When many people think about Japanese food they immediately snap their fingers and say, "Oh! You mean like sushi?" They are not wrong of course, but Japanese culinary traditions stretch far beyond raw fish on rice. Luckily for us the Valley is home to some truly amazing Japanese restaurants serving up izakaya, robata,and bento.
5. Sushi Ken
While this restaurant has "sushi" right in the title, the real draw of Sushi Ken is the fabulous selection of ramen. We have extolled the virtues of their spicy miso ramen in the past and for good reason. Sushi Ken's bowl of tender noodles floats lazily in a complex broth dotted with chopstick tender pieces of roasted pork. The ramen lunch specials are shockingly filling as they come with a California roll and a salad. The fact that they also serve a good mix of traditional Japanese favorites like oyakodon and curry rice does not hurt one bit either.
Bento is a fine Japanese lunch tradition. A bento is a lunch composed of several items that are good served hot or cold. Items could include: a rice ball with a salty salmon filling, curry with rice, or spicy nuggets of fried chicken. In Japan you can pop into any of the ubiquitous convenience stores (Starbucks has got nothing on Family Mart) and pick up your own bento lunch. Sadly, American stores continue to serve us sad looking hot dogs and stale nachos. Thankfully we have Fujiya Market's owner Takata Fujita. He's been making these diverse lunches for decades and the rate at which they vanish during the lunch hour is a testament to his skill.
It would be inaccurate to say that this restaurant serves Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine because what they really do is serve Japanese and Italian food. Cherryblossom celebrates all things noodle and strictly non-denominational in the matter. While their non-Japanese food is good it is their ramen that keeps us coming back over and over again. We could talk about how complex their broth is, how perfectly tender their noodles are, but instead we will just say that it is a bowl of noodles that is worthy of this treatment.
While this spot's regular menu is stocked full of amazing izakaya-style dishes like okonomiyaki or pork belly buns. The real magic is chef Nobuo Fukuda's omakase. Omakase is a fancy way of saying "Chef's Choice." At Nobuo's you sit at at a bar that seats no more than four with the Chef Fukuda working across from you. The dining is intimate and each dish is prepared in front of you by the man who conceived it. It costs of course, but you are unlikely to experience anything like it.
1. Roka Akor
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Roka Akor's specialty is cooking everything under the sun to perfection over the hot, clean flames of a robata grill. Every dish emerges from their open kitchen looking and tasting as extraordinary as the tempura in the photo to the right. They offer a tiered omakase-style tasting menu which is less exclusive than Nobuo's but no less scintillating. If you have deep pockets and a love of omakase then you'll be excited to know that chef Nobuo Fukuda seems to be making a habit of being a guest chef at Roka Akor.