Sunday, August 17, 2008

All-Time Favorite Restaurants

Here's a list of my All-Time Favorite Restaurants. Please note that I'm not saying these are the "best" restaurants, only my "favorites." (^_~) These are restaurants that might have excelled in a single dish, or the entire meal, or provided a truly magical experience in one way or another.

1. Menya Kissou (Tokyo, Japan) - After having the amazingly fresh, handmade Ramen Noodles and Broth and Chashu, and the Hanjyuku Egg(!), it has completely ruined the notion of "Ramen" for me, especially in So Cal. For this one moment, on a beautiful Spring day in Tokyo, Japan, I had perfection in a bowl. (^_^)v

2. Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan) - Chef Seiji Yamamoto blew me away with his creative Modern Kaiseki experience. From the creativity of the food, to the incredible seasonal ingredients, to the best service I've ever experienced, it's easy to see why Ryugin has won so many accolades. Simply outstanding in every way.

3. Sushi Mizutani (Ginza, Tokyo, Japan) - Sitting in front of Mizutani-sensei, in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, and watching his knife skills as he prepares the purest Sushi you'll find anywhere... it's something to experience at least once. Sit back and enjoy the utter freshness of the fish, the quiet humility of Mizutani-sensei while he creates Sushi Perfection.

4. Urasawa (Beverly Hills, CA) - While people outside of L.A. continue to complain about the lack of any truly great restaurants in this fine city, I'll be quietly enjoying one of L.A.'s truly world-class dining experiences, with Chef Hiroyuki Urasawa. Urasawa-san is one of the most approachable and humble master chefs that I've ever met. A meal at Urasawa is an experience for the whole evening, celebrating Food and Life.

5. Hyotei (Kyoto, Japan) - The 300 year-old, traditional Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto is just... beautiful. Where else can you get your own Private Japanese Dining Room, complete with Private Japanese Garden(!), reserved for you and your guests for the entire evening? There's a natural tranquility, a purity of atmosphere and a feeling you've been transported back to ancient Japan, enjoying the delicious offerings from the local land and Mother Nature. (^_^)

6. Yakitori Bincho (Redondo Beach, CA) - You can almost taste the love and care that Tomo-san puts into each skewer of meat and vegetables... every dish I've had at Yakitori Bincho, from the completely made-from-scratch Zosui (Rice Porridge), to the wonderful Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls), to their legendary Yakitori... this is another L.A. Treasure. Currently, Yakitori Bincho has a modified menu due to City restrictions on cooking with charcoal (~_~), but their new menu has some great dishes as well. They're planning on moving when it's feasible. Here's to hoping they get to do Yakitori again soon!

7. Secret Tonkatsu Place (Tokyo, Japan) (^_~) - Absolutely wonderful Tonkatsu (Fried Pork Cutlet). The best I've ever had. One day I'll talk about my experience there... :)

8. Providence (L.A., CA) - Classy, modern, fresh interpretations of American Seafood, with a variety of influences from Asia to Europe. Chef Michael Cimarusti loves seafood and it shows. While the service may not reach the heights of Ryugin and other world-class restaurants, it still remains one of the best restaurants in L.A. for a fine dining experience.

9. Torihei (Torrance, CA) - Excellent, pure, light and airy Kyoto-style Oden, along with some wonderful Yakitori skewers in a humble setting make this restaurant a delight to visit again and again. Follow-up visits, here.

10. Sea Harbour (Rosemead, CA) - While its dinner may be lacking (but still excellent), Sea Harbour continues to deliver the best progressive Dim Sum in Los Angeles, and that deserves to be celebrated. Arrive early to beat the insanely long lines. :)


LuccaLucca said...

Just found your blog today. Love your comments....I had no idea that I could find someone who loves food as much as I do. I have a trip planned for Korea in Oct. but I was able to put Tokyo on my travel itinerary. Love you input for restaurants and I hope I get to experience some of the restaurants you have tried. Now I must know about your favorite Tonkatsu place. Oh my god....I'm in suspense to hear about your story. Please do tell.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi LuccaLucca,

Thanks. (^_^) Please report if you end up trying some of the restaurants in Japan (or find new ones - I'd love to hear about them :).

As for my Tonkatsu place, one day... :)

Darryl said...

My family and I are going to Japan in the winter (Jan), we're trusting you here ;). We're trying Menya Kissou, Sushi Mizutani and Ryugin. Our family loves Japanese food and absolutely love sushi. I love your reviews, very insightful and humourous in the same time.

PS. You must enlighten us of your secret tonkatsu place! I need to know of these secret place :P.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Darryl,

Thank you for your kind words. (^_^) That's great (about your Japan Trip)! :) In Jan / Winter, it should be pretty chilly, so at Menya Kissou, definitely go for a hot bowl of their Ramen over their Tsukemen. Otherwise, just relax and enjoy. (^_~)

I hope you have a fun time and please report back if you end up going to any of those places. Itterashai~ (^_^)/

Food, she thought. said...

Ryugin was on my short list when in Tokyo. I am sad that we never made it there, choosing Daidaiya instead, and a few others. Seeing it on your list makes me want to plan my next attack on Tokyo.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

Sorry to hear about Daidaiya; I wasn't aware of that restaurant, but thanks to your thoughtful post, I now know to avoid it (or look over their Japanese only menu and see if they might have other dishes that be more appetizing. :).

Ryugin is simply wonderful. A humble chef, classy, elegant without being pretentious. I highly recommend it. :)

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