My husband and I finally got a chance to go to Haru Ulala in Little Tokyo after reading so much about it here. Im Japanese, but I love the fact that I find out about new Japanese restaurants on Chowhound!
We went to see a play at the East West Players which is a theater that supports Asian American actors. We got to the restaurant about 6:30 and the place was completely empty. After we were served some dishes another couple sat down next to us and asked what we were eating. Theyd been a couple times before and when I told them this was our first time they asked how I heard about Haru Ulala. I vaguely explained that theres an internet site that discusses food and restaurants, right off the bat, the man asked Chowhound?? This is how I met a fellow Chowhound and not only that, they were also going to see the same play. Ive always wondered when Im in a restaurant if there is also someone that is a Chowhounder this time I got my answer!
About the food in no particular order
Grilled/Broiled Conch This was my favorite dish. This is actually what the couple was asking about. Its a whole conch grilled in the shell then cut up and served with its juices with shiitake mushrooms and a little spinach. It reminded me of dobinmushi (If youve been to WA Im sure you know what Im talking about), but without matsutake. The broth was to die for, but there were bits of something soft and grey that I didnt care for.
Grilled Oyster - Good, but I prefer smaller oysters. I dont know what variety it was, but it was about 4 long. The juice was very good.
Grilled skewered Okra, Shishito, Yakitori, and Tsukune (chicken meatballs) All very good. The vegetables are served with bonito flakes. The tsukune was tasty and tender. Yakitori (just chicken) good, but nothing special maybe a little dry.
Grilled Onigiri (rice balls) - Two to an order and you can have it with umeboshi (pickled plum), soy sauce and one other I cant remember. They are a nice small size, just enough to get a taste, but not grilled enough and not enough soy sauce taste on the outside. This is one of my favorite ways to eat rice and I was very disappointed. It should be crunchy on the outside and soft and steaming on the inside.
Buta Kakuni (braised pork belly) - I read that this was one of their best dishes and I was very disappointed. Flavor was good, but consistency was too hard. It should fall apart when you touch it, but I almost needed a knife and fork to eat it. Maybe it was a good thing, I didnt eat much of it and it was probably the most fattening thing on the menu!
Yellowtail Sashimi very good, huge portions and nice flavor and consistency.
Kurobuta Tonkatsu I really liked this dish.
Grilled Beef Tongue it was served with a dish of sesame oil. Good, but maybe a little over cooked. Nice flavor.
Natto (fermented soy bean) roll - just ok, the natto was the light flavor kind and didnt taste like much. I should have asked for a handroll.
Mountain Yam Sengiri (Im not sure what it was called on the menu) Its mountain yam cut into julienne and served with just wasabi and cut up nori (dried seaweed). You add soy sauce to taste. Its a very simple and refreshing dish. It has texture like daikon, but a little softer, but still has crunch. Its also very slimy like okra which some people may not care for. Dont get it on your chin, it will make you itch!
Overall, I enjoyed the meal. Its fun to have so many choices and of course if was great meeting the fellow Chowhounds! Its also pretty reasonably priced $85 before tip including 1 large bottle of bear, one draft beer and one glass of Otokoyama sake.
If the people I met are reading this...we had a great time meeting you and hope you enjoyed the play!!