Kagura – Exciting New Japanese Option in Downtown Torrance

Quite by accident but perhaps more and more on purpose, I find myself “stalking” some of ExileKiss’ recent Asian restaurant finds.  Most recently, it was Kagura.  I was never that motivated to check them out, being that the last two restaurants in that spot were a Hawaiian hole in the wall and a Chinese hole in the wall, both sub-par strip mall food.  Well, have I been missing out.  They totally recreated that space into a remarkably beautiful room, complete with private booths that seat 8+ surrounded by beautiful cherrywood dividing walls with warm colors and a post-modern feel.  My review can not do justice to Exile Kiss’.  I strongly suggest you check his out as there is much more detail and background provided.  That said, I did order a few rather interesting items that he skipped.  ExileKiss’ Kabura Review

The menu goes on and on. There were only two of us, so we could not go completely nuts.  We ordered 9 items, that was plenty.

We started with Sawanoi Sake, which we found fairly smooth, a bit nutty, with a hint of tropical fruit.  It was solid, but not amazing.

We ordered two sashimi items.  The first one:

Hamachi  Ume-Goma:  Yellowtail with sour plum and sesame.  This was one of our favorite dishes of the evening.  I never experienced a combination of flavors quite like this.   Pricey at $15.95.

Next item: Salmon Luibe:  Frost Japanese Salmon Sashimi and Salmon Roe.  $12.95.  So my Japanese is not very good and I thought “Frost” was some kind of Japanese exotic preparation of some sort.  Nope, frost means frost.  The salmon came out frozen, like what you get in Korean Sushi Bars.  Plus, they forgot the Ikura so we had to send it back.  That is why you see a half slice on the plate.    THere was nothing wrong with this dish, but it was unremarkable.  It was better once we let the fish defrost. 

 

Next, another favorite: Yaki Hamaguri: Charcoal-grilled Hamaguri clam with sea urchin and arrowroot starch sauce.  This arrowroot starch sauce was to be a recurring theme with several items we ordered.  Unlike cornstarch, thickening with arrowroot allows for more subtlety.  Similar to the way Okra thickens gumbo.  In their case, it is combined with a very intense dashi that has a significant rich fish flavor component to it.  Scot found the clam too chewy but I love chewy clams.  The mushrooms were cooked in the broth and had both amazing texture and flavor. At $16.50, this dish was an extravagence.

Yurine Manju: Steamed lilly root cake in shrimp, fish cake, and shitake mushrooms and gingko nut with fish broth, kudzu, arrowroot. 

Obviously, those are not shitake.  Still, a comforting and very flavorful and unique dish.  $9.95
 

Takiawase. (steamed seasonal vegetables)  We have had this dish at Yuzu other times, but I would never had known it was the same dish.  Again, their dashi is much more intense.  And it included a bonus shrimp.  $10.50

Ebi Hamo Tempura: Shrimp and Pike eel with 3 kinds of dipping sauces.  Probably the most disappointing of all the dishes, expecially considering it was  $16.95.  The shrimp tasted like they were frozen/defrosted.  The eel was very good.  No way this dish was worth the money.

Ankimo Toban Yaki  – Monkfish liver with that same arrowroot sauce.   THe sauce is seasoned a bit differently for each dish so we were fine with the repetition.  On this dish, Scot went nuts.  For me, it was a texture issue; I prefer it just steamed like they do in sushi bars.  This preparation made it softer.   $12.95

Kaisen Zousui: Assorted seafood, egg, and rice with fish in broth.  Think Japanese bouillabase.  A remarkable and fulfilling dish with incredible depth of fish flavor, but without being fishy in the slightest.  Also an extravagance at  $23.50

Cha Soba : Green tea infused noodles with a dashi/soy sauce.  Accompaniments not shown.  These were solid, very strong taste of the green tea.  Great flavor and texture, but again, unremarkable.  I prefer Yuzu’s soba.   9.95

THoughts and conculsions: This restaurant is not inexpensive.  There are very few items under
$10, and you are really going to want 4-6 items per person unless you
are not that hungry.  That said, I think they are going to give Yuzu a
run for the money as they are just blocks away, and have food of a
comparable quality but a distinctly different style.  While both are
intrinsically Izakaya in offerings, there is not as much menu overlap
as one would expect.  Also, Yuzu can do a Kaiseki-type dinner, but it is
off-menu and something you have to ask for.  Kaguya clearly specializes
in it, and we are very interested in trying it on a future visit. 

Bottom
line, we spent around $180 before tip including a $40 bottle of Sake.  Not only
did we get fantastic quality and service, but we left feeling like we
enjoyed a very healthy, nutritious meal.  It was a very comforting
meal.  (Caveat: We pretty much skipped the beef/pork/fried dishes, so
this can be a very different experience depending on your mood.  I just
like having the option.)

$15 Corkage

Kagura
1652 Cabrillo Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (310) 787-0227

3 thoughts on “Kagura – Exciting New Japanese Option in Downtown Torrance

  1. Hi The Foodie Traveler, Great review. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words, I don’t deserve it. 🙂 There are some really interesting dishes you tried that I missed out on my previous visits: The Hamachi Ume Goma looks particularly delicious. I enjoyed the Kaiseki meal quite a bit, so it might be worth a try if you’re in the mood for Kaiseki in L.A. Thanks again~ 🙂

  2. Yes, go back for the Hamachi for sure.  We are definitely up for the kaiseki, will try soon.  And sure you deserve it!  Husband and I have been tracking down a number of your haunts this past weekend, more to come. 

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