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

The South Bay’s 18 Finest Japanese Restaurants

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

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Sushi from Sakae Sushi in Gardena.
| Matthew Kang

The South Bay, a large region in LA County that includes cities like Torrance, Redondo Beach, Gardena, Manhattan Beach, and Lomita, contains some of the best Japanese restaurants in Southern California. It’s a credit to the longtime history of the Japanese-American population here, which grew in large part because of the big three automakers, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, having their U.S. headquarters here.

Toyota and Nissan have since moved, but Honda continues to operate their national headquarters in Torrance, which means a significant Japanese-American community remains in the area. The result is old school Japanese breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert spots that seem to resist the passing of time, in the best way possible. Here now, the essential Japanese restaurants in the South Bay, from ramen and sushi to izakayas and mochi shops.

Add: Sakae Sushi, Fukagawa, Rakkan Ramen, Akane Chaya, Chikara Mochi

Remove: Umi by Hamasaku, Sanuki No Sato, Seiko-en, King Shabu, Wadatsumi, Jidaiya

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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. Sold in individual pieces, the small menu has everything from shrimp and saba mackerel to California rolls, tamago, and inari. Presented in individually wrapped boxes, this is throwback sushi at its finest. Remember to bring cash, and always call to place an order ahead of time.

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

Akane Chaya

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The dream of the 90s lives on at this Yoshoku-style restaurant from chef Tadashi Kimura incorporating Western dishes and flavors with Japanese ingredients and sensibility. The laid-back strip mall space has attentive and cheerful service and hefty portions of pork katsu curry, hamburg steak with demi-glace, and various kinds of seafood and meat-sauce pastas. First opened in 1991, Akane Chaya has weathered outdoor signs and a somewhat mismatched interior, but the smooth bebop jazz tunes keep everything pretty classy.

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 strip mall in Gardena. 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 as well, with a choice of broiled fish, dashimaki, white rice, miso soup, and fresh tofu coming in appealing combination meals.

SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa

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While this chain has a number of outlets across Southern California, the one in Manhattan Beach continues to serve fantastic sushi in various sized set course menus labeled “Trust Me” or “Don’t Think, Just Eat,” that offer more or less fish with warm seasoned rice depending on one’s appetite. Perfect for a pre- or post-beach hangout.

Sushi from Sugarfish.
Sushi from Sugarfish.
Manolo Langis

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.

Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Otafuku

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One of Gardena’s longtime izakayas, this virtually hidden restaurant is hugely popular with the after work salary employee crowd, though it’s also a fantastic place to try homestyle Japanese dishes and handmade noodles. And 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

Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu

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Shabu-shabu literally means swish-swish in Japanese, and the hot pot here is among the best in town. Order thinly sliced beef and other meats and swish them into the gently boiling water for a few seconds before dipping in a ponzu sauce. Veggies go into the sesame sauce for a completely different flavor profile. At the end, ask for some rice to make a rice, beefy porridge to finish the meal.

Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Siyang G./Yelp

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

Asa Ramen

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This Gardena restaurant gets raucous on weekend evenings, with people coming for takoyaki, kotteri ramen, and other booze-friendly food. Prices are reasonable and the place stays open late most nights. Don’t mind the karaoke singing — it’s coming from next door.

Asa Ramen
Asa Ramen
Ken T./Yelp

Inaba Japanese Restaurant

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Inaba is the more upscale offshoot of the Ichimiann empire, and the menu is expansive here. There’s excellent sashimi and sushi, incredible udon and soba noodles, and whole lot more. But the best draw here is the reasonably priced tempura omakase, something of a rarity in LA. Sit at the tempura counter and watch chefs expertly fry bite-sized pieces of fish, vegetables, and meat, all under what one would pay at a similar place in Kyoto.

Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Ryan T./Yelp

Sushi Chitose

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The best part about the South Bay is the affordable sushi selections, and perhaps none does the bang-for-the-buck better than Chitose, which sits in a standalone building 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 a lot of the soupy cold or hot noodle bowls are excellent too. The texture of the noodles is unbeatable, with a firm bite and gentle buckwheat flavor. Remember, it’s cash only.

Ichimiann
Ichimiann
Andy C./Yelp

Torihei

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This boisterous izakaya in the heart of Torrance serves a lot of office workers looking to escape the drudgery of cubicle life. The place packs in diners every night serving kushiyaki skewers, noodles, grilled dishes, and more in a bustling strip mall space, all at very reasonable prices.

Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Kevin P./Yelp

This upscale Japanese restaurant is another place to bring a date or have a dinner meeting in South Bay. The service and ambience are definitely nicer than the strip mall spots. On the menu, the star is the donkatsu, deep fried pork chop sliced and served as a set with vegetables, rice, and a savory sweet sesame sauce. Kagura has a location in El Segundo, plus a more casual takeout/quick service version at the Tokyo Central Market in Gardena.

Kagura
Kagura
Jam Y./Yelp

Izakaya Hachi

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This bustling izakaya is about the best example of a post-drinking restaurant as there could be, just a few miles from Honda’s headquarters and filled nightly with suited office workers. The menu is pretty small, with a great selection of kushiyaki and an excellent hot pot.

