From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Mushroom Medley - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, and Chicken Karaage. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, grilled ahi tuna, or chicken with basil sauce until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
Gonpachi fashions its menu of authentic Japanese fare and Edomae (Tokyo-style) sushi from locally sourced ingredients, as well as authentic foodstuffs purchased from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. Gonpachi hand-pounds its soba noodles daily from buckwheat flour threshed and milled on the premises. These freshly noodled noodles can then be served chilled with a dipping sauce as seiro ($8) or in a hot broth as kake soba ($8–$9). Gonpachi in Beverly Hills also practices the slow-cooking robata-style, preparing delicacies such as Chilean sea bass ($6) and bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes ($3) over the gentle firelight of a traditional oak-charcoal pyramid. On the other end of the cooked spectrum, sushi fans can trap spicy tuna rolls ($5) between the bamboo chopsticks in their hands or the insect pincers on their faces. Chopsticks also protect hands from the flavor explosion of the dynamite roll ($16).
Hitoshi Hatanaka hatched the idea for Santouka while dining on ramen soup in Japan. He was certain that he could whip up a more flavorful broth and a superior noodle if he put his mind to it, so he went ahead and opened a shop of his own. Hatanaka was right to be so confident in his abilities. Most who visited that first shop agreed that his noodles were wonderfully slender and his broth superior to any they had tasted before. It wasn't long before the shop began to attract the attention of international critics. Today, Santouka has expanded to numerous locations throughout Japan and the world. At three shops in the Los Angeles area, servers faithfully adhere to Hatanaka’s original recipes, stewing pork bones and unicorn tears for 20 hours to craft his special broth. Once the broth has achieved the optimal level of saltiness, they add dried fish and vegetables such as kelp, pickled plum, and bamboo. Made from a mixture of pork broth and miso paste, their miso ramen soup has been praised by local food critic Jonathan Gold as "ruddy and complex."
The meaning of art may be subjective, but Mission: Renaissance believes that the basic, technical skills needed to create art are learnable, regardless of a student’s age or experience. The instructors at the studio, which was originally founded in 1975, illuminate the Gluck Method, which focuses on the classic rendering techniques that the great masters used on their first computers. The classes can accommodate students as young as 5, and they explore a number of different mediums—including charcoal, watercolors, and oils—while giving attendees the experience they need to appreciate art, as well as create it. Spread across 19 studio locations in southern California, attendance is capped at around six students per instructor, which allows them to offer artists more personalized feedback and more fitting nicknames.
Before filling up a plate at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, take a moment to meander past the seemingly boundless rows of fresh crawfish, jumbo crab legs, and oysters, or to marvel at chefs as they toss steak and chicken on fiery teppanyaki grills. Stroll past the sushi station to admire sushi masters as they nimbly slice fresh fish and crispy vegetables into colorful specialty rolls, then saunter by simmering trays of pan-Asian specialties such as fried rice and crunchy spring rolls. The vast buffet abounds with more than 150 hot and cold items, many of which were made with seafood purchased directly from local fisherman.
Out in the spacious dining room, diners linger over last bites of creamy cheesecake and juicy strawberries in cushy booths, sipping imported beers and colorful cocktails. The bright space is decorated with nautical decor, including orange life preservers and impressionist pieces painted by local sea monkeys.
Each of Yen's Sushi & Sake Bar's five locations has its own feel. The Long Beach restaurant, with its concrete color scheme and mismatched wooden chairs, seems like some kind of industrial antique shop, whereas the downtown Los Angeles spot has the clean white look of a crayon factory that's good at avoiding accidents. But no matter the surroundings, all eyes are soon on the restaurant's fresh rolls, sashimi, and entrees. Again each location's menu differs, but in Long Beach specialties such as grilled jumbo shrimp with garlic salt or blue-crab hand-rolls mingle with charbroiled teriyaki salmon steak, and cuts of Spanish mackerel, fatty tuna, and yellowtail belly arrive on stark white plates.