Restaurant Review #108: Cobras and Matadors, La Brea

Bacon wrapped prawns, or the last thing I'd ever eat

Cobras and Matadors is a small, cramped, boisterous restaurant. Light bulbs whose filament barely glows orange flank the booths against each wall, and the walls are decorated with hills of used wine corks and large black and white photographs in black frames. Even on a Tuesday night at 8:00, the restaurant was nearly full, including the four or so patio tables, and we were glad to have reservations.

It was rather chilly, and the table we were seated at was right in front of the door. I wasn't too happy about this, but somehow a visit to the wine store warmed me up and I didn't freeze through my meal. At the Hollywood location of C&M, you can hit up the adjacent wine store after ordering your food, and bring it back to the table to drink. Corkage is a reasonable $5, and the wines are also much less expensive than you would expect to pay if they were on a wine list. The man working in the wine store was confident, relaxed, and friendly, and had the air of being its owner. The red wine and the sherry he recommended were both excellent. He worked with my friend's price range and taste preferences to help us choose. You'll get child-sized drinking glasses for your wine, but this didn't seem to interfere with the flavor too much, and I hear you can request stems if you wish.

Patatas fritas (fried potatoes), not to be confused with French fries

This simple dish was one of the winners of the night. The yellow sauce in the foreground is alioli, or garlic mayonaise, and the red sauce in the background was a spicy, tomatoey, peppery concoction. Just don't expect long strings when you order these patatas fritas. There was also a sweet potato variation.

Jamon and manchego croquettes

Croquettes were one of my favorite dishes in Spain. My first morning there, I accidentally ate an uncooked one that was sitting on the counter at my host family's house, thinking that it was some sort of Spanish breakfast item that I wasn't familiar with but that had been left out for me. Even uncooked, they were awfully good, and I only figured out that they were meant to be cooked when they were served up deep fried at lunchtime. Cobras and Matadors croquettes really don't compare to Celia's home cooking--they were on the dry side. Also, they didn't particularly taste like manchego. I was pretty satisfied with them overall, though. They came with the same red dipping sauce as the potatoes. While the sauce seemed appropriate for the potatoes, it was really too strong for the croquettes, as it completely masked their flavor.

Bacalao (salt cod) cakes with alioli

I also really liked the bacalao cakes, perhaps in part because it's just so fun to say "bacalao." It was also exciting to be able to eat something that was like a crab cake (minus the sweetness), but that wouldn't make me sick. They were quite salty, but then, everything was, and all Spanish food seems overly salted to me.

Bread and cheese plate

All of the cheeses had that "hey, this is from the cheese store, not the grocery store" flavor to them, meaning that they were all good. If you're a cheese glutton like I am, I don't recommend sharing this plate. It came with a sweet apple spread, which was a welcome break from all the saltiness.

I also tried the grilled octopus, not pictured here because it was so unphotogenic. It might have been good, but it was so overcooked that it was nearly black on the outside (did I order blackened octopus?). The narrow ends of the tentacles were essentially just burnt nubs, while the thicker middle portions were basically just chewy and blackened. I think this dish could have been better had it been cooked properly. The marinated button mushrooms that accompanied it were tangy and spicy. Was the octopus supposed to taste like that as well?

Funny, I never ate French toast in Spain

Maybe they only do that regionally. I didn't know French toast could be a dessert either, but my friends told me that in France, it is. The question is, what do they call it there? Surely they don't just call it toast. It was excellent, as it was soaked in something that made the bread incredibly moist. The strawberry and fresh whipped cream were also delightful.

Has the chef been to Spain? These churros are Mexican!

I was a little disappointed by my churros y chocolate as the churros were coated with cinnamon and sugar. My friend, who has also been to Spain, concurred that she had never eaten such a churro in Spain, but that they were plain, kind of like a funnel cake (but less greasy). The chocolate was fine, though. This kind of chocolate is meant for dipping your churros and is thinner than a melted chocolate bar but thicker and less milky than most hot cocoa.

