The Nipponfication process, from cassette players, to DVD players, to whiskey, to automobiles, etc. remains one of the highest achievement in mass production and awesomeness. With a few exceptions – think Strawberry Cones Pizza, the Japanese can build more of everything better than any other culture.

Ikko Torrance Ikko Torrance Daily Menu

After 20 years of culinary espionage, the Japanese have reached a new plateau where French and Japanese cooking techniques interlocks seemlessly. If Jose Andres is Japanese, but didn’t have the multi-million dollar financing, Ikko could be his first LA restaurant.

First: black sesame house-made tofu topped with uni, bathed in dashi.
This is a papillae twister. You’re thinking: what the hell is going on here. You’ve had black sesame congee, perhaps even pudding, but served as dessert, always. You’ve had house-made agedashi from the best izakayas on the West Coast, but this! This looks like dotted poop from an alien, doubled up with sea urchin discharge. It’s akin to tasting Bazaar’s tuna on watermelon the first time. You may hate it, you may love it, but the bites force you towards an unequivocal decision.

Ikko Uni Black Sesame Tofu
Ikko Marinaded Smelt in Sweet Vinegar

Next: wakasagi nanbanzuke (fried smelt in sweet vinegar).
Perfectly delicious, pungent sweet vinegar that did not overwhelm. Fried smelt still retained fried (potato starch?) breading even after being quickly cooked in mirin-dashi broth. This is Japanese escabeche/escovitch for those who like sweet and sour foods. The smelt in vinegar is light, ethereal and just carried a balanced savory on savory profile. Of course the dish is a cheap common small plate, but hardly will one taste real dashi underneaththe vinegar.

The mind blows keep coming.

Ikko Beef tongue with black truffle

Beef tongue carpaccio with shaved black truffle

At this point, I’m already thinking: I don’t know. Eat it, don’t think about it. There’s black truffle on top of beef tongue sliced salami-thin, served on top of warm nigiri. What is this? French? Japanese? Italian? Did I really enjoy this? No. Did it make you seek more sophisticated words to describe the sensation? Yes. Good enough!

Then, Ikko went a bit OG for a transformed restaurant in the middle of a Torrance strip mall. The itamae served up cheap shiromi: chicken grunt fish with sea salt, Japanese grome with a dab soy. Nothing here will offend Seafood Watch. Contrary to the typical reactions upon chu-toro being served, no one hums with mouth-gasms after a bite of the cheap chicken grunt (here marked as whopping $7 special). The alone texture forces chewing action, followed by brain activity. In fact, after googling “grome fish” as well as asking 2 Japanese speakers, no one could tell me what species of fish I ate. It’s a bit dry, but not tough, it’s like like red snapper, but offered a different sweetness.

Ikko Chicken Grunt Sea Salt Ikko Chicken Grunt soy

The meal continued with unfamiliarizing the familiar. Miso came with snow crab leg, salmon tartare came with cheese and pine nuts. They can do this all day, and you will want to eat it all day. The price of admission to participate in this Nippon-Franco wizardry is steep. A typical bill at Bazaar won’t be able to satiate a hungry party of 2 at; some simple small plates run as high as $9. Then again, this isn’t your ojiisan’s izakaya, so bring the charge card and order carefully. The fantasmic menu is also available at the Costa Mesa (original) location, but the Torrance branch seems much more tranquil overall, offering a more suitable environ to ponder the proverbial question: what the hell did I just eat. Answers will range from: fried fish bone to scallops topped with kobacha cream, to cuttlefish tempura.

Ikko Torrance
21008 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503
(310) 371-7197
Ikko on Urbanspoon
Ikko Restaurant in Los Angeles

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  • http://www.weezermonkey.com weezermonkey

    This is so — dare I say it — weird! Really interesting combinations. I’m sure I’d be challenged.
    .-= weezermonkey´s last blog ..Late-Night Flair at Fleur de Lys =-.

  • http://www.stuffycheaks.blogspot.com stuffycheaks

    yum! tongue and truffle. Looks like there’s a nice glaze on that tongue

  • http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com BeefNoGuy

    Gyu-tan nigiri with black truffle…now is that dashi shoyu plastered on or truffle oil? This is too whack…I think I prefer my gyu-tan single sided grilled with lemon juice and buttload of scallions, yakiniku style :-o.

    Chicken grunt appears to be isaki 伊佐木…I thought it wasn’t in season yet. Unless they are using some substitute we don’t know about.

    But this meal looks more interesting than what we have up in NorCal for the most part!
    .-= BeefNoGuy´s last blog ..Mister Donut Taipei =-.

  • http://theroamingbelly.blogspot.com bagnatic

    i am intrigued by the beef tongue carpaccio. dude this place looks so interesting!
    .-= bagnatic´s last blog ..foraging at forage =-.

  • TonyC

    BeefNo: pretty sure chicken grunt is avail from Winter-Summer. Now if you know what grome is, I’d have to buy you a round next time you’re in LA.

  • http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com BeefNoGuy

    Tony, I picked up the Taiwanese translated version of Sushi Techo by Kazuo Sakamoto at Eslite back in Dec, a really neat pocketbook of 94 commonly served fish for sushi (in Japan). Sakamoto has years of experience in Marine research from some major university in Japan, so his book should be pretty accurate.

    The season for isaki (chicken grunt) is actually June through August with the prime between June and July. This has been consistent with the very very very few times I’ve discovered it in NorCal. I’m sure the restaurants can get this anytime, but it may not be as prime. Either that or blame global warming.

    Now…GROME fish. Think about it… there’s always a spelling problem with these joints and in some cases Engrish, isn’t there? I thought it might be Glome fish, which could also be GLOBEfish, but globefish = puffer fish or fugu and no way in hell would they serve globefish for $7 nigiri, unless it was kawahagi (threadsail filefish), which is actually a little sweet.

    So the next best thing in the book for shiromi category is GNOMEFISH or mutsu, 牛尾鯥 in Taiwanese Mandarin or just 鯥 in Japanese. The season for gnomefish is Dec through February. I’ve had mutsu before and it is a firm fish, but it benefits further from a good konbu dashi shoyu spread.

    Best NT$250 I ever spent!
    .-= BeefNoGuy´s last blog ..Mister Donut Taipei =-.

  • http://beefnoguy.blogspot.com BeefNoGuy
  • http://www.infinitefress.blogspot.com Steve

    Fried smelt in vinegar is worth the drive alone. I once took a subway to Queens for smelt and lemon. Salmon and cheese, on the other hand, is a little scary.

  • http://nelehlovesfood.blogspot.com Helen

    Ikko has been on my to try list forever.. i love weird food.. weirder the better! bring it on!

  • Kat

    … do you know if this is related to the Ikko in Costa Mesa (OC)?

  • TonyC

    same owner Kat. BeefNoGuy, thanks for the clarification. Thought of your response as I had a “dai” sashimi flight this weekend: opaleye, rock snapper, black snapper. Shiromi is so much more interesting!

  • http://www.thethirstypig.com Thirsty Pig

    Nice pictures. I went to the Costa Mesa one a few years ago. Great place.
    .-= Thirsty Pig´s last blog ..酣庭院‎ in Gubei- Shanghai =-.


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