Friday, September 15, 2017

Inaba (Torrance, CA)

I-naba Restaurant Tempura Bar
20920 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90503
Fri 09/15/2017, 07:15p-10:15p

Inaba Exterior

Inaba's been on my "to-eat" list for years now, and I finally made it out there just recently. The restaurant's part of the MLT Trade International group, which also includes Wa Dining (formerly Inaba Steakhouse), Ichimi Ann, and Japonica in Redondo. There's also an Inaba in Honolulu, and there used to be outposts in both Las Vegas (now Chabuya) and Santa Ana (now Sushi Murasaki). The Torrance location was opened in 2000 by Shimpei Inaba and Shunichi Hosoi (head of MLT), and is known for its soba, sushi, and tempura. We were here specifically for the third option.

Inaba Interior
The interior was designed by Tokyo's Tokuhiro Barada, and features a fairly contemporary aesthetic, but with some classical touches. Above we see the main dining room with its seven-seater tempura bar in the back. There's also a separate sushi bar off to the side.

Inaba Menu: Seasonal Omakase Dinner Course Inaba Menu: Combos Inaba Menu: Rice Bowl, Box, and Rice items Inaba Menu: Homemade Soba(buckwheat), Udon(flour) noodle
Inaba Specials Menu: Salad and Appetizers / Fried, Grilled, and Braised Inaba Specials Menu: Sashimi / Seasonal dishes / Noodles and Rice Item Inaba Unagi Menu Inaba Sushi Order Sheet Inaba Tempura Order Sheet
The menu's varied, and includes prix fixe selections and a multitude of combos/boxes/bowls. In addition to the aforementioned soba-sushi-tempura, there's also an array of cooked/grilled items, appetizers, and rice-y things--something for everybody. Click for larger versions.

Inaba Beer & Soft Drink List Inaba Sake List: Junmai Inaba Sake List: Ginjo Inaba Sake List: Daiginjo Inaba Shochu List Inaba Wine List Inaba Special Sake List
To drink: a selection of sakes, a few shochus, the usual beers, and a smattering of wine. Corkage is $15 a pop, though we were charged only once. Click for larger versions.

2013 Cascade Foudre #1
I had a couple bottles with me, the first of which was the 2013 Cascade Foudre #1, a blend of sour tripels aged in oak for up to 16 months. The beer smelled appealing, with the expected tartness and funk joined by some delightful stone fruit notes. The palate went in a bright, acidic direction initially, then gave up candied apricot, oak, and booziness, with a hint of balsamic on the finish. This one had aged quite well--very tasty.

Shirasu Oroshi
Shirasu Oroshi [$4.00]
Though we came for tempura, we did start with a few apps. Here we had a mound of grated radish, topped with baby anchovy. The fish definitely had a saltiness to it that was offset by the blandness of said radish, while the sprouts added an herby kick to the dish. However, I would've liked more of the shirasu, since it tended to get a little lost in the midst of all that daikon oroshi.

Mozuku Su
Mozuku Su [$4.00]
Mozuku seaweed came out as slick and slippery as we expected, its subdued umami flavors joined by tangy, acidic notes from the tosazu vinegar. Nice additional hit of zestiness from the grated ginger, too.

Potato Salad
Potato Salad [$3.50]
The potato salad was on the creamier side, and I wanted more texturally from the dish. Its taste was to my liking though, and I especially enjoyed the additional spice from the curry powder.

Fig Tempura
Fig Tempura [$5.50]
At this point we moved into our gauntlet of tempura. A fig variety was unexpected, though I suppose it made sense given that we were in the middle of the season. It had a sweet-savory interplay going on that worked, and I liked the contrast of the brittle batter against the fruit's juicy insides. Particularly nice when taken with a dab of the included tentsuyu sauce.

Peach Tempura Wrapped Prosciutto
Peach Tempura Wrapped Prosciutto [$6.50]
Our next serving of tempura was another surprise to see. The peach showed off a creamy, almost candied sweetness, one that had a good back-and-forth with the saltiness of the ham. I actually liked this one with a dip in the curry salt.

Matsutake Tempura
Matsutake Tempura [$12.00]
The matsutake was a must-try, especially since it was the start of the season. I loved its firm, meaty, snappy consistency, and how that worked with the crispness of the batter. Flavor-wise, I got a woodsy, refined profile that was further elevated with a squirt of the traditional accompaniment of sudachi. Also excellent with a pinch of salt, which really drew out the taste of the mushroom.

Tempura Salts
Our selection of salts: bitter green tea, large flakes of sea, and a surprisingly good curry.

Eel and Zucchini Tempura
Eel and Zucchini Tempura [$7.50]
This was a highlight, with a great interaction between the meaty, briny cuts of eel and the bright crunch of zucchini.