Overall, I had a hard time concentrating on my food because of the crowded, noisy atmosphere and low lighting. Some say that in such an atmosphere, these elements are meant to distract from less than compelling food. I don't think that was the intention here, but it still had the same effect. I would like to say that I would go back at a less crowded time, but given that Tuesday is traditionally the slowest night for restaurants, and 8:00 is somewhat late, I'm not sure when I would go (Monday at 6:00? They don't serve lunch). If you want a quieter table, you should consider sitting outside, if it's not chilly. Yes, I think that even with the noise of a major street, it would be quieter. The service was mostly fine but unmemorable; however, they never refilled our water, which was particularly noticeable since the food was so salty. We got lucky and parked on a side street, but you might need to use the valet service.

The food was pretty good, though Spanish food has never been my favorite because of its incredible saltiness. I might go back though, if another wave of nostalgia hits.

Cobras and Matadors
7615 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036


Restaurant Review #107: Lollicup, Saawtelle, West LA - CLOSED

Lollicup is, as far as I can tell, the largest chain boba shop in the country. For this reason, I intentionally avoided it for the first year and a half or so that I lived here.

But then, Volcano Tea started serving boba that wasn't quite fresh. And Upper House only serves those huge cups, and has a somewhat limited flavor selection. So I tried Lollicup.

Lollicup offers both a regular and a large size. They have an extensive selection of flavors and textures (by textures, I mean snow, slush, tea, etc). They also sell steamed pork buns, a couple of pastries, soda, coffee, pudding, and prepackaged Japanese snacks like Pocki and shrimp crackers. There are three booths in the back, three tables in the front, and four amazingly uncomfortable tables outside.

They have free WiFi (which works just fine at the outside tables). There is a community bulletin board, mostly promoting area nightlife and helping people sell services from English lessons to voice lessons. Like any place with a blender, it's noisy, and not a place where I would want to hang out and chat. The loud and very repetitive pop music makes matters even worse.

Lollicup offers some less common flavors like watermelon and canteloupe, and with the exception of one visit, the boba has always been fresh and my drink prepared with the proper ratio of liquid to ice. I won't try to tell you which flavors are good and which aren't, because it's really a matter of personal preference, but I am partial to taro and canteloupe. It should be noted that though the menu has separate sections for slush/icy and snow/smoothie, there doesn't seem to be any difference in the way they are prepared.

Lollicup is consistent, at the very least, and though the ambience can range from okay to barely tolerable, it's no worse and probably somewhat better than the other options on Sawtelle.

2012 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Website (with menu)
Mon-Thur 11am-midnight
Fri, Sat 11am-1am
Sun noon-11pm


Restaurant Review #106: Mizu 212, Sawtelle, West LA

Light my fire, baby

Ok, I'll be honest. The only reason I went to Mizu 212 is because there was already a line at Asahi (at 5:00 on Saturday), there was already an even worse line at Hide Sushi (have I mentioned that I've tried to go to both of these places about 5 times each, and always I am thwarted by the line?), and Orris wasn't open yet. Also, one of my anonymous readers was curious about my opinion of the place, and I was in the mood to eat at a place I hadn't reviewed yet. So Mizu 212 it was.

We easily got a spot at the counter--the restaurant was only about 1/3 full when we arrived. Our psychic host seated me exactly where I wanted to sit--at the empty end of the counter. We hung our coats on the coat rack--all the seats are stools (the two tables I saw had post-its that said they were unavailable due to remodeling), and you can't hang your coat on a stool--you'd have to sit on it or throw it on the floor. Including a coat rack was good thinking.

Good thinking reigns at Mizu 212, it seems. The layout is aesthetically pleasing. There is a decent amount of space between stools (which are bolted to the floor--my friend didn't like this, but I didn't mind). A server gets your pot of water boiling as soon as you sit down, and refills it halfway through your meal to account for the water that has been lost to steam. The jazz music is neither too soft nor too loud, too cheesy nor too trendy. The only issue I had was that the pots of boiling water seemed a bit out of reach. I guess that's probably for safety purposes, but if long-limbed me is straining, they're too far away.

