>> I-naba Japanese Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Sunday, 18 October 2020

I-naba Japanese Restaurant


[COVID-19 UPDATE: Open for pickup/takeout and has added family sets and special bento boxes. Check their Instagram for seasonal additions. There are about six tables on their covered patio which are quite comfortable with the cool Torrance air.]

While folks in The Valley are suffering some of summer's worst heat waves, and most of Los Angeles is forced to move at the speed of a sloth, the air in Torrance has a way of being fresh and cool no matter what. Sitting outside here is a joy, the only thing that must be given up is losing the sight of your tempura chefs at the special counters indoors.

If I-naba was in Japan, it would be in a small alley of a medium city, the type of place that has the usual regulars and a smattering of out-of-towners that have heard about it through friends. Because it is in Torrance, it resides in a medium-sized shopping center on an extra-wide boulevard, but still has the right feel once you take your seat.

At that seat, you will be the recipient of what feels like a spa day for your mouth. When a set of tempura, what I-naba is known for and best at, is placed before you, the royal treatment begins. In better times they have a repurposed sushi counter indoors set up for tempura only, and even do a tempura omakase, but for now it is mostly a la carte and takeout orders.

A simple order like the tempura set ($20, above and below) is enough to really understand how talented the tempura chef here is with the dish. This "basic" set comes with five pieces of expertly fried seafood and five equally delicious vegetable pieces. For dipping, there are three salts, curry and green tea-flavored versions flank large pieces of sea salt as seen above.

Amongst the vegetable tempura on any seating might be a shishito pepper, shitake mushroom, thin slices of potato and zucchini, and eggplant. Other items in season are sometimes swapped in and out. With such a light batter, not one piece tastes oily or greasy, much like the three snappy fresh shrimp and two pieces of fish (above) that are included. Dips into different salts and the house-made tempura dipping sauce make for such a variety of bites.

Even the small salad and miso soup that come with the set seem to be a cut above the rest. The rice is as sticky and pleasant as one can imagine.

Despite the cool, refreshing South Bay air, it has been a hot week and a cold kitsune soba ($10, above) soup was desired. Kitsune refers to the bean curd slices that top the buckwheat noodles, but on this occasion an addition of tororo (grated yam, +$2) was warranted. Any of their fresh toppings can be enjoyed with either soba or udon, but it is the former that truly excels at I-naba.

Either way, the broth is next level. The delicate handmade noodles capture the taste of everything so well. Each bite is a new pleasure to gather in the large spoon. While I-naba will boast about their sushi as well as the tempura and soba, mixed and sub-par reviews from smart folks have always kept it avoided on visits as it seems to degrade as it gets further from the restaurant's 2000 opening.

Draft beer and QR codes.


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