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Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

The South Bay’s 17 Finest Japanese Restaurants

Torrance, Gardena, and Redondo Beach are the epicenter of great Japanese restaurants in LA

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Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
| Matthew Kang

The South Bay, an enormous region in LA County that includes cities like Torrance, Redondo Beach, Gardena, and Lomita, is home to some of the best Japanese restaurants in Southern California. The Japanese American population grew here largely because of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan basing U.S. headquarters in the area.

Though Toyota and Nissan have since relocated elsewhere, Honda continues to operate its national headquarters in Torrance, which means a significant Japanese American community continues to thrive. The result is an abundance of old-school Japanese breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert spots that seem to resist the passing of time. Here are the essential Japanese restaurants in the South Bay.

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Sakae Sushi

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This delightfully old-school sushi spot serves heavily seasoned rice in rolls or single pieces without very much in the way of actual raw fish. The small menu has a bit of everything including shrimp, saba mackerel, California rolls, tamago, and inari. Presented in individually wrapped boxes, this is throwback sushi at its finest. Remember to bring cash and always call ahead to place an order.

Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Toshi Sushi

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Toshi Sushi is a bit like Nobu or Katsuya but without the celebrity or cool factor, which makes it ideal for the local Gardena dining crowd. The restaurant serves a wide menu of cooked dishes and fresh fish, which will please a crowd without too high of a price tag. The lunch sushi plates are especially satisfying, well-crafted, and reasonably priced.

Sushi plate from Toshi Sushi in Gardena with floral decoration.
Sushi plate from Toshi Sushi in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Akane Chaya

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Chef Tadashi Kimura incorporates Western dishes and flavors with Japanese ingredients and sensibility at this Yoshoku-style restaurant in a laid-back strip mall. First opened in 1991, Akane Chaya has weathered outdoor signs and a somewhat mismatched interior, but the smooth bebop jazz tunes keep everything classy. Service is attentive and cheerful, while the menu includes hefty portions of pork katsu curry, hamburg steak with demi-glace, and various kinds of pasta.

Hamburg steak combination with spaghetti and meat sauce at Akane Chaya on a large round platter.
Hamburg steak combination with spaghetti and meat sauce at Akane Chaya.
Matthew Kang

Fukagawa

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Japanese daytime and dinner sets are on full display at this timeless restaurant tucked into the back of a large Gardena strip mall. Fukagawa remains one of the South Bay’s oldest and most charming Japanese restaurants with stellar ingredients and well-appointed environs. The breakfast is a real draw, with a choice of broiled fish, dashimaki, white rice, miso soup, and fresh tofu available in appealing combination meals.

Chikara Mochi

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One of the last remaining handmade mochi specialists in the LA area, Chikara has a humble, well-appointed shop in Gardena offering freshly made mochi that are beautifully adorned. The flavors are excellent too, balanced with each ingredient and placed in lovely boxes worthy of gifting to others or yourself.

Otafuku

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Otafuku is one of Gardena’s longtime izakayas and is hugely popular with the after-work crowd. It’s a fantastic place to try homestyle Japanese dishes and handmade noodles. Chef David Chang raves about the eel tempura here, so be sure to try that if it’s on the menu.

Otafuku
Otafuku
Stephie L./Yelp

Torimatsu

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There’s a reason why Torimatsu is so successful and packed nearly every night with almost exclusively Japanese speakers. This classic yakitori spot has an aged tare that’s likely decades in the making. The dipping sauce — flavored with years of chicken fat, soy sauce, and other ingredients — helps give the yakitori a distinctive taste. Try one of the set meals and don’t be afraid to order some of the off-cuts like gizzard, skin, and heart.

Yakitori skewers from Torimatsu in Gardena on a ceramic plate.
Grilled chicken skewers from Torimatsu in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Sushi Sonagi

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The South Bay has never seen a personalized, intimate omakase experience like the one at chef Daniel Son’s Gardena restaurant. A journey through various cooked snacks and well over a dozen pieces of nigiri, Son’s careful attention to detail, dry-aged fish, and multiple kinds of rice are just a few reasons why Sonagi is the best new sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. The friendly conversation and mom-and-pop feel make this a memorable meal worthy of standing among the giants of LA’s omakase scene.

Tuna sushi on an ornate plate shot overhead with chair to the left.
Nigiri from Sushi Sonagi in Gardena.
Jakob Layman

Red Rock

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Originally hailing from Japan, Red Rock is the jazzy, fancy version of Yoshinoya, with gently roasted, extra tender slices of beef served over rice and covered with savory sesame sauce and dollop of creamy yogurt.

Sliced roasted beef topped with yogurt sauce and raw egg yolk at Red Rock in LA. Matthew Kang

Ojiya Japanese Restaurant Torrance

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The tiny dining room at this longtime strip mall izakaya gets packed nightly. Like any good izakaya, expect to order a few drinks (ice-cold beer or chilled sake), followed by sushi rolls, seared saba (mackerel), agedashi tofu, and other small bites to help soak up the booze. The udon carbonara and salmon ochazuke are noteworthy.