Veggies, tofu, and udon to go with my meat

Menu choices are limited--this is strictly a shabu shabu joint, and nothing more. You can get chicken, beef, veggies, or assorted seafood (shrimp, crab, salmon, and scallops). All of the meat/seafood plates come with a side of veggies (pictured above), while the veggie plate is essentially the sides. I would not be happy eating here if I were a vegetarian, since a large portion of that plate consists of bok choy and cabbage. Mmm, boiled cabbage. All meals also come with your choice of white or brown rice, at no extra charge. You can get a regular or an extra large plate, but if you want to share either, there is a $4 charge for your own portion of rice and dipping sauces (not sure if this charge is optional). I found one regular plate to be enough to fill me up (without consuming much rice).

You get two dipping sauces: ponzu and sesame. I really didn't like the sesane sauce, as it tasted like sawdust with a hint of peanut. The ponzu sauce was good though. I wished there had been more dipping sauces, but I'm not sure that would be consistent with traditional shabu shabu. I base this statement on my experience at the now defunct Shige, which also had two dipping sauces similar to the ones at Mizu 212. I guess if I were a real food critic, I'd research that. Ah, the joys of working for myself and not getting paid.

So how does this shabu shabu thing work? For those of you who don't know, you get a plate of thinly sliced raw meat, which you then boil very briefly in a pot of water at your table. You also get veggies. Any flavor your dish will have comes from two dipping sauces and a few condiments--chopped scallions, grated daikon, red pepper seasoning. The meat cooks incredibly quickly--within seconds. You have to watch it carefully to avoid overcooking it. Then you use a spoon or your chopsticks to pull the meat out of the water. Since wood can't be sterilized, I would recommend using one pair of chopsticks to toss the raw meat in the water, and another pair (or a spoon) to pull it out. Neither of the restaurants I've had shabu shabu at have seemed concerned about food poisoning from raw meat though, so maybe I'm wrong about something here. Feel free to enlighten me.

Much more appetizing than it looked in Lost in Translation

We ordered one plate of chicken and one of beef. The chicken wasn't too exciting, but then, is that really a surprise? Boiled chicken. Yum. The beef was quite good however, as the high fat content gave it a lot of flavor. The accompanying veggie plate was disappointing, as the only things on the plate that were capable of adding flavor to my meal were the 4 bites of shiitake mushroom. The veggies take longer to cook than the meat, so toss those in the water first if you want to eat the two together.

I also ordered a side of kim chee. I had a feeling my taste buds would need some perking up. I liked it, but I'm not Korean, and not well-versed in what makes kim chee authentic/good.

Overall, Mizu 212 is a good place to eat a healthy, creative meal. The service is good and the atmosphere is perfect. However, flavor-wise, shabu shabu seems pretty dull to me. (The lemonade didn't taste like much, either.)

Relevant trivia: shabu shabu means swish swish, which is a reference to the sound of cooking your food in boiling water. 212 is the temperature at which water boils.

Mizu 212
2000 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025


Restaurant Review #105: Cha Cha Chicken, Santa Monica

Jerk chicken enchiladas with fried plantains, rice, and beans

Normally I don't like chicken enchiladas (the chicken takes up space where there could be cheese, after all) but I like enchiladas, and wanted to try some kind of jerk chicken without actually having to eat a plate of chicken. Jerk chicken enchiladas were the obvious choice.

My vegetarian friend got the jerk veggie burrito, but wasn't too excited about it. I, however, was quite excited about my enchiladas. They were on the small side, but with the rice, beans, and plantains, I still had leftovers. The nice thing about the smaller portion than you get at Mexican restaurants was that I didn't feel heavy and stuffed. The jerk flavor seems to largely be found in the enchilada sauce, which is a tasty, sweet, and slightly tangy sauce. The accompanying rice and beans didn't taste like much, and for some reason were cooked together (maybe it's a Carribean thing). The fried plantains are good, as all fried plantains are, but I wish they would have given me more than two small pieces--it's not the raw ingredients or the preparation are pricey, after all.

