A new Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurant just had its grand opening in Monterey Park, bringing its stellar yakitori and shabu-shabu to the SGV. Yes, unlike the ramen-only Shin-Sen-Gumi or the yakitori-only Shin-Sen-Gumi, this place is a hybrid—and unfortunately, the yakitori menu seems to be less than half as long as the all-yakitori branch’s menu.
The location is amazing, says exilekiss, who went on the first day. It’s the most elegant of the Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurants by far, with gorgeous red wood paneling and brick walls. Classy and clean, yet somehow romantic as well.
For the grand opening, the restaurant’s master chefs manned the grill, setting a high standard with moist, tender shio yakitori, roasted chicken thigh with green onions and salt marinade. The master’s touch was evident: This was better than at the original branches. Cartilage, gizzard, and beef tongue skewers were just as good as the originals.
As for the shabu-shabu side of things, there are some unusual stews in addition to the usual Japanese-style hot pot with thinly sliced beef. Motsu nabe, a Hakata regional specialty, is a flavorful soup—the tripe might be a turnoff for some, but this is a good way to try it, says rameniac.
There’s also a small selection of izakaya-style dishes, including chicken kara-age (fried chicken, moist and delectable) and tako wasabi (superfresh raw octopus in a wasabi marinade). Fried pork feet in Dijon mustard-and-apple sauce is a little heavy on the mustard but tasty. Tuna carpaccio is top-notch. Sadly, the bacon-wrapped maki items are missing from the menu.
There’s a good selection of sake, if not as extensive as the one in Fountain Valley.
Dinner only; lunch service starts in November.
Another izakaya fave, Orange County–based Honda-Ya, recently opened a branch in Little Tokyo. tokyoastrogirl has longed for the fun, festive, and casual atmosphere of a real izakaya since moving back from Tokyo seven years ago; Honda-Ya is the answer to her prayers. (Musha in Torrance also fits the bill but is too far away, she adds.)
A word about what to expect from an izakaya: It’s basically a Japanese pub. The food isn’t supposed to be gourmet or refined. Nor do you want to order the kinds of dishes that are traditionally served at specialty restaurants, like ramen or sushi.
The menu is big—maybe too big, as there are some clunkers in there. Some of the best are marked with red stars. Hound-recommended dishes: wasabi octopus, a nice combo of flavors and textures; crab shiu mai; chicken skin; nasu miso, eggplant on a bed of miso-sautéed onions; buta no kakuni; and bacon-wrapped grilled anything. There’s also ika natto, squid in fermented soybean sauce—but only order this if you know what natto is and like it. Natto is very much an acquired taste and ika natto even more so.
The new restaurant draws comparisons to Musha (Santa Monica and Torrance) and nearby Izayoi.
“Part of the problem is that Honda Ya has a huge menu, where Musha has a much tighter menu,” says Professor Salt. “But tighter doesn’t equal better. Overall I still prefer Honda Ya. Your mileage varies. Such is life.”
rameniac agrees, pointing out that Izayoi is a whole different ball game—upscale, pricier, open late, and run by an ex–sushi chef.
The space is huge, complete with tatami room options, and service is attentive.
Oh, and Musha in Santa Monica has reopened and is as good as ever, reports SauceSupreme, who checked it out with a few fellow hounds.
Honda-Ya [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda Street, Los Angeles
424 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
Musha [South Bay]
1725 W. Carson Street, Torrance
Izayoi [Little Tokyo]
132 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles