The latest in my quest for lunch under $15 while I’m on jury duty downtown...
First let me say that it is possible to order any number of satisfying lunchbox options for $8.50 at East Japanese Restaurant in Little Tokyo. Your choices of entrées include tonkatsu pork cutlet, broiled mackerel, tuna handroll, or tempura vegetables—each comes with a choice of a couple pieces of sushi or sashimi to start, as well as green salad, miso and steamed rice. Or, you can order a sushi combo of four pieces of sushi and a 6-piece cut roll, with miso soup, for $8.50. A bargain considering Whole Food’s version of this (called the Medium Tsunami Combo) fetches $9.95 and on occasion features cut rolls that are frozen in the middle.
Second, a confession. I blew my $15 budget by almost double. Instead of ordering one of the enticing and affordable lunch specials, I ordered directly from the sushi bar in part to erase the memory of Monday’s subpar sushi experience, but mostly because the specials board boasted Santa Barbara sea urchin. Uni, or sea urchin, is one of my very favorite things to eat and I love living so close to the source of some of the best uni around! Sweet, creamy and slightly nutty, uni is rarely a bargain on a sushi menu. In this case it was $7.50 for two pieces. It was incredibly fresh, and worth every cent.
Add to that the Chu-toro from Japan, a couple pieces of hamachi, and salmon for the omega 3 fatty acids, and an unusual ume shisho cut roll (below) made from pickled Asian plum paste and shiso leaves with fresh mint, at once both tart and slightly sweet. The flavor was a little too intensely sour for my taste, but definitely one of the more interesting flavor combos I’ve tried recently. I highly recommend the sushi at East, and I’m told that the udon is really good and that at night they have an extensive appetizer list that features sublimely grilled squid.