings you back. I rarely sit down and eat, but when I’m close to Downtown LA I almost always stop by and get some food for myself or to bring back to my family.
This is what you will see people waiting in line for. Imagawayaki is a pancake cooked in a griddle with red bean in the middle. More commonly you will see taiyaki which are the fish shaped ones. The key to a good imagawayaki are being fresh off the grill, good tasting batter and the right batter to bean ratio. Surprisingly, I’ve had a hard time finding a good one in Asia even in Tokyo and Taipei where they are very common. One of the three characteristics is always wrong; it’s a cheap snack and most of the vendors just don’t take them seriously. Mitsuru still makes the best one for me. They are really fresh, hot and slightly crispy, the batter is not too thick and has a really good flavor. The only knock is that the an (red bean paste) is a bit too sweet. I highly recommend trying these. 8.5/10
Ohagi are a type of mochi with red bean on the outside and a rice ball in the middle; definitely one of my favorite. The ones here are true home style and taste like the ones my family made when I was a kid. They’re pretty ugly, but the beans are really fresh and the rice balls are very nice as well. It’s a simple confectionery, but you’ll notice the difference versus the ones you buy in the super markets. 8.25/10
Daifuku / Yomogi / Black Sesame Daifuku:
These are also homemade. The daifuku are the standard white ones, the yomogi the green ones that use mugwort (one of my favorite) and the black sesame daifuku are the ones covered in black sesame. All of them have red bean in the middle. Even though these are homemade honestly they don’t taste much different than the major local brands like Mikawaya. They are still good, nicely fresh and taste just like they sound. While not exceptional like Sakura-Ya, they are quite good and worth eating if you happen to be buying other stuff. 7.75/10
Inari are a type of sushi that look like footballs. They are marinated tofu skins stuffed with sushi rice and sesame seeds. They are fresh and pretty decent although they’re not great like the ones at Sakae Sushi. Again these are good and worth checking out if you’re here, but not going to blow you away. 7.75/10
These are the sushi rolls that have tamago (sweet egg omelet), takuan (yellow radish pickle), this pink sweet stuff that looks like cotton candy and pickled gobo (burdock root). The ones here are pretty standard and while tasty not out of the ordinary. These are another one worth checking out if you’re here, but not worth going out of your way for. 7.75/10
Overall, if you want to try some great imagawayaki and homemade mochi, I’d highly recommend coming here because this is the type of stuff that one day you will not be able to find anymore. Also please note that they only carry the ohagi and mochi on the weekends.
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