Izakaya Hachi
Izakaya Hachi
Vanessa D./Yelp

RAKKAN Ramen

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Boasting a lighter, more healthy broth with plenty of flavor coming from vegetables and the essence of dried sardines and bonito, this standout ramen shop has polished bowls that hold back on the relentless pork fat of other restaurants. However, there’s still amazing pork in the soup, like the tender grilled chashu slices.

Ramen from Rakkan.
Ramen from Rakkan.
Rakkan

Koshiji

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

Koshiji
Koshiji
Nicole D./Yelp

Japanese barbecue, or yakiniku, is the cuisine’s take on Korean tabletop grilled meat. And while many of the elements are similar to KBBQ, yakiniku feels distinctly Japanese. That means a devotion to truly amazing meat quality, like dry-aged or even Wagyu cuts, served in a fantastic step-like cutting board on the table. Sides are great too, with kimchi and other banchan that aren’t quite as aggressive as one might find in Koreatown. Be careful here, the prices at Tamaen can get sky high.

Tamaen in Lomita
Tamaen
Matthew Kang

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Sakae Sushi

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

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. Sold in individual pieces, the small menu has everything from shrimp and saba mackerel to California rolls, tamago, and inari. Presented in individually wrapped boxes, this is throwback sushi at its finest. Remember to bring cash, and always call to place an order ahead of time.

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

Akane Chaya

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

The dream of the 90s lives on at this Yoshoku-style restaurant from chef Tadashi Kimura incorporating Western dishes and flavors with Japanese ingredients and sensibility. The laid-back strip mall space has attentive and cheerful service and hefty portions of pork katsu curry, hamburg steak with demi-glace, and various kinds of seafood and meat-sauce pastas. First opened in 1991, Akane Chaya has weathered outdoor signs and a somewhat mismatched interior, but the smooth bebop jazz tunes keep everything pretty classy.

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 strip mall in Gardena. 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 as well, with a choice of broiled fish, dashimaki, white rice, miso soup, and fresh tofu coming in appealing combination meals.

SUGARFISH by sushi nozawa

Sushi from Sugarfish.
Sushi from Sugarfish.
Manolo Langis

While this chain has a number of outlets across Southern California, the one in Manhattan Beach continues to serve fantastic sushi in various sized set course menus labeled “Trust Me” or “Don’t Think, Just Eat,” that offer more or less fish with warm seasoned rice depending on one’s appetite. Perfect for a pre- or post-beach hangout.

Sushi from Sugarfish.
Sushi from Sugarfish.
Manolo Langis

Chikara Mochi

Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

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.

Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Various mochi from Chikara in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Otafuku

Otafuku
Otafuku
Stephie L./Yelp

One of Gardena’s longtime izakayas, this virtually hidden restaurant is hugely popular with the after work salary employee crowd, though it’s also a fantastic place to try homestyle Japanese dishes and handmade noodles. And 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

Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu

Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Siyang G./Yelp

Shabu-shabu literally means swish-swish in Japanese, and the hot pot here is among the best in town. Order thinly sliced beef and other meats and swish them into the gently boiling water for a few seconds before dipping in a ponzu sauce. Veggies go into the sesame sauce for a completely different flavor profile. At the end, ask for some rice to make a rice, beefy porridge to finish the meal.

Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Shin-Sen-Gumi Shabu-Shabu
Siyang G./Yelp

Red Rock

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

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

Asa Ramen

Asa Ramen
Asa Ramen
Ken T./Yelp

This Gardena restaurant gets raucous on weekend evenings, with people coming for takoyaki, kotteri ramen, and other booze-friendly food. Prices are reasonable and the place stays open late most nights. Don’t mind the karaoke singing — it’s coming from next door.

Asa Ramen
Asa Ramen
Ken T./Yelp

Inaba Japanese Restaurant

Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Ryan T./Yelp

Inaba is the more upscale offshoot of the Ichimiann empire, and the menu is expansive here. There’s excellent sashimi and sushi, incredible udon and soba noodles, and whole lot more. But the best draw here is the reasonably priced tempura omakase, something of a rarity in LA. Sit at the tempura counter and watch chefs expertly fry bite-sized pieces of fish, vegetables, and meat, all under what one would pay at a similar place in Kyoto.

Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Inaba Japanese Restaurant
Ryan T./Yelp

Sushi Chitose

Sushi Chitose
Sushi Chitose

The best part about the South Bay is the affordable sushi selections, and perhaps none does the bang-for-the-buck better than Chitose, which sits in a standalone building 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

Ichimiann
Ichimiann
Andy C./Yelp

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 a lot of the soupy cold or hot noodle bowls are excellent too. The texture of the noodles is unbeatable, with a firm bite and gentle buckwheat flavor. Remember, it’s cash only.

Ichimiann
Ichimiann
Andy C./Yelp

Torihei

Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Kevin P./Yelp

This boisterous izakaya in the heart of Torrance serves a lot of office workers looking to escape the drudgery of cubicle life. The place packs in diners every night serving kushiyaki skewers, noodles, grilled dishes, and more in a bustling strip mall space, all at very reasonable prices.

Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Torihei Yakitori Robata Dining
Kevin P./Yelp

Kagura