I had a canteloupe agua fresca to drink--yum! It was much sweeter and much less watery than the aguas frescas I am accustomed to, which are more like fruit-flavored water. This was more like a full-blown fruit juice. I loved the flavor and the tiny bits of canteloupe letting me know that there was actual fruit in my drink, but I actually would have liked it to be a little less sweet and more watery, since I don't care for fruit juice. But still--canteloupe!!! It's one of my favorite flavors (especially for gelato), and you hardly ever see it. All drinks are served in disposable plastic cups--you know, the kind you used to drink out of in college. If you want to drink the free water, you only get a tiny cup. Panera does that too, and I abhor the practice.

Cha Cha Chicken is one of the only restaurants that has patio seating only

Cha Cha's setup is a little confusing if you're a first-timer. When you walk in, head to your right to order at the counter. If you don't see a menu, look around on the counter for some laminated, brightly colored pages. They'll bring your food to your table. The tables are all outside and pretty effectively separated from the noise of Ocean Avenue by brightly colored oil drums with large plants growing out of them. Umbrellas, more plants, and brightly colored decor create a festive, tropical atmosphere. My only complaint was that the umbrella didn't block out the sun very well, so I had to shade my eyes with my hand the whole time, even though I was wearing sunglasses.

They have a tiny lot (4 spaces or so) but at this time of year, 2 hour parking meters on Ocean are plentiful. In tourist season though, you might have a hard time parking here.

Overall, the food was good and cheap, and I would go back. I'm not sure I have any better grasp on what Carribean food is than I did before I went, though. Surely it's about more than jerk chicken? Maybe I should try that Royal Carribean place on Broadway. Has anyone been?

Total cost: $10 (and I had a small box of leftovers, but I wasn't very hungry)

By the way, if any of you are canteloupe fans like me, you can get a canteloupe drink at Lollicup and sometimes at Tapioca Express. I haven't tried either yet, but I believe the one at Tapioca Express uses fresh canteloupe. Also, Rose Market sells a canteloupe and something (rosewater?) ice cream, but the other flavor takes away from the canteloupe flavor.

Cha Cha Chicken
1906 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90405


Restaurant Review #104: Barney's Beanery, Santa Monica

Barbecued cheeseburger with bacon

I went to Barney's with some fellow burger-lovers because of the restaurant's extensive burger menu. The burger menu actually isn't that extensive when you look at it more closely, however. It reads something like this:

Cheeseburger with bacon
Barbecued hamburger
Barbecued cheeseburger
Barbecued cheeseburger with bacon

and later on:

Chili burger
Chili cheeseburger
Chili bacon burger
Chili bacon cheeseburger
Chili, guacamole and cheese burger

You get the idea.

A disproportionate number of their burgers involve either chili or guacamole, which I think sounds completely repulsive. Granted, I hate chili, but I do love guac, so I feel somewhat unbiased in my assessment, even though I didn't try either (yeah, yeah).

I ordered a barbecued bacon cheeseburger. See, I passionately, passionately hate bacon, but I really like it on burgers and potato skins. Weird, I know. I ordered my burger medium well, which I know is blasphemous, but I didn't eat red meat for so many years that I just can't get over the pink meat thing--if it's still pink, it can't be ready to eat, can it? What if it starts bleeding, or worse, mooing, on my plate?

So yes, my burger was dry, but based on my extensive experience cooking burgers at home, I attribute the dryness to either the cooking method or to using meat with a low fat content. There's no excuse for a dry burger, no matter how you like it cooked. My homemade, pan-fried burgers with blue cheese, cumin, and kosher salt are plenty juicy (or perhaps just greasy, but that works for me). My friend had to send back her burger, it was so overdone.

Parmesan Burger--but that's not parmesan, that's provolone!

