I’m delighted that the South Bay is slowly becoming a destination for top quality dining in LA. The Santa Monica freeway used to be the dividing line for restaurant snobs. Anything south of that freeway wasn’t seriously considered. Fortunately, times have changed.
Restauranteur Michael Cardenas (Lazy Ox, Toranoko, Taberna Arros y Vi) took over the space formerly occupied by Katsu on Rosecrans and Highland Avenues in North Manhattan Beach. Since my cousin enjoys the Lazy Ox Canteen, my wife and I decided to invite them to join us at Cardenas’ latest restaurant, Akatora.
“Irasshai-rasshai-rasshai” was shouted to us as we entered the restaurant. We had reservations for 6:30pm and I was happy that our table was available when we arrived. The seating was a bit tight, but it wasn’t to the point where you were afraid of scooting your chair backwards.
My wife and I look forward to dining with my cousin and her husband as we seem to prefer not ordering large entrees for fear of being “stuck” with something you don’t like. When we get together, we typically order many small plates and share them. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t care for a particular dish as we order enough plates to satisfy everyone’s appetite.
Akatora’s miso black cod was very tasty and included flash fried green beans on the side. It was scored into 4 which made it convenient to share.
Growing up, I wasn’t a big fan of okra. It was too slimy for my liking. I’ve since experienced places that serve okra that isn’t slimy and instead rather tasty. Akatora stir fried the okra and topped with with minced red peppers. I think it would have been much better if it were crispy or seasoned differently. The brussel sprouts were stir fried in a housemade shoyu based sauce. They had a nice crunch and were quite tasty. My favorite vegetable of the evening was their nasu miso (miso glazed eggplant).
Their house chardonnay is “Ox Canteen”; presumably a specially labelled chardonnay made for the Lazy Ox Canteen. It was clean and crisp and of good value. By comparison, the Russian River Davis Bynum was very buttery in nature.
Moules Marineres was served in a small pot with a garlic white wine sauce. After tasting the sauce, it seemed as if they may have used dashi (Japanese soup stock) to enhance the flavor.
A small sushi sampler was next served: yellowtail, shrimp, octopus. The fish was of very high quality and extremely fresh. Chef Hideyuki Yokohama was trained in the traditional art of “Kappo cuisine”–fine dining with face to face interaction between the chef and customer. When I return, I’m definitely going to try that experience.
Ribeye is my favorite cut of steak and my wife ordered that medium rare. Unfortunately it was served medium to medium well which wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked. The meat, however, was very tender and of a high quality. Lamb meat balls were served next and they were tender, moist and flavorful.
Sushi rice was formed and deep fried to make the crispy rice topped with spicy tuna dish. The rice was very crisp and the spicy tuna added a nice contrast.
Despite the small kitchen, Akatora seemed to deliver each dish without a significant wait. The servers are friendly, polite and efficient. While there were a few dishes I probably won’t order again, there were some like the crispy rice with spicy tuna that I would like to have again. All in all, it was a good experience.
- 302 Rosecrans Ave. Manhattan Beach, Ca 90266; (310) 802-1131
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/akatorala