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While pupusas, tacos, mariscos and Jumbo Jacks abound, vegetables are hard to come by on the strip of Figueroa Street where Cypress Park meets Highland Park. Enter: Ayta Grill. The small Japanese “Teriyaki House & Tea Room” (Note: I didn’t see any actual tea on my visit) opened last month, gaining attention for its roof-bound Bruce Lee statue, but the real draw is simple plates of meat, rices and fresh veggies.
The menu has zero frills. Choices include steak, salmon, shrimp and chicken, curry or no curry, vegetables or no vegetables. Portions are satisfying, the meat is well-cooked and flavorful, and the broccoli-carrot-squash-cabbage medley doesn’t have that over-steamed mushiness you’ve come to expect from Asian fast food joints—they’re actually some crispiness to speak of. Prices range from $5-$9.
If there’s any extravagance here, it’s their fruity drinks. We sampled all four flavors and settled on the sweet cantaloupe, which brightened up the whole meal. Ask for their green sauce, a creamy mix of Serrano peppers, cilantro, and potatoes that adds the perfect spicy kick to the teriyaki flavor.
Mount Washington residents will eat this place up.
4017 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, Ca 90065
If there’s one restaurant I’ve been urged to write about lately, it’s Masacasa. This gem of a Japanese cafe in Eagle Rock is hidden in a little strip mall, but its low profile hasn’t kept it from fast becoming a neighborhood favorite. That’s because the menu at Masacasa is simple and well-edited, the prices are affordable and the flavors are spot on.
There are plenty of little bites to be had at Masacasa. They offer a selection of onigiri (filled rice balls), sushi rolls and sozai (side dishes). We opted to begin with kabocha, sizable chunks simmered pumpkin served cold and dotted with sesame seeds. The Japanese lunch staple made for a sweet, savory and refreshing start. Although, I did regret not adding plum onigiri to the mix.
There’s something going on in the 99 Cents Store parking lot in Highland Park. And it involves food. Every Tuesday night from 5:30 to 9, Figueroa Produce hosts Din Din A Go Go, billed as a “weekly food truck feast” with vegan-friendly options. A little more than a month old, the event has become an event, attracting a wide variety of local Highland Park residents—young folks, old folks, hipsters, families and more than a few dog owners.
I made my way over last Tuesday and, after finagling a parking space, I found a good selection of quality food trucks, including Ahn-Joo, the popular Korean snack bar on wheels, Lomo Arigato, serving Peruvian-Japanese fusion, The Dim Sum Truck and the Filipino Tapa Boy. Also present was a really friendly vibe aided by the most popular conversation starter of the night: “where’d you get that?”
When I was younger, I had no sense of nutrition. I ate terribly unhealthy things—tons of fast food—all the time. Taco Bell and Denny’s were freaking delicious to me. Cringe. Then, I got older and realized that, for one, most fast food is not actually food, and two, healthy stuff is more satisfying in the long run.
Who would have thought?
That’s not to say I don’t indulge. As demonstrated frequently on this blog, I can be a major grubber. I love burgers, ice cream, most anything involving bacon, and other food stuff that sins are made of. I’m just more balanced now, and I mostly steer clear of the over-processed mumbo jumbo that they’re allowed to call food these days.
A line for a restaurant doesn’t really mean much. Go to any Cheesecake Factory in town if you don’t believe me. But in the case of Daikokuya in Downtown LA’s Little Tokyo, the long wait is a legit sign.
Our wait was 45 minutes (it was a Thursday night at 8pm), but well worth it. We had the signature Daikoko Ramen, which comes with very tender strips of black pork belly with a pleasing amount of fat–you can request extra back fat if you’re interested. The broth is nice and opaquely thick, and it should be considering it’s cooked down all night and then mixed with Daikokuya’s own soup base and soy sauce mixture.