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Kagaya - Downtown LA Favorite

lil mikey | Jun 3, 2002 03:11 AM

After painting the house all day I had nothing to offer my lover other than a visit to one of our favorite places…Kagaya.

I learned of Kagaya from a guy I knew for only 2 months. His parents were very wealthy, and visited him occasionally. Evidently, he found good restaurants to take them to when they were here in the U.S. We talked about the restaurants we liked, and he gave me some great tips. I hope the tips I gave him served him as well.

Anyway, my lover and I have been to Kagaya about 5 or 6 times now, and every time we are newly surprised by the quality and service we receive.

This time, we called ahead (last time we barely got the last 2 bar seats), and reserved a table. This is a shabu shabu restaurant, and we like the shabu shabu bowl between us instead of in front of us.

I made the reservation for 6pm, when they open. We were very excited about our dinner, and as such we arrived a little early. We parked and decided to walk around the little shopping center where they are located until they opened. There is a wonderful little Japanese bakery in the same shopping center, and we took the liberty to go in and look at the pastries. I learned that the cake in Japanese baked goods is finer than the cake in the American baked goods. In other words, the little air spaces were smaller. There was no explanation for this, but this is what I learned.

So we bought some stuff from the bakery, and walked back over to Kagaya, which was now open.

We were the first ones in the place, but we weren’t alone for long. Soon the place filled up, and we were glad we were early.

We were greeted warmly, and shown to our table. There are about 8 tables in the place, and a bar seating about 16 people. We were given both a drink menu, and a food menu. On the drink menu were the expected beer, wine and sake. I chose a cold sake.

When the drinks were served I was a bit concerned as the waitress brought over a huge bottle of sake. Fortunately she just poured me a glass, which was what I thought I had ordered. (As I saw the huge bottle, I thought I may have inadvertently ordered the whole magnum bottle.) They are very accommodating to us non-Japanese speaking people. They begin speaking only Japanese, but once they figure out you don’t speak any Japanese, they don’t cop an attitude, they just become way nicer, and help you order and pick the right way to eat the shabu shabu.

So on to the menu. There is basically beef and seafood shabu shabu. We didn’t really look at the rest of the menu. There is regular beef, for about $32, and Kobe beef for $98. There is seafood for about $48, and beef and seafood combos ranging from $42 to about $52.

We ordered one regular beef and one beef and seafood combo.

First out were two appetizers that were out of this world.

The first was a finely chopped albacore tartare patty about 1 inch across, with a pinch of black caviar and 8 wisps of green onion and chives caressing the top. All this was served in a cold sweet vinegar mixture and presented in a small bowl which made you just cry out for more.

The second was a hot monkfish and seafood soup. It was in a hot fish broth, and presented in the same small-sized bowl. Enough to draw you into its flavor, but leave you craving more.

Then came the main course. The hot boiling pot between us was ready, and first came the vegetable plate. There were about two handfuls of carefully selected lettuce leaves, bulbs and stalks of green onions, some nice cleaned and sliced mushrooms, 8 large chunks of tofu, lots of parsley and greens and glass noodles. Then came the meat and seafood plates. As expected, my beef was fresh and thinly cut. My lover’s seafood consisted of a raw oyster, some clams and a bunch of fresh crab, including the leg and claw. She also got some beef with her combo.

We cooked our vegetables and meat and seafood. We then dipped it in the sauces they gave us, and mixed it with the rice provided. It was a wonderful feast, and fun to eat since we got to cook it ourselves. This is a great place to take a date since there is something to do in addition to trying to keep up what may become idle conversation.

What is really nice about Kagaya is that you get a lot of attention from the people there. They come over and clear the foam off your shabu shabu pot for you, and they are very responsive to you.

For the next part of the meal, they take the liquid in your shabu shabu pot and make a soup of it. You can either have it with rice or noodles. We chose noodles, and they mix it with egg, udon noodles and spices, including lots of black pepper. Then they serve it to you in a separate bowl to enjoy.

As if you need it, you then get dessert, which can be crème brule (my lover had this) or a nice green tea mouse with a fig (or was it date?) topping and a very light cream sauce.

All this with green tea that is not bitter at all.

So, all the above (except the stuff at the bakery beforehand), including 2 cold sake drinks at $9.50 each, was $105 for 2 people, before tip. While we don’t spend this much for dinner every night, in my opinion, this is a bargain. For the service and the quality of food, I was very happy to give a generous tip to let them know we appreciated them, and I hope they keep doing this.

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