Round Greeneyes Tempura
Round Greeneyes Tempura [$3.00/each]
Mehikari was fried whole, a full-flavored fish that really opened up with a squirt of lemon.

Lotus Root Tempura
Lotus Root Tempura [$2.50]
The renkon was utterly satisfying with its superb crunch and slight sweetness.

Private Label Sausage Tempura
Private Label Sausage Tempura [$3.50]
The housemade pork sausage was another favorite of mine, not surprising given my penchant for all types of cased meat. There was an excellent snap and juiciness to the "breakfasty" links, while their savory, salty flavors linked up well with the tentsuyu.

Scallop Kakiage
Scallop Kakiage [$6.00]
The kobashira kakiage was another standout. The scallops turned out creamy, with a sweet brine that meshed beautifully with the veggies in the fritter. Great with the sea salt.

Lotus Root w/Minced Shrimp
Lotus Root w/Minced Shrimp [$6.00]
I thoroughly enjoyed the renkon ebi shinjo age as well. Again, the crunch of the lotus was key, but the shrimp was showcased as well. Just a great relationship between the two elements, both in terms of taste and texture.

2017 Cycle Buddy Shots
Our second beer was the 2017 Cycle Buddy Shots, a strong ale aged in Jameson Irish whiskey barrels. Nose was bittersweet, with raisin and oak layered over some alcoholic notes. The taste showed off lots of chocolate, oak, and dark fruit, along with the whiskey and a lovely floral character on the back end. Surprisingly delicious.

Anago - Sea Eel Tempura
Anago - Sea Eel Tempura [$12.00]
The Japanese sea eel delivered, a meaty, satisfying presentation that really shined with a dip into the tentsuyu. Excellent savoriness and crunch from the bone chip to boot.

Raw Giant Octopus Tempura
Raw Giant Octopus Tempura [$4.00]
Tako from Japan conveyed a combination of creamy, chewy, and crisp textures along with a delicate taste that went great with a dash of lemon.

Uni, Dried Seaweed & Shiso Roll
Uni, Dried Seaweed & Shiso Roll [$8.50]
The sweet salinity of sea urchin just made sense with the umami notes from the seaweed, all while perilla gave the roll a smidge of mintiness.

Squid Tempura
Squid Tempura [$6.00]
Ika arrived with a satisfying, snappy chew and relatively mild flavors.

Shiitake Mushroom Tempura
Shiitake Mushroom Tempura [$3.00]
The shiitake was gratifying with its hefty, hearty texture and wonderfully earthy flavors.

Asparagus Tempura
Asparagus Tempura [$4.00]
The aspara worked it out too, the veggie's bitterness and crunch well displayed.

Tempura Chef
The view from our seats at the tempura bar.

Megochi - Flathead Tempura
Megochi - Flathead Tempura [$6.00]
Japanese flathead arrived meaty and juicy, with a sweet brine that paired swimmingly with a touch of sea salt.

Kisu - Whiting Tempura
Kisu - Whiting Tempura [$7.00]
Our final tempura featured Japanese whiting, a well-textured, delicately-flavored fish that I preferred to eat with the tentsuyu. And again, loved the crunch of the fried bones.

Fried Tomato Tofu in Broth
Fried Tomato Tofu in Broth [$5.00]
Next was something that may have been inspired by the signature dish at Shunji. It was definitely a heavier presentation, with deeper, more savory tomato notes that were lifted up by the grated radish.

Tamagoyaki [$4.50]
The traditional closer of egg was "juicy," relatively light, and on the sweeter side.

Matsutake Dobin Mushi
Matsutake Dobin Mushi (Open)
Matsutake Dobin Mushi [$12.00]
We finished with the dobinmushi, which featured a cozy, comforting broth imbued with the essence of matsutake and sudachi, with the addition of fish and shrimp adding an extra oomph. A great ending to the meal.

I'd been wanting to do a tempura-focused meal for a long time now, and Inaba really hit the spot on that front. The tempura was on point pretty much across the board. They key was a light, fragile, delicate batter that was never greasy or heavy, and that always let the base ingredient shine. It's rare to find a dedicated tempura bar here in the Los Angeles area, so this is sort of a unique place.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eel and Zucchini Tempura be like baby got back la.

Sunday, October 22, 2017 3:38:00 AM  
Anonymous JT Russell said...

I've been researching other food review style websites, and stumbled on this. For the first post I've read from you, I find your style focused and interesting. I was surprised at the variety of tempura dishes that this place offered. I will have to check it out when I am in LA!

Monday, October 23, 2017 1:04:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Looks great. Wonderful report kevin.
Did you pre-order a special seasonal tempura meal, or just walk in?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 10:25:00 AM  

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