Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yabu Yabu Yabu - West Los Angeles

Starting a new job is always a good thing – the slate is immaculately clean. Those TPS reports you slaved all morning over dissipate into oblivion. Those superficial how’s-it-goings, how-was-your-weekend’s and have-a-good-evening’s to co-workers can finally be put six feet under. The obligatory ‘goodbye’ luncheons at piece-of-shit restaurants no longer need to be dealt with. Any beef you’ve had with the past workplace is gone. In addition to the wonderful feeling of leaving a workplace for a new job, is the nice salary increase. For some, it means more money for more toys, vacations, clothes, drugs, etc. As an aspiring caterer and epicurean, this new job meant more career opportunities and of course, more food for me.

I’ve been in West LA for nearly two years and have limited myself to the Sawtelle restaurant row. Obviously because of my last job working for a few pesos an hour. What about those places on Olympic, Wilshire and Pico? It was time to move on and feed my curious palate. On Tuesday, I met up with my friend’s EP, SJ and AF for dinner. We had originally voted on Ramenya but didn’t feel like eating bowls of 3,800 mg sodium-broth and noodles. You’ll know what I mean if you ever walk into a Nijiya, Mitsuwa or Marukai. Take a stroll into the colorfully-fun instant noodle aisles. Sure, the picture of the Chashu ramen looks good; it’s the information on the nutritional label that isn’t. I’ve seen some as high as 5,800 mg of sodium. No thanks.

EP/SJ: “Ramenya is too salty blah blah blah blah blah…”
Me: “Yeah I know. I want noodles though.”
EP/SJ: “How about soba at Yabu?”
Me: “Sounds good to me and the kidneys.”

***By the way, EP and SJ do not share the same body like conjoined twins nor do they speak in unison. I’m just abridging the email conversation.

We got to Yabu at around 7:15. We walked through the heavily-draped blue curtains, which I got tangled in, and were greeted immediately. The resturant holds maybe 40 people including the sushi bar and is staffed with 3 servers. I don't really know how to describe the look of the place. It didn't make me cringe nor did it dilate my pupils. It's just normal and clean, which is good enough for me. Although a few tables were open, we were pointed to the sushi bar due to some reservations. We could see directly into the kitchen and see the chefs at work. The kitchen was built on a lower level, so those chefs looked like midgets. Everybody loves midgets except for my friend SJ.

As we were given menus, the head midget gave us a treat.

Head Midget: “Ees on duh howsuh!”
(It’s on the house.)

Nice. What I thought would be a yummy, complimentary treat turned out to be merely 6-7 pieces of bean sprouts mixed with sesame oil and wakame seaweed. I could’ve eaten the whole thing, but in the presence of three women, I’m going to take down my appetite level down a notch. It was good. Sparse, but good.

Besides the obvious sushi fare, Yabu is known for their hand-made soba noodles and selection of broiled fish entrees. Yabu also offers a nice section of appetizers and starters. Why those two weren’t combined puzzled me. I looked on the menu and caught on to the ‘Yabu Homemade Tofu’. Oh nice. I got a 220 over 200 result on my cholesterol test and this dish would prove beneficial. Yes, 200 is the cut-off – I am in trouble. After a few exchanges of ‘What are you gonna get?’, we all settled on soup noodles and appetizers for the cold weather. Here’s what we had:

A. Yabu Homemade Tofu - This cholesterol-lowering dish was served cold with a 'Wari-Shoyu' broth spooned on top. I thought this dish was nicely made. A subtle taste of dashi and shoyu in the broth, balanced by sweet ginger, pungent garlic and crispy/crunchy green onions. This could please the Iron Chef judges if some roe, caviar or sea urchin was added to it. This was too small of a portion for me though. $5

B. Nasu Miso Eggplant - Italicized on the menu as "Yabu's Most Popular", I gave in. The perfectly sauteed eggplant was served with a miso/sake/sugar sauce. The dish was sort of oily and it didn't help that I added a few drops of chili oil. Overall, a very tasty dish that I will order regularly. I wish they offered this as an entree with some rice. $5.50

C. Mystery Hand Roll - EP ordered this and I have no idea what it was. I think she mentioned something about mushrooms but didn't seem to thrilled about it. $?.??

D. Duck Soba - For any first timers at Yabu, I'd suggest giving their udon/soba a shot since it's their specialty. The soba buckwheat noodles are made fresh daily and you can watch the chef handle it delicately in the kitchen. Although it is handmade, I prefer the packaged kind. The noodles didn't have much of a bit and seemed a bit chalky b/c it was easily broken/cut by my chopsticks. Maybe soba noodles weren't met to have some al-denteness to it. Although the duck slices were tender, I probably should have taken them out so that the broth would not cook them any longer. Oh well, it was probably braised anyway. This dish was good, but not great and after about 10 minutes, the broth seemed to get saltier. I'd order this dish again, only with udon instead of the soba. This bowl of soba came from the recommendation of the waiter, and with good reason... $12.50!

E. Tempura Soba - SJ likes anything salty, so I didn't hear a single complaint about her food. You can't go wrong with salty broth and deep-fried vegetables. $9

F. Curry Soba - EP rolled her eyes as I asked her bowl of curry soba to pose for me. I took a taste of the sauce and liked it. It was sweet and creamier then say, Hurry Curry. She wasn't able to finish it b/c it was quite heavy for a girl of her stature. $9

I think everyone was content with the meal. I'll definitely be back here. For those interested in trying Yabu, go for the broiled Black Cod, sashimi and handmade soba. I think the Miso Black Cod is better than Beacon's by far.

Thanks for reading.

11820 W. Pico Blvd. (near Arsenal and Liquid Kitty)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 854-0400


Passionate Eater said...

Congratulations on the new job! Hopefully your new co-workers will be more open-minded in terms of microwave use. (Meaning, I hope they will embrace the fragrances of fish sauce and shrimp paste unlike the previous snotty noses.)

Hilarious about the two sprigs of bean sprouts! I know what you mean. I love it when they give "complimentary" food, but I do feel disappointed when the "food" is a few peanuts in a tiny soy sauce dipping dish.

yoony said...

hi dylan, i've tagged you for the 4 things LA edition. :)

Foodie Universe said...

Sounds yummy! I want to try that tofu. I have driven by the area lots of times but never noticed this restaurant. Thanks for the new (to me) discovery.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

PE, thank you. So far, no one has complained about mysterious odors in the kitchen.

Yoony, thanks!

Amy, yabu is very easy to drive by and i think the food is quite fresh. lemme know how you like it. i know you still have a few places to cross off on your Sawtelle restaurant list.

Yuzu said...

Dealin' is movin' up the restaurant chain! I can't remember the last time I ate ramen. The sodium content scares me.

I like the way this entry was written. Very comical and informative. You do a great job at making your readers feel like they were there in the restaurant with you.

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