For a low-key izakaya gem in Torrance: Ojiya.
Udon carbonara from Ojiya in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

Sushi Chitose

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The best part about the South Bay is the affordable sushi selection, and none offers more bang for one’s buck than Chitose located along Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. The relaxed atmosphere is quiet and restrained with expert sushi chef Gen preparing omakase meals for under $100 a person.

Sushi Chitose
Sushi Chitose

Ichimiann

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Torrance’s humble soba and udon factory is a wonderful place for a casual lunch in Old Torrance. The zaru soba is the main draw, but the cold and hot noodle bowls are excellent too. The texture of the noodles is unbeatable, with a firm bite and gentle buckwheat flavor. Cash only.

Ichimiann
Ichimiann
Andy C./Yelp

This family-friendly daytime restaurant gets busy on weekends with folk looking for heaping portions and reasonably priced bento specials. Think of Matsui like a Japanese diner, with bustling service and a huge menu that offers almost everything in the Japanese food canon.

Bento from Matsui in Torrance.
Bento from Matsui in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

This upscale Japanese restaurant is perfect for a date or an important meeting in the South Bay; the service and ambiance are definitely nicer than other strip mall spots. The star of the menu is the donkatsu, a deep-fried pork chop sliced and served with vegetables, rice, and a savory sweet sesame sauce. Kagura has a second location in El Segundo and a more casual takeout-only outlet at the Tokyo Central Market in Gardena.

Kagura
Kagura
Jam Y./Yelp

Izakaya Hachi

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Located just a few miles from Honda’s headquarters and filled nightly with suited office workers, this bustling izakaya is the quintessential post-drinking restaurant. The menu is small, but with a great selection of kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and hot pot.

Izakaya Hachi
Izakaya Hachi
Vanessa D./Yelp

Koshiji

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Yakitori is one of the best forays into Japanese drinking cuisine. This tiny strip mall spot checks many of the boxes, with high-quality chicken and other meats grilled over binchotan. Order up some beer, pick up a bunch of skewers, and enjoy a post-work meal the Japanese way.

Koshiji
Koshiji
Nicole D./Yelp

Sei-Ko-En Restaurant

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The line between Japanese and Korean barbecue is a fairly thin one, but think of yakiniku as Japan’s version of the Korean meal (not the other way around). Expect banchan like kimchi and pickled cucumbers to arrive before an array of sliced unmarinaded and marinaded cuts of beef, plus ample off-cuts like liver. Cooked on the tabletop with small, intense gas grills, the experience works best with some cold beer to wash it all down.

Sakae Sushi

This delightfully old-school sushi spot serves heavily seasoned rice in rolls or single pieces without very much in the way of actual raw fish. The small menu has a bit of everything including shrimp, saba mackerel, California rolls, tamago, and inari. Presented in individually wrapped boxes, this is throwback sushi at its finest. Remember to bring cash and always call ahead to place an order.

Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Toshi Sushi

Toshi Sushi is a bit like Nobu or Katsuya but without the celebrity or cool factor, which makes it ideal for the local Gardena dining crowd. The restaurant serves a wide menu of cooked dishes and fresh fish, which will please a crowd without too high of a price tag. The lunch sushi plates are especially satisfying, well-crafted, and reasonably priced.

Sushi plate from Toshi Sushi in Gardena with floral decoration.
Sushi plate from Toshi Sushi in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Akane Chaya

Chef Tadashi Kimura incorporates Western dishes and flavors with Japanese ingredients and sensibility at this Yoshoku-style restaurant in a laid-back strip mall. First opened in 1991, Akane Chaya has weathered outdoor signs and a somewhat mismatched interior, but the smooth bebop jazz tunes keep everything classy. Service is attentive and cheerful, while the menu includes hefty portions of pork katsu curry, hamburg steak with demi-glace, and various kinds of pasta.

Hamburg steak combination with spaghetti and meat sauce at Akane Chaya on a large round platter.
Hamburg steak combination with spaghetti and meat sauce at Akane Chaya.
Matthew Kang

Fukagawa

Japanese daytime and dinner sets are on full display at this timeless restaurant tucked into the back of a large Gardena strip mall. Fukagawa remains one of the South Bay’s oldest and most charming Japanese restaurants with stellar ingredients and well-appointed environs. The breakfast is a real draw, with a choice of broiled fish, dashimaki, white rice, miso soup, and fresh tofu available in appealing combination meals.

Chikara Mochi

One of the last remaining handmade mochi specialists in the LA area, Chikara has a humble, well-appointed shop in Gardena offering freshly made mochi that are beautifully adorned. The flavors are excellent too, balanced with each ingredient and placed in lovely boxes worthy of gifting to others or yourself.

