Little Tokyo is one of my favorite dining destinations in the city. There are only three official Japantowns in the whole country (the others are in San Francisco and San Jose) and just like the rest of Downtown, our Little Tokyo has seen amazing revitalization over the past few years. There are not only a slew of great Japanese restaurants of every variety, but a veritable smorgasbord of pre- and post-meal activities to entertain and amuse you, including museums and galleries, secluded Japanese gardens, interesting shops, and karaoke.
Of all the restaurants in Little Tokyo, my favorite is Aburiya Toranoko. It was opened only a couple years ago by the same owners as its next door neighbor, Lazy Ox Canteen, and is both a high-end sushi bar and izakaya (i.e. Japanese gastropub). The design of the restaurant is über-hip and modern; very urban with chandeliers and a giant colorful mural on a long brick wall.
If you’re with a large group, you’ll need to get a table, but if you’re dining alone or with only one companion, the beautiful polished wooden sushi bar is the place to be. There you can witness the formidable skills of talented and charming sushi master Seiji Nakano. If you can afford it, go with the omakase and let Chef Nakano be your guide. In terms of izakaya fare, the incredible Uni Goma Tofu (sesame tofu topped with sea urchin) is an absolute must-have. I also highly recommend the Sumiyaki (grills meats and fish on skewers), especially the Miso Black Cod and the Tsukune (chicken meatball). The Jidori Kara-age (fried chicken) is also excellent. For dessert, I love the Green Tea Pudding and the Chocolate Lava Cake.
Aburiya Toranoko is located at 243 So. San Pedro St., Los Angeles (Downtown).