An Exploration of Sawtelle Japantown

A Local Exploration by Josue Ticas

This neighborhood is centered around Sawtelle Blvd. The main area is Sawtelle Blvd. between Santa Monica Blvd. to the north, and Pico Blvd. to the South. Parts of the area are an incorporated district within the great City of Los Angeles, and one area is an unincorporated area that is by definition not a part of the city of Los Angeles. From 1899 to 1922, it was its own independent municipality called Sawtelle. This area has a large Japanese population. Many Japanese families moved there due to other communities including Westwood and Brentwood, not being very inclusive at that the time. Now it is a vibrant little community with many Japanese businesses. To many people it is known as Sawtelle, or Little Osaka (to differentiate itself from Little Tokyo), and it 2015, the city placed signs welcoming people to Sawtelle Japantown.

Favorite Lunch Recommendation: I love Japanese Curry, so Hurry Curry of Tokyo is one of my favorites. It is very casual, but it is sort of a comfort food for me. My favorite is the Chicken Cutlet Curry, which is a piece of fried chicken breast fried, and served with rice. and their famous curry. They also serve beer, and sake, and their Lychee “saketinis” are pleasant.

Favorite Dinner Recommendations: Seoul House of Tofu is one of my favorite places period because it specializes in Soondubu jjigae or Soft Tofu Soup in Korean. It comes served with banchan or side dishes. My favorite is the beef served mildly spicy. The spiciest option can be quite deadly. They do serve beer, and also Korean soju which is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Korea. The do not take reservations, and often there is a long wait, sometimes even 45 minutes to an hour. Kiriko is an excellent sushi restaurant that consistently ranks atop the best sushi in the city. It is a cozy restaurant, and is not particularly flashy, but the quality is there. An omakase menu is also available, and the unpretentious restaurant is a great choice for any sushi lover. It is open for lunch and dinner on weekdays, dinner only on weekends, and closed on Mondays. Beer, Sake, Shochu, and wine including champagne are served.

Popular Tourist Attractions: That strip of Sawtelle Blvd, itself is somewhat of a tourist attraction. One can find many Japanese restaurants, a Japanese supermarket, a Japanese type of dollar store, karaoke, bookstores, and other Japanese cultural businesses. There are also 2 Korean tofu restaurants, and other establishments.

Favorite Coffee, Stores, Shops – Of course Starbucks has a location on Sawtelle, but many people choose Coffee Tomo which is a hand drip specialty coffee shop. Tomo means friend in Japanese, and serves great lattes. My personal favorite is Beard Papa which is a bakery from Japan known for its cream puffs of which my favorite is the Macha or Green Tea Cream Puff. BlackMarket is an awesome local boutique founded by Jisook Lee. Her store has a fun edge to it, and sells both men’s and women’s clothes. Sneaker aficionados can also appreciate BlackMarkets unique collection. They also sell unique and whimsical accessories, jewelry, and just over all fun knick knacks. Nijiya Market is a small Japanese super market that is not to be missed. Who doesn’t love Japanese confectionaries, and snacks! The candy, and snack aisle always has me fascinated.

Hidden Gems: Furaibo is not particularly hidden, but can be overlooked. It is a traditional Japanese tavern or izakaya. The food is served in a small shared format, and some parts of the izakaya have the traditional tatami floor. It is not a trendy establishment, but it can be a fun option. I love the onigiri or rice balls wrapped in seaweed. LOVE. To be honest I often consider the whole neighborhood a hidden gem.

Tips, Tricks, and do not miss: One can spend all day here! Tsujita LA always has a line out the door, and is sort of a mini scene known for its ramen. It has been mentioned in Jonathan Gold’s 101, and serves artisan noodles! There are so many little specialty establishments like the Blockheads Shavery which is inspired by Taiwanese “snow cream”, Seoul Sausage Co which specializes in Korean sausages, Mizu 212 which is a Shabu Shabu which is where one dips thinly sliced meats in large pots of boiling water, and more. Not all businesses here are Japanese. Some have nothing to do with Asia period such as Plan Check which is known for its burgers and craft beers! Definitely go in hungry, and immerse yourself in this vibrant little community. Many restaurants do not take reservations, so be prepared for long lines. UCLA is not too far, and one often sees college students around. Parking can be a challenge so prepare for street parking. The area is filled with casual, quality, and delicious dining establishments, and it is certainly a fun place to visit in the City of Angels.