Otafuku

Otafuku is one of Gardena’s longtime izakayas and is hugely popular with the after-work crowd. It’s a fantastic place to try homestyle Japanese dishes and handmade noodles. Chef David Chang raves about the eel tempura here, so be sure to try that if it’s on the menu.

Otafuku
Otafuku
Stephie L./Yelp

Torimatsu

There’s a reason why Torimatsu is so successful and packed nearly every night with almost exclusively Japanese speakers. This classic yakitori spot has an aged tare that’s likely decades in the making. The dipping sauce — flavored with years of chicken fat, soy sauce, and other ingredients — helps give the yakitori a distinctive taste. Try one of the set meals and don’t be afraid to order some of the off-cuts like gizzard, skin, and heart.

Yakitori skewers from Torimatsu in Gardena on a ceramic plate.
Grilled chicken skewers from Torimatsu in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Sushi Sonagi

The South Bay has never seen a personalized, intimate omakase experience like the one at chef Daniel Son’s Gardena restaurant. A journey through various cooked snacks and well over a dozen pieces of nigiri, Son’s careful attention to detail, dry-aged fish, and multiple kinds of rice are just a few reasons why Sonagi is the best new sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. The friendly conversation and mom-and-pop feel make this a memorable meal worthy of standing among the giants of LA’s omakase scene.

Tuna sushi on an ornate plate shot overhead with chair to the left.
Nigiri from Sushi Sonagi in Gardena.
Jakob Layman

Red Rock

Originally hailing from Japan, Red Rock is the jazzy, fancy version of Yoshinoya, with gently roasted, extra tender slices of beef served over rice and covered with savory sesame sauce and dollop of creamy yogurt.

Sliced roasted beef topped with yogurt sauce and raw egg yolk at Red Rock in LA. Matthew Kang

Ojiya Japanese Restaurant Torrance

The tiny dining room at this longtime strip mall izakaya gets packed nightly. Like any good izakaya, expect to order a few drinks (ice-cold beer or chilled sake), followed by sushi rolls, seared saba (mackerel), agedashi tofu, and other small bites to help soak up the booze. The udon carbonara and salmon ochazuke are noteworthy.

For a low-key izakaya gem in Torrance: Ojiya.
Udon carbonara from Ojiya in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

Sushi Chitose

The best part about the South Bay is the affordable sushi selection, and none offers more bang for one’s buck than Chitose located along Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. The relaxed atmosphere is quiet and restrained with expert sushi chef Gen preparing omakase meals for under $100 a person.

Sushi Chitose
Sushi Chitose

Ichimiann

Torrance’s humble soba and udon factory is a wonderful place for a casual lunch in Old Torrance. The zaru soba is the main draw, but the cold and hot noodle bowls are excellent too. The texture of the noodles is unbeatable, with a firm bite and gentle buckwheat flavor. Cash only.

Ichimiann
Ichimiann
Andy C./Yelp

Matsui

This family-friendly daytime restaurant gets busy on weekends with folk looking for heaping portions and reasonably priced bento specials. Think of Matsui like a Japanese diner, with bustling service and a huge menu that offers almost everything in the Japanese food canon.

Bento from Matsui in Torrance.
Bento from Matsui in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

Kagura

This upscale Japanese restaurant is perfect for a date or an important meeting in the South Bay; the service and ambiance are definitely nicer than other strip mall spots. The star of the menu is the donkatsu, a deep-fried pork chop sliced and served with vegetables, rice, and a savory sweet sesame sauce. Kagura has a second location in El Segundo and a more casual takeout-only outlet at the Tokyo Central Market in Gardena.

Kagura
Kagura
Jam Y./Yelp

Izakaya Hachi

Located just a few miles from Honda’s headquarters and filled nightly with suited office workers, this bustling izakaya is the quintessential post-drinking restaurant. The menu is small, but with a great selection of kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and hot pot.

Izakaya Hachi
Izakaya Hachi
Vanessa D./Yelp

Related Maps

Koshiji

Yakitori is one of the best forays into Japanese drinking cuisine. This tiny strip mall spot checks many of the boxes, with high-quality chicken and other meats grilled over binchotan. Order up some beer, pick up a bunch of skewers, and enjoy a post-work meal the Japanese way.

Koshiji
Koshiji
Nicole D./Yelp

Sei-Ko-En Restaurant

The line between Japanese and Korean barbecue is a fairly thin one, but think of yakiniku as Japan’s version of the Korean meal (not the other way around). Expect banchan like kimchi and pickled cucumbers to arrive before an array of sliced unmarinaded and marinaded cuts of beef, plus ample off-cuts like liver. Cooked on the tabletop with small, intense gas grills, the experience works best with some cold beer to wash it all down.

Related Maps