Who doesn’t love yakiniku? After attending a Touken Ranbu event in Torrance, I was craving some Japanese cuisine! 🙂
Originally I was going to settle for some BBQ in Garden Grove but decided, what the hey! Might as well try something in the area and who knows… I might be pleasantly surprised. So after yelping for a bit ( bless yelp app, I abuse you on a constant basis ), I came across a yakiniku place called HIKARI Japanese BBQ and Grill ( located 2383 Lomita Blvd #102, Lomita, CA 90717 ).
While it wasn’t far or hard to find, the plaza you park in is.. kinda weirdly sloped. Not a big enough issue to be a detriment but it’s just something to keep in mind.
The restaurant is pretty small and can only seat a handful of parties. Imagine a local ramen or sushi joint and that’s roughly a similar size. The center has a long table, while the sides have booths for more private dining. PEEKS AT… no one.
It was oddly empty on a Saturday evening. I think other than me and my sister there was only one other party (and another one that came later). Still, from what I saw on yelp, Hikari had a favorable following…
One complaint I saw on yelp was that depending on where you were seated, the sun that shone thorough the blinds could be a nuisance. –Which is why it was really nice when greeted by the waiter, he took a few minutes to walk around and carefully consider a comfortable area before seating us. For the most part, I (luckily) never have terrible service at a restaurant but I think it’s nice to note when service stands out (whether good or bad…!)
This is actually my first time using a grill like this. I’ve seen these sold at places Japanese supermarkets like Marukai so if you’re interested in acquiring one you can get one for pretty inexpensive. I’m not sure of the exact model but I’ve seen them go for as low as 20 USD… just keep in mind you need to get charcoal for this and it smokes like crazy so just be aware of that in case of a nearby smoke detector.
It’s easy enough to use. Grill on the wire side, set on the foil side to keep the pieces warm until ready to eat!
We ordered an appetizer so this came to us already prepared. This is… *drumroll* Beef tongue! Are you shocked? I was… pretty surprised. This dish is called ゆで牛タン or “Braised Beef Tongue with Wasabi” ($9.80)
I’ve never seen thickly cut beef tongue served as a dish. And maybe I’m just ignorant to the fine versatility of beef tongue but I’ve never seen it served braised either.
If you’re familiar with grilled beef tongue, you’d know it has a chew not-quite-rubbery texture with a bite to it. This was… very soft. Like it just sort of breaks apart which was very surprising. In a good way.
The flavor is very light so it’s good for an appetizer but you might want to pass for a different appetizer if you prefer things with a strong kick.
Though, a you can see it’s served with wasabi on the side so it might have a completely different taste if mixed in. I do believe this is legit wasabi and not that awful powder/paste stuff that comes in a tube. I’ve only tried real wasabi once prior to this (with chuutoro) so excuse if my memory is a bit foggy; for those of you who haven’t tried, actual wasabi is not as spicy… it has a “spice” to it but it lacks that condiment-y cheap taste.It’s not bad at all and I could actually eat it–I just prefer my food without it.
This was the pork cheek dish. Sometimes it’s referred to in restaurants as pork jowl. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly what they called this dish nor the price since it was on the daily special menu? Or something like that.
I’m really happy this has been offered more commonly in restaurants now, specifcally Japanese and Korean places. I remember a few years back it was hard to find after I fell in love with Santouka’s tonkotsu ramen which uses pork jowl for their chashu. (Though the last few times I’ve had it it’s been… meh. But that’s a post for another time), I even when to a butcher shop to look for it but to no avail LOL.
The dish was good but nothing stellar. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by braised pork jowl that melts apart so grilling it isn’t the same. I think I usually prefer it on the sweeter side while this was salty.
This is 厚切り豚バラ焼き or “Thick Cut Pork Belly” ( 8.80). Um. I honestly don’t have much to say about this since I think most people know what pork belly tastes like and this didn’t stray too far from the norm.I am a bowl.
It was served with this dipping sauce and some lettuce to make wraps. The lettuce was very fresh (I’m actually curious as to what type… I thought it was green lettuce but it was more… mild in flavor.) The sauce itself was sort of a mix of tangy, sweet, with a hint of spice.
This is カルビすだれ焼き or “Marinated Short Rib” (9.80) . This was easily my ( and my sister’s) favorite dish. See next picture for reason why.
This is the dish I would recommend anyone who decides to visit give a try. If you’re a fan of kalbi or similar dishes especially. The flavor is strong but not overpowering and the texture was SO nice. The slits added into the meat give it a very interesting and much welcomed texture.
The entire meal was under $50 so it was roughly $25 a person so it wasn’t that bad. I do regret not trying the 厚切り牛タン or “Thick Cut Beef Tongue” which is their most expensive grill dish ( 12.80 a place) and their specialty. If I’m ever in the area again I’d definitely make sure to order that next time. 🙂
If you’re looking for a small quaint yakiniku place, this place is worth a visit! You can check out their full menu here. I can see this place getting popular eventually so it’d be nice to visit before it gets too crowded haha!