Friday, April 3, 2009

Foodie Fridays: Ronin Izakaya Bistro

Abby and Shevin initially bonded over their mutual love of boba during their freshman year at USC and have since been dining together and enjoying all of LA's wonderful culinary offerings. They both love to travel, explore, and most importantly eat!

It seemed like a great idea for FoundTrack to introduce a food column. Let's face it, those of us who enjoy art, film, fashion, and music usually have a soft spot for great dining experiences as well. So now, these two young Angelenos will have the chance to share some of their favorite tasty spots in LA with all of you fun people through Foodie

If you have any recommendations you think should be considered for the column, please send an email to foodiefridays at foundtrack dot com. Eat on!

(photo credit- Metromix LA)

Ronin Izakaya Bistro
359 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 289-8404

Strangely enough, this tranquil retreat is right next door to a flashy, tacky strip club on busy La Cienega. But once you enter Ronin Izakaya Bistro, you will be greeted warmly into an oasis inspired by the Zen influences of various Asian cultures.

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Between the semi-open kitchen, intricate samurai swords along the bar, and samurai film projected on the back wall, your eyes will have a lot to feast on. The service and food here will certainly not let you down either. Brothers-in-law James and Sam Kwak, along with Scott Higa, co-own the restaurant and provide a very hospitable and accommodating experience, aided by their well-trained waitstaff.

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Ronin Izakaya offers a carefully crafted menu of Asian fusion tapas; thankfully, they don’t overdo the fusion element like many other restaurants in LA. The restaurant’s menu defines ronin as “ a masterless samurai, a wanderer chosen here to mean, independent to any particular culinary category.” Accordingly, Ronin Izakaya successfully combines Japanese tapas, with California cuisine and a handful of other culinary traditions. The restaurant’s vision has been shaped by the culinary journeys and comfort foods enjoyed by the restaurateurs. Their inspirations span from LA to Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and even Europe.

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The plates are great for sharing; if possible, go in a group of about four so you can sample a bunch. Start out with a bowl of sautéed garlic edamame, a robust take on this standard Japanese starter. Next we tried the ahi taco shimi. With its fresh ahi tuna, guacamole, and crisp tortilla chips, it combines a wonderful set of flavors and textures, delightfully reinventing the Mexican and Asian comfort foods the dish draws on.

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Another favorite of ours was the grilled shisho cod, served on top of a bed of purple Okinawan sweet potato mash. Many of the plates are balanced by a portion of citrus-tinged mixed greens on the side, which cuts the more savory flavors exquisitely.

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Less adventurous diners would surely be pleased with the Ronin fried rice, complete with a sunny-side-up egg on top.

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After all the delicious and filling dishes we tried, we thought we wouldn’t have room for dessert, but thank goodness (and Sam Kwak) we didn’t pass it up. First was a flan, which was interestingly paired with a scoop of lime sorbet and a small side of fresh fruit. We were lucky enough to also sample a new dessert, which the restaurant will be introducing as a special in the near future: deep-fried fruit dumplings, coated in cinnamon sugar and served alongside two shot glasses of vanilla ice cream.

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Let’s keep our fingers crossed it makes it onto the menu for good—we certainly plan on re-visiting Ronin Izakaya!

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COMING SOON on Foodie Fridays, we're heading to Street in Hollywood and Wurstküche in downtown LA.

mail to: foodiefridays at foundtrack dot com

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