My other friend's parmesan burger had not a trace, not a hint of parmesan. Huh? The thick cut cajun fries were tasty and also made good leftovers when reheated in the toaster oven, but I thought that charging 35 cents extra for the cajun seasoning was pretty lame. Barney's also charges 35 cents extra for grilled onions on your burger, and 50 cents extra if you want a kind of cheese that isn't American. I hate the "build your own burger, but it will cost you" philosophy espoused by Barney's and the Library.

A major redeeming factor at Barney's (and the Library, hmm) is their massive beer list. I had a delicious Fat Tire (my long-time lover) and a raspberry cider from Canada, which was like a less sugary, more intersting alternative to Smirnoff Ice. There are no prices on the beer list, which is divided by region, but our beers ended up being $6 each, which is reasonable in Los Angeles (but just plain mean in St. Louis).

If you're not a burger fan, Barney's also makes, well, everything. Their menu is actually a small newspaper about the size of the Santa Monica Daily Press. Anyone could find something to eat here, including vegetarians.

The atmosphere is a lot like Chili's--noisy with tons of crap on the walls. There are also tons of TV's. If you sit at one of the booths lining the walls, you'll have four TV's to look at, so no matter what game you were hoping to catch, it will probably be on. Needless to say, I wouldn't take a date here, unless I wanted to get dumped for being a jackass.

Overall, Barney's isn't my kind of place--I could barely hear my friends across the table, which caused me to resign myself to watching the Nuggets fight through OT2 and checking out my old pal Sam Cassell swishing some free throws. Fortunately, I love basketball.

Barney's Beanery
1351 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Website (with complete menu)


Restaurant Review #103: Hamasaku, West LA

Hamachi and uni

My friend Melanie of Daily Guilt has 101 goals, and one of them is to eat something she finds disgusting. So when she asked for ideas when we were out at Hamasaku, I suggested monkfish liver or sea urchin (uni). She chose the sea urchin, which I could blessedly bow out of trying due to my shellfish issues. Apparently, sea urchin is very runny and oozy, kind of like a fried egg. I told her that being Hamasaku, it was probably high quality uni, so if she didn't like it here, she wouldn't like it anywhere.

Almost all of Hamasaku's fish is excellent. I say almost because they don't do anything much with their octopus or giant clam (eaten on a previous visit) but then, it's hard to do them well. Giant clam is so unexpectedly crunchy that the experience seems to be more about texture than flavor, but since it doesn't have much flavor on it's own, I'd like to see a chef do something about that.

Likewise, octopus is quite chewy, but a dab of wasabi and soy sauce just isn't the right combination to enhance its flavor. The hamachi (yellowtail) is excellent though--I prefer the clean, pure light pink cuts of fish, as they're more tender than the cuts containing dark red (sorry, but I don't understand the makeup of fish well enough to explain this any better). The albacore also looked delicious, but I didn't order it myself since my roar roll had albacore.

Roar roll

What distinguishes Hamasaku from the myriad other sushi restaurants in LA is its incredibly lengthy list of innovative (some might say blasphemous) rolls. As I mentioned above, I don't do shellfish, so for me, it's easy to choose. What roll doesn't have shellfish? Then, most of the things that don't have shellfish have spicy tuna, which I hate, so those get eliminated. This leaves about four options: the roar roll (albacore, apple, crispy tempura bits, and some kind of dark, sweet sauce); the yellowtail submarine (yellowtail wrapped in cucumber with some tangyish mayo-like sauce); the Elizabeth roll (mango, cucumber, asparagus, and apple wrapped in rice paper); and the candy roll (tempura scallops, cucumber, and a mayo-based mustardy sauce with rice on the outside). I think there was also another vegetarian roll, but I can't remember. Maybe I should start taking notes (but for me, eating out is first about fun, even if I'm reviewing). A lot of the rolls are named for stars, like the Sarah Michelle Gellar roll. Is that a combination of ingredients that Sarah is particularly fond of, or what one chef thought she would taste like if she were a sushi roll? Hmm.

