The Dining Room
I wanted to go to FuRaiBo because I wanted to try a place on Sawtelle that I hadn't been to before, but I wanted to go somewhere that might have atmosphere (Hide Sushi and Asahi Ramen are just tables and floor and not much else, from the looks of them). Also, there is usually a line out the door at FuRaiBo, so early Wednesday evening, a slow time at most restaurants, seemed like the ideal time to go. The restaurant opens for dinner at 5:30, and at 6:00, we were the first or second party to arrive, but within 20 minutes the restaurant was packed.
The service started out fast, with a server coming several times to ask what we wanted to order before I was ready--the menu was extensive and I tend to order by process of elimination, so it took me a while. Also, the first two pages were entirely in Japanese, which, unfortunately, I don't read (or speak). I don't know if the English pages that followed were a translation or a separate menu. Overall, the service seemed busy and somewhat indifferent.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Eventually, I decided on a Japanese cucumber salad with barley miso, black cod with miso, sweet and spicy fried chicken, and pan sauteed scallops. The service for the rest of the night was a bit slow and erratic--my scallops came first, then the chicken a few minutes later, then the cod, and when I was almost finished with my food, the cucumber salad. I wish the salad would have come first--cucumbers taste more interesting at the beginning of a meal, I think. The cool presentation of the salad somewhat made up for its lateness, however, and the barley miso was interesting in that I've only had store bought barley miso which does not actually have barley pieces in it. This did--I'm not sure if it was barley miso paste mixed with barley, or an earlier, less fermented and not-yet- ground-up version of barley miso. Hmm. As far as flavor, if I had made this salad, I would have used a bowl rather than a plate, sliced the cucumbers, and put the miso on top, to be tossed by the customer. Putting a dab of miso on each cucumber chunk was somewhat unweildy, and the long strips of cucumber were difficult to eat with the miso, or with chopsticks, for that matter (at least for me-- since I didn't grow up with them, lifting large or heavy things like tempura with chopsticks is a challenge). I also think cucumbers taste better sliced because the skin is less noticeable.
I liked the scallops, but they were chewier than any other scallops I have had. I wasn't sure if it was because they weren't very high quality or because they were a different kind of scallop. I'm kind of leaning towards the latter. I wasn't sure I had been brought the correct scallop dish--there were two, one which was sauteed in butter (which I ordered) and another that was pan-fried. These had some breading on them, but also came in a sauce, that tasted more like miso than butter. Hmm. I'm confused, but the dish was pretty good.
Sweet and spicy fried chicken pieces
This chicken was quite good. It kind of reminded me of orange chicken, but it had a different spicy kick, and wasn't as saucy. I highly recommend this dish and wish we'd ordered two plates.
Black cod with miso
Tied with the chicken for my favorite dish was the cod, which was simply excellent, and exactly what I needed to satisfy my several days' worth of cravings for cooked fish. It was sweet, served very hot, and very flakey. Bad or poorly cooked cod can easily be rubbery, but this wasn't at all.
Most of the dishes are small and inexpensive--probably the most expensive things were $9, but many were $5 or under. The dishes we ordered, including tax and tip, came to about $28. They fed two people with small appetites--the average person could easily spend $28 on themselves, I imagine (with water to drink). Though most of the menu consists of meat and fish dishes, there are quite a few tofu dishes and salads.
The restaurant had a couple of major shortcomings, in my opinion. The tables are crammed together and the chairs were hard and uncomfortable, plus the table has this wierd little shelf under it that kept hitting me in the knees. It's also very crowded and somewhat noisy, and the music is slightly dated and a tad too loud. The food arrived haphazardly and out of order, and it took forever for us to pay our bill. The food was good and cheap though, so I'd be willing to give the restaurant another chance, or better yet, get takeout.
2068 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Cross Street: Mississippi