Thanks to all those who replied to my request for recommendations for the Redondo Beach area, Little Tokyo, Torrance. Though we were in LA for a week we didn't get to try nearly as many places as we wanted as we were constrained by family food tastes and my inability to digest fancy restaurant food every night of the week.
Frascati in Redondo Beach- We enjoyed our appetizers here, fritto misto was light, golden and tender. Calamari in particular was nice. Mozzarella salad was buttery and smooth. Entrees were somewhat of a disappointment. My half chicken, though tender and moist, lacked the lemon and herb flavor it was supposed to have. Companions were less than impressed with their pasta dishes. Service was terrible-my first LA experience was having a waiter who was hired for his good looks (wow, was he gorgeous!) rather than his serving experience.
We visited the tofu festival and I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one who was disappointed. While the food there wasn't altogether bad it was annoying to have to pay to get in, then pay again for tickets,then stand in line for food,etc. But the visit to the National Japanese American museum was really great. Afterwards we tried to have a drink at the New Otani's roof garden but the entire hotel was dead without even a single bar open.
Ginalee's Bistro--Redondo Beach--this was probably our favorite of the trip. Basically, we loved everything we ate here. Prices were reasonable, service was very friendly and attentive. My chicken katsu over soba noodles was really fabulous, companions were very happy with their dishes. Even the desserts were great. I had the macadamia nut bread pudding which was tender and flavorful though I didn't detect any mango, which it was supposed to have. Our companion had the ubiquitous creme brulee, which here came close to approaching a creme brulee I had in France against which I compare all others. Ginalee's version contained blueberries but they got the temperature right--proper creme brulee has a hot crispy shell which is supposed to be in contrast to the cold creme. Most places don't make the caramel to order but do it in advance and refrigerate the whole thing thereby negating what makes the dish special.
Mei Long Village--San Gabriel--We made it out here after a visit to the Huntington and a drink at the Ritz in Pasadena. We liked the dishes we had here but were not overwhelmed.
The seafood dumplings were the best thing we ate, a recommendation from the server. The braised shrimp turned out to be baby shrimp in a tangy red sauce, okay, but not fantastic. I had a dish with greens and preserved vegetables, again nice but not overwhelming. In my experience, I don't think it's possible to judge an Asian restaurant with a long menu on just one visit if there are only two of you so my review of this place should not discourage anyone from going there necessarily.
Our last meal was at Chinois on Main. This was somewhat of a disappointment for me. As I am still in grad school, price-quality relationship is pretty important so I was disappointed to pay fine dining prices for admittedly good, but not great, food, in a busy, noisy, tablecloth-less, atmosphere. We had duck rolls and spring rolls for appetizers, nice but not outstanding. I had the macadamia tuna, BF had the curried lobster. Again, both nice dishes but nothing that made me close my eyes in ecstasy. Desserts were the nicest part of the meal. The lemon souffle was zesty and puckering.
Lastly, I recommend Bagels Galore in Redondo Beach by the Long's Drugstore. We ate here twice. The bagels are unusual in that they are not the huge chewy tasteless type. Their bagels are small, with a somewhat crunchy crust when toasted and have a nice non-chewy crumb. Plus they have lots of cream cheese flavors and the counter lady is very friendly.
Thanks again for the suggestions,