Saturday, November 24, 2007
Consuming mass quantities seems to be de riguer for this trip to Southern California. Since I arrived, it's been a non-stop cooking and/or eating frenzy that piles meal upon meal and then another meal upon those meals. But in the world of travel, limited time and endless choices, these are the sacrifices that one must make in the interest of widening ones' culinary vocabulary and bringing you, the casual reader, the latest in blog thought and theory.
Tonight we found ourselves at Gardena, California's Sanuki No Sato, a Japanese eatery famous for their soba and udon. It's a traditional-looking place where the staff shouts out an enthusiastic: "Irasshai-mase!" to all comers. For the traditionally-inclined, there are private rooms with tatami mats for traditional floor seating. Not particularly my cup of tea, so we jammed ourselves into a six person booth.
The menu is wide and varied, filled with all sorts of soba and udon concoctions, most of which I am unfamiliar. The menu is so large, it actually takes two of them plus a separate sheet for daily specials. The second menu is filled with dishes that are meant to be shared as a precursor to the noodle dishes. Not wanting to offend their Japanese sensibilities, we happily obliged their flow of eating and started out with some first round dishes.
First up was the very special, but not as expensive as the $150 sea urchin special, o-toro sashimi for $40. Seven slices of delicious, fatty heaven. When viewed up-close and personal, you could see the fat ripples in the strands of tuna flesh. Marvelous. I wanted a full order for myself.
The Lobster Tempura was tasty. The problem with tempura is that you need just the right balance of batter and just the right frying temperature to keep it light, crisp and not soaked with oil. These guys know how to do it right.
We kept things up with sliced Ribeye steak and Piri Fried Chicken, both of which were very tasty. One of the problems with their menu is that so many of the items seemed super tasty and you just wanted to sample them all.
To be honest, I went with what sounded "safe" to me: Tonkatsu Soba. A hot broth soba noodle soup with a side of pork katsu. It was good but I couldn't help but to envy what Polly, Anna and Christian had orderd: Hiyashi Kaisen Soba, a cold soba dish chock full of salmon roe, tuna, yellowfin and other raw sashimi. Even though I wanted a hot soup, I secretly envied their dishes. They chose wisely.
Al went with the Ten-Don, a bowl of hot udon soup, accompanied with tempura, rice and a warm custard that tasted kinda odd to me. Not bad, just odd. Or maybe I'm just not too keen on warm custards.
It was a good night of eating with friends and family. I could write more, but why? The food was tasty and delicious and rather than bore you with more verbage, I'll let the food speak for itself.
Sanuki No Sato
18206 South Western Avenue
Gardena, CA 90248
Before making chilaquiles for our merry band of happy eaters, I needed some last minute ingredients and decided to head to the Torrance Farmers Market.
Like most farmers markets, there are a lot of farmers selling all sorts of wares, but unlike the markets back in Baltimore, it seems like the growing season here never ends. There's California strawberries, tomatoes and just about everything under the sun. All sorts of Japanese vegetables, Chinese vegetables and who-knows-what vegetables - all ready to eat. Dates, prunes, in-season persimmons the size of softballs, apples and more stuff than I even know how to understand.
Of course, we're in California, which is home to many agri-business farms so part of me is a bit skeptical about these November Strawberries, but the rest just looks so fresh. Sheesh, I wish I was here until january so I would have enough time to explore all these ingredients.
On the other end of the farmers market is the side that's really busy: the food court. Here, you'll find the typical market fare of coffee, juices and bread, but you'll also find unique twists, like the tamales vendor or the pupusa lady. There's even roasted corn and savory crepes if you feel in the mood.
In the end, I walked away with some fresh Japanese tomatoes, a bundle of red swiss chard, two cuts of bison ribeye and a dozen eggs.
I wish I had more time in Southern California...
Torrance Farmers Market
Charles H. Wilson Park
2200 Crenshaw Boulevard
Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm