Sunday, June 17, 2007
Now, this, this is a tale of the type of socializing I like to do these days. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen was in town and when Melting Wok extended an invitation to me, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet not one but two food bloggers whose food porn I'd been addicted to for quite a while. Shh! It's not cheating if you only look at pictures right? ;) Jaden chose Izakaya Haru Ulala in Little Tokyo. Umm, yeah, say that out loud. Because when Melting Wok was telling me the restaurant's name over the phone, I kept making her repeat it and repeat it. She finally told me she'd email me the restaurant info. Heh! According to its website, izakaya are bar snacks that workers would partake of before they head home after work. I was picturing lots of meat on skewers, but beyond that, didn't really know what to expect. Melting Wok and I carpooled. The restaurant is easy enough to find on 2nd Street just as you turn right off of Alameda. Go past the restaurant a bit and there's a parking structure that charges only $3 after 4 p.m. In downtown L.A. Amazing right? I suggested we go a little early so I could introduce her to Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop for some mochi. Of course, we passed my favorite ramen place, Daikokuya Original Noodle and Rice Bowl. When it was close to our meeting time, we headed back. Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and the restaurant was completely empty. Uh, oh, not a good sign. A small group of guys came in to sit at the bar later. I wonder if the restaurant fills up late at night? Although if it's meant to feed workers after hours, maybe it's more of a weeknight scene? The menu is colorfully written in crayon and features everything from grilled to fried to sushi. I don't know if izakaya necessarily equates to tapas, but the menu sure was extensive. Jaden showed up in a bit with her guests and we proceeded to order left and right. I think these edamame were free since I don't remember us ordering them. No food blogger meet-up is complete without ordering the craziest item on the menu. That would be raw squid with guts for $3.50. Haha! I'm used to cleaning and discarding the guts when preparing squid so I was game. Unfortunately, the dish was salty! Really salty! The texture wasn't too bad. It's raw squid so the slimy, crunchiness was expected. But the saltiness was just too much. Apologies for the poor photos. They looked OK in my little view screen, but then you guys know my photography is hit or miss anyway, right? The beef tongue for $4.50 was actually one of my favorite dishes of the night. The tongue was sliced very thin, and was really flavorful. No dipping in the sesame oil was needed actually. The grilled shisito peppers for $4 (This is two orders.) were dusted with bonito flakes and were just a tad on the salty side. If you've never had them, shisito peppers aren't spicy to me at all, they're more reminiscent of bell peppers. The $6.50 soft-shell crab was dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. Very good. The ponzu sauce was excellent. Melting Wok claimed the portions were just too big, so I happily took her other half. :) My other favorite dish of the night was the $4.50 spicy tuna stuffed shisito peppers dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. The spicy tuna had a nice kick and this time, the shisito was not too salty. Crunchy, spicy, just really grand flavors. The grilled eggplant topped with bonito flakes for $2.50 was good as far as grilled eggplant goes but there were so many other offerings that this just paled in comparison. Grilled chicken wings $3. What can you say about salted and grilled chicken wings? Yum! Yellowtail collar $7.50 for the small. Crispy outside, flaky tender inside. Chicken yakitori $2. Mountain yam rolls $3.50. Slimy! Tasteless! I could have lived without this one. Salmon with miso paste $5.25. The miso made the salmon slightly sweet. Quite good. Natto (fermented soy beans) rolls $2.75. I've heard that natto can be quite pungent. But after having tried stinky tofu recently, this was nothing. The smell wasn't that bad, the texture was slimy but not as bad as those mountain yams. The flavor isn't something I'd die for, I'd rather order the grilled meat dishes instead. Grilled rice balls $2.50. Even after ordering multiples of some of these small plates, we were all still a bit hungry. And no food blogger meet-up is complete without discussing what's good where. So instead of ordering more food, we opted to go eat some more! So after our tasty but not quite filling dinner, I suggested ramen. And if in Little Tokyo, where else would I go but Daikokuya Noodle & Rice-Bowl? After raw squid with guts and mochi ice cream, we had bonded pretty well as a group by this point. So we toasted with a small bottle of sake. We split two orders of ramen with fried rice between six people. Can you believe I forgot to take a picture of the ramen? But you've seen it before. I was really craving the fried rice though. Izakaya Haru Ulala 368 E. 2nd St. Los Angeles, CA 90012 213-620-0977 Monday to Thursday 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.