>> Fukagawa | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Fukagawa

JAPAN 🇯🇵
The front window and signage

COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room has fully reopened. A couple tables are also available for seating outside.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2018 featuring the breakfast bentos. An August 2021 update includes some of what is available for dinner.

When staying in the South Bay city of Gardena, eating some Japanese is a must. The community survived the WWII internment regime and repopulated this area that had seen immigration start back in the 1900's. Today, nondescript and unflashy Japanese restaurants are everywhere here, making it the go-to destination for Japanese-Americans with good, traditional meals available from breakfast to late-night slurps.

Lined up bottles of sake and other spirits
Drinking options.

Hidden in the back corner of the mostly-Japanese business-occupied Pacific Square Shopping Center, Fukagawa serves four similar bento-style breakfasts in the morning hours and nothing else. At these hours it is very quiet and mostly patronized by Japanese locals who come alone or in pairs.
 
Until 2014, the US census cited the City of Gardena as the place with the highest percentage of Japanese-Americans in California. A large selection of Japanese alcohols and a happy hour mean this place is crowded with tables of salarymen in the evening.

Breakfast bento plate "D"

Go for option D (above), which includes everything. Fried mackerel, dashimaki egg, natto, miso soup, and rice. Even the miso soup is no afterthought here, deeply satisfying and delicious.

A bowl of fresh natto
A bowl of "fresh" natto.

Fried mackerel
Fried mackerel.

Coming later in the day and night is rewarded with a very large full menu and a more acceptable time to get into the large sake selections. Plenty of small plate starters are available and executed with the confidence you would expect from Fukagawa.

The agedashi tofu ($7.75, below) is simple and delicious. Firm blocks of tofu are lightly dusted with potato starch and deep fried, then rest in a tentsuyu broth made with dashi, mirin, and shoyu.

Agedashi tofu

Tanuki udon served hot

Besides the name of the restaurant, the window also has the words "soba & udon" in it, an invitation to try some more things and stack them against some of the better purveyors of each in the area. After one bowl of tanuki udon ($12.75 for dinner, above), there would be no hesitation to order it again.

Bowls of both udon and soba can be served either hot or cold, and in kanto or kansai style. Since there are over a dozen ingredient choices, this makes for an enormous variety of ways to eat your noodles. The bowl above is served hot and in the kansai style, a lighter broth combining soy sauce and salt. Kanto style is sweeter with a denser dark soy sauce and sugar.

Just as during breakfast and lunch, the combo sets are popular for dinner as well and great value at anytime of day. The steak combo dinner ($23.99 small, above) can be ordered with 6oz (shown) or 8oz of meat, and comes with the choice of soba or udon. Soba seems to be the best selection for combo meals, the light, chewy homemade noodles and dipping sauce pairing well with all the other components.

The salad, delicious miso soup, and even the bowl of white Japanese rice are all of the highest quality. A fresh California roll is the final piece of the puzzle and perfect. If there is a weakest link to the whole thing, it might be the steak itself, but this is a stretch because it is also enjoyable.



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