this is just the food, with pictures and commentary on other stuff on the link below. sorry for posting another textbook!
before we order, the staff brings each of us a small dish of carrot and celery sticks, a slice of radish, and a little layered pyramid of cabbage. it was a rather taste-less SALAD, i thought, until i realized that the vegetables were to be dipped in a tiny bowl of miso sesame dressing on the side. oh my. this wasnt a serving of vegetables with dressing, this was sesame miso with vegetables as utensils. it was awesome, and that was a starter we hadnt even ordered.
we had a little trouble at first, negotiating the menu. hot things, cold things, grilled things, not-grilled things, sushi things. our servers were helpful and made recommendations without being neither pushy nor gush-y. most of the items have a japanese name with a short description underneath and a number in parentheses. like sushi, one order of a grilled item has 1, 2 or 3 skewers.
MISO SOUP and EDAMAME came first. i never order edamame in a restaurant because its like ordering chips or beer nuts. the soybeans are often overcooked to gray or stone cold. however, these were steamed just long enough to soften the pods to a warm, bright spring green, and just short enough that the baby beans inside were crisp tender. was i really so jazzed about edamame that i had to take a picture? perhaps the large ASAHI was making me giddy.
it wasnt the beer. shortly after the edamame, a parade of dishes came out in perfect tempo. i felt like an overzealous fashion photographer, snapping pictures of every waif of a skewer sashaying down the table runway modeling meat and vegetables, with miso, ponzu and other sauce accessories. ah, the staff gets it now and they put the plates in front of me first. we pause for my flashbulb, then pluck pluck pluck, we pull the meat and vegetables off, discarding the skewers in ceramic cups that the restaurant has thoughtfully placed on the table expressly for that purpose.
the TSUKUNE were chicken meatballs that were not golfball-sized, which would imply heavy, hard, dense. no these were ping pong balls, light, springy, yet tight enough to hold their shape on a skewer. only the word cute could describe the tiny QUAIL EGGS lined up like three little skeeballs at the arcade. i love eggs, but i think i was a bit weirded out by quail so i passed. a mildly sweet sauce dressed both the beef NANBAN YAKI and the NEGITORI, and both were tender. ive always had eggplant with a sweet sauce, as well, but nanbankans NASU were in a tangy miso that were a refreshing surprise. TEBASAKI chicken wings were crisp on the outside and meaty on the inside, though i have to admit, i missed the spices that furaibo puts on theirs. CHILEAN SEA BASS was white, flaky, and a good contrast to the chicken and beef dishes. we ordered STUFFED PEPPERS, and leave it to the japanese to one, find teeny tiny bell peppers, and two, serve them with yellow mustard! i wasnt so hot on the mustard, but dipped thos baby bells in the sweet sauce on the other plates.
we also ordered non-grilled items. we wrap sliced BEEF FILET, presented like carpaccio, around onions and spice, then dip in a ponzu. it wasnt bad, but i wasnt used to eating meat that is still slightly frozen. SPICY TUNA and UNAGI rolls were beautifully presented , 3 by 3 on a square white plate. spicy tuna without mayonnaise, and with the addition of not just julienned cucumber, but testing the palate with gobo. nanbankan not only knows their grill, but they sweat over the fryer. MUSHROOM TEMPURA could only have been as light-as-air as they were if the batter was thin to begin with, and the temperature of the frying oil is sky high. the enoki looked a little too alien for me, but i ate more than my share of oyster and shiitakes. two more mushroom dishes came out in tiny cast iron skillets: MIXED MUSHROOMS and GARLIC SPROUTS, MUSHROOMS, and SCALLOPS. both were sauteed in butter, creating a sauce that we wanted to pour into a bowl and eat with plain rice. we finished with NAMURU, a funny translation of the korean word na-mul, which means plant, and were two bowls of steamed spinach. one in a ponzu sauce, topped with bonito flakes, and the other in a sweeter sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. we couldnt finish them. thank god they were the end of the procession!
11330 santa monica blvd (between corinth and sawtelle)
los angeles, ca 90025