Stop #5: El Atacor Restaurant #11.
I became interested El Atacor Restaurant last year after reading Jonathan Gold's review of El Atacor's potato tacos. It's a small, thin taco that costs about seventy cents. We bought ten tacos for $6.99 and split them among five of us for a snack. I could see eating five or so for a meal, and I have seen men at the restaurant order ten for themselves. What makes this taco special is the attention that is paid to it. The potatoes are flavorful and seem to be mashed before being put into a tortilla and fried. While there is virtually no atmosphere, and the location can seem a little dicey to tourists, everything is forgotten once everyone takes their first bites of taco.
Stop #6: Mitsuwa Supermarket.
After a drive through downtown Los Angeles, and a trip back in time to see Bill's Taco House -- the restaurant that my grandfather used to own, we were ready for a sit-down meal. Our intended destination was not open yet, so we wandered around Mitsuwa Supermarket in Torrance for a few minutes. Besides being the home of Santouka Ramen which is absolutely my favorite ramen shop ever, Mitsuwa is a huge Japanese market that can be quite entertaining for tourists to visit. While mom and I did real shopping -- she bought sake and I bought soba noodles -- our guests gawked at the snack foods and the entertaining English translations.
Stop #7: Musha Restaurant.
Musha is a Southern California izakaya (a Japanese bar food restaurant with lots of beer and small plates) with outposts in Torrance and Santa Monica. It's crowded and smoky and noisy, and one of my favorite places in Southern California. I love taking guests here because it really provides another view on Japanese food. I've had great success taking people here who don't eat raw fish as most of the offerings are cooked. And it's a really great place to take vegetarians. The kitchen is willing to work with vegetarians on changing dishes, and there are automatically quite a few veggie dishes on the menu. This restaurant is a little out-of-the-box for some people, so I really like to take control with the menu, offering to order the first round of dishes and then letting guests find new dishes once they get comfortable. My favorite dishes at Musha are the tofu nuggets (which I mentioned in my Top Tastes of 2006), any of the salads, and the tuna tataki. One guest suggested we order the cheese risotto and I was really glad that he did. Who would have thought that cheese risotto served in a Japanese restaurant could be great? When our Connecticut guest -- an avowed meat and potatoes eater -- loudly requested "more tofu nuggets!" I knew that we had achieved our goal of providing a fun and unusual Southern California experience.
7290 Beverly Blvd. (at Pointsettia)
El Atacor Restaurant #11
2622 N. Figueroa (at Ave 26)
several locations in Southern California