While most of the regular sushi menu and the lunch and dinner plates are on the website, this list of rolls is not, unfortunately. Since I'm incredibly indecisive, it's almost a good thing to have most of the options taken away from me. I haven't attempted to order one of the shellfish rolls sans shellfish (most rolls contain multiple kinds of fish, meaning there would still be plenty of substance to a roll that left out the crab) because I don't want to risk it. Hamasaku does have a bare minimum of vegetarian options, meaning that I wouldn't choose this restaurant if I were a vegetarian, but if I found myself eating here at the behest of my fish-eating friends, I wouldn't go hungry.

On my past two visits, the roar roll had been a big winner, but this time it fell short. The albacore was cold (oh, how I hate when my food just came out of the fridge) and the sauce seemed different--thicker and more dominant, when it didn't need to be.

Japanese Jewish Pizza, Part II--yes, that's really what it's called

I wanted to venture into the hot dishes this time, so I ordered the Japanese Jewish pizza. As you can see, it really is presented like a pizza, and the flavors of ricotta cheese, avocado, black miso, smoked salmon, and yellowtail (I think) and a very thin, cracker-like crust are meant to taste pizza-like when eaten all at once. Unfortuantely, it's quite difficult to get this concoction into your mouth all at once without making a mess, because there's no gooey mozarella to glue the ingredients together. I settled for eating it piece by piece, but I wasn't that into it. I just don't care for smoked salmon anymore, and I think it has too strong of a flavor for the other mellow ingredients that comprise this dish.

The Elizabeth Roll

Personally, I really like seaweed, and a roll isn't a roll without that seaweed flavor, so the Elizabeth roll really wasn't for me--but that's why I didn't order it. My friend must have enjoyed it though, because it was gone before I remembered to ask her if I could try a bite!

Candy roll

The candy roll was my favorite item of the night--I discovered that tempura scallops make a decent substitute for fried shrimp (says the girl who hasn't touched a fried shrimp in years). I think this roll could have benefitted from some mango, to add tang to flavors that otherwise were pretty similar (scallop, tempura, rice) but overall the dish was very good.


The prices are a bit steep here--the multi-ingredient rolls range in price from $15-21. When I went here for my birthday, I had sake and all the sushi I could stuff in my rather small stomach for $83 (tax and tip included)--so consider that a maximum for an average eater drinking Geikkikan (the sake seems incongruous with my eating and drinking habits, you might think, but in some ways my food habits are not so high-end). On this visit, however, I only consumed about $50 worth of food. The rolls may be pricey, but at least they're filling.

I've always had the same friendly female server, and the service has always been truly top-notch. The food arrives swiftly, and I never feel like our table has been forgotten about, whether it's time to order, time to get my water refilled, or time to pay the bill. I would recommend making reservations a few days in advance if you'll be eating here on a weekend night, especially if you want to eat at a peak time and you don't want to have a time limit on your table.

Although this is supposedly a restaurant that lots of celebrities eat at, it doesn't feel pretentious or snooty (not that I would recognize them--I know so little about pop culture that sometimes I question my nationality).

There's free valet parking (hey, it's West LA), or you can try your luck at street parking if you hate handing over your keys as much as I do (sometimes the valet will let you park your car yourself, though).

By the way, if you're plotting to kill me, shellfish won't do the trick. (Who do I think I am--Veronica Mars?)


11043 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Website (warning, plays music)
Their website has a partial menu and some fantastic photos of the restaurant's interior.


Restaurant Review #102: Yakitoria, West LA

Assorted Japanese Pickles-daikon, carrot, and eggplant

When you walk into Yakitoria, everyone will turn and stare at you for a good, long, fifteen seconds--or at least, that's what happened to me. My friend and I continued to stand awkwardly in the lack of space in front of the door while we waited for what felt like forever, but was probably about two minutes, for someone to seat us. There was no dedicate host, but he or she wouldn't have had any space to set up a stand, anyway. Did we have a reservation? No. I guess it didn't matter though. We got a table for two near the door, and no one who came in after us had a reservation either (we were within earshot), and they all got seated.

The restaurant is very small, even by Sawtelle standards. There are somewhere between five and eight tables (my memory is a bit fuzzy on this) and a small bar that seats maybe eight or ten people. The decor is nice--dark wood tables and yellow ochre walls--but the white tile and black caulk floor detracts from what would otherwise be a very elegant interior.

Chicken wrapped shishito pepper yakitori

Here's the kicker.

At Yakitoria, you can either order a minimum of 5 pieces of yakitori (featured above) at $2.50 each, or you can pay a $2.00 service charge. Period.

None of the yakitori are vegetarian (though they offer an assortment of chicken wrapped vegetables, so you could probably request just vegetables without chicken), and my friend is a vegetarian, so she didn't want any yakitori. I just wanted one skewer, since I've never had this stuff before and didn't know if Idl like it, and because I don't like meat enough to eat several skewers of it, regardless.

So she ordered a $7 bowl of soup, and I ordered a $9.50 plate of ravioli and one yakitori. We also ordered some pickles, which were $5.50.

I assumed that the 5 sticks of yakitori policy was to ensure a minimum order, and I figured that with our food averaging just over $12 a person, there would be no problem, right?

Wrong! $2 service charge unless you order five sticks of yakitori. Period. What??? I would have asked for an explanation for this seemingly ludicrous policy, but our server's English didn't seem great, so I decided not to ask. I must admit that this policy made me pretty mad, and between that and the lack of vegetarian options on the menu, I almost left. But I couldn't do it, because I was really looking forward to my ravioli, and I was really hungry.

Rice and seaweed soup with wasabi

My friend thought her soup was good, and tasted healthy, but wasn't anything exciting. I thought it was pretty bland, and really wished it hadn't been the lone vegetarian option. Most Japanese restaurants have plenty of vegetarian options, so I didn't even think about investigating before we went.

I wouldn't recommend this dish, especially because it's almost guaranteed to give you a seaweed-toothed smile due to the numerous tiny seaweed flakes floating in the broth. Since I have an unnatural fear of having food stuck between my teeth, tasting the soup was a challenge for me!

The pickles were good, though for $5.50 the portion seemed awfully small. The thinly sliced carrots had a slippery smooth texture that I didn't know a carrot could have--kind of like a cucumber, but smoother. The tangy pieces of eggplant were my favorite. The daikon was also good, though it didn't have a particularly pickley flavor (neither did the carrots).

Duck and shiitake ravioli with truffle oil and...celery leaves?

Oh, boy, this ravioli was good! The pasta seemed homemade and you can't go wrong with truffle oil. Interestingly, I couldn't detect the duck at all. The filling was minced, and nothing had a meaty texture to it at all. The leaves made a pretty garnish, but I'm not sure they were meant to be eaten, since they didn't add anything to the flavor of the dish. The ravioli was served only lukewarm though, which made it slightly less tasty. Also, when I got sick later, I wondered if it was because of the temperature of my food. I couldn't tell you if I got some sort of food poisoning, or if some kind of shellfish snuck into my meal somehow. I only mention it because if a bunch of my readers have had the same experience, that will tell us something about the restaurant. Otherwise, please consider it an isolated incident and don't let it deter you.

My one piece of yakitori did nothing to convince me that I should be required to order five of them. You don't get much food for the price, and though I saw the chef dip the skewers in something and sprinkle them with something before grilling them, they tasted like plain grilled chicken and peppers.

I don't get it. Maybe one of you will enlighten me.

Overall, I might have gone back for the yummy ravioli, but since I got sick, I won't. The five stick policy seems bizarre and unaccomodating, the service wasn't amazing, and the restaurant is pretty loud for its size.

And, guess what? I can't find anything about this place online, and I didn't pick up a card, so I can't give you the address or phone number. It's right next to Kiriko on Sawtelle (across the street from Nijaya Market). If someone has the address, please let me know!