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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

An Authentic Sushi Experience

August 18, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

When I walk into an ethnic restaurant, I like to hear the language of the featured cuisine. A trattoria filled with animated Italian conversation. A bistro where couples order in French and the waiter understands. These are reliable signs that the food is fairly authentic.

So I expected good things when I heard a buzz of Japanese on entering Kantaro, a little Japanese place tucked between a liquor outlet and a tropical fish store in a Torrance mini-mall.

Kantaro is the domain of Kantaro Oguma. Having learned his trade in various cities in Japan, he moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and began working at Horikawa, a respected restaurant in Little Tokyo. He opened his own restaurant in Torrance after a four-year stint at Shibucho in Venice Beach, where he honed his cooking skills (and improved his English as well, since Shibucho's clientele is largely non-Japanese).

Perhaps out of respect for his parents, who are rice farmers back in Japan, one of his specialties is the steamed rice served with all dinners. It is topped with a mixture of fish broth, rice vinegar, seaweed, salt and a touch of sugar.

Several combination plates are offered here, such as chicken teriyaki with shrimp tempura ($8.95), beef teriyaki with a California roll and tuna roll ($9.90), and shrimp or chicken tempura with a variety of sashimi ($9.90). All are served with soup and salad, as well as Kantaro's special rice.

The sashimi and sushi (they're both raw fish; the difference is that sushi is served on a base of rice) are made from very fresh fish, because six days a week Kantaro is up at 5 a.m. to shop at fish markets. Among the most popular choices are toro (the prized fatty cut of prime tuna belly), ebi (sweet shrimp), miruga (giant clam), uni (sea urchin) and ika (squid). A massive platter, easily enough for two, can be had for $20.

Kantaro is at 1542 W. Carson St., Torrance. (310) 320-0200. Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays.

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