Enjoying Sawtelle Nanbankan Style

If you know Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA, you may know about all the wonderful Japanese restaurants there. Well, if you head a few blocks north and turn left on Santa Monica you can find Nanbankan. A restaurant serving up great Japanese izakaya at a surprising price. While they do have your classic dishes, including your favorite skewers, they do have specials which will have you coming back for more.

It was late, 9pm to be exact. Parking was pretty easy at this hour. Inside, the place was still packed, but we had reservations and our 8 person table was at the ready. Ordering was easy, so easy we had round after round of getting as much off the menu as possible. That’s izakaya for you. And even with a party of our size, we couldn’t cover the whole menu. Probably about half of it. And only one dish was a meh while the others were pretty damn good.

The service was great. Food came out in ample time and our server was never hard to find. Oh that was perfect to keep the drinks flowing.

My only wish was for this place to be open a bit longer. Their hours from 5:30pm to 10:30pm really makes it your starting off point for a Friday night. I guess if they’re opened even later, they’ll have to deal with stupid drunk patrons like myself. But how can one resist pairing drinks with such lovely dishes. I sure can’t. I guess next time I’ll have to start right after work, a happy hour, kinda like how they do it in Japan. Oh wait a second… I see what you did there.


11330 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
+1 (310) 478-1591

Verdict: For an affordable and delicious izakaya experience, you will want to give this a try.


Past Closing at Sushi Izakaya Gaku

A quick drive out of Waikiki, you can find Sushi Izakaya Gaku. A place that has been serving up creative dishes for izakaya while also providing some elaborate sushi. We happen to come here primarily for the izakaya. Not to say we didn’t sample some of that wonderful fish. But mainly we wanted a festive night of drinking as we feasted.

We arrived at the restaurant around 8pm and put our name on the list. The wait time was about an hour for our group, a party of seven.

While this place takes reservations, they do not take them after 7pm. Why? My only guess is that it’s a true izakaya where there’s no such thing as a time limit. With that in mind, it’s really difficult to keep any reservations in order when people have a good time and continue ordering more. And going into the evening hours, that becomes more and more difficult. I mean, take us for example. By the time we left, we were the only party there. And looking around the restaurant, they had already started cleaning up.

Thanks for letting us stay to finish our drinks… I mean food.

Our table was in the back where they had sunken seating in a semi private enclosure. The server helped us order the right items explaining each of the dishes. The only thing they ran out of was the duck. No problem. We had over fifteen dishes to go through. Several of them being spectacular so I’m okay with missing one of the dishes. Having a party our size let us try out about half of the menu if you don’t include the sushi. As for the service, it was very attentive. Our drink glasses remained full and every dish came out in good time. We couldn’t have asked for more than that. Well, except maybe to try that duck. Anyways, it was still a memorable meal.

Sushi Izakaya Gaku

1329 S King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
+1 (808) 589-1329

Verdict: Get yourself out of Waikiki and get dinner here. You won’t regret it.


Finding Izakaya in Silicon Valley

There are many places around South Bay where you can go to enjoy some food and drinks with your co-workers. For starters, you have all those restaurants around downtown Mountain View on Castro street. Of course, most of them cater to the power lunch crowds. You can’t blame them since business rents in that area are as astronomical as residential rents. So to find a more down to earth comfort foods, you have to look elsewhere. For us, we had two requirements, close to the office and Japanese izakaya. Enter Tanto.

It’s located on El Camino and is a popular spot. So make sure you get reservations. Parking can be problematic too given the annoyed neighboring business who had to deal with the success of Tanto. Make sure you read the signs when you park.

Inside there are your tables and off to the side are booths, semi traditional ones where you can take off your shoes before sitting. It’s a very inviting atmosphere. Add in the wait staff and you’ll feel right at home. Our dishes came out quickly one after the other. And our waitress was helpful in making sure we weren’t over ordering, which we still ended up doing. But hey, she warned us. Sure, the food was classified as Japanese tapas, but the portions were more than what we expected. So glad we had a large enough group!

Tanto Japanese Restaurant
1063 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
+1 (408) 244-7311

Verdict: A must for those of you working in Mountain View or Sunnyvale who don’t want to travel too far for a great meal.


Yakitori Koko

We took a chance coming to Yakitori Kokko without reservations. It’s usually filled with people waiting outside. But today, we got out of work early. So we headed there right when they opened to see if they had any seats. Luckily they did. And I have to stress that lucky part. They already had a long list of people for 5pm. Fortunately, it was only the two of us and there was a small table in a narrow area in the back of the restaurant.

There was a catch though. We had the table for an hour. Kinda tough if you wanted to enjoy the izakaya experience. But still doable.

Even though we weren’t seated in the main area, service was quick and attentive. Several of the wait staff were always coming by and making sure our beers were topped and our appetites were satisfied. As soon as we realized it was one skewer per order, we started piling on seconds and thirds. It’s actually a great way to sample their selection and it’s wasn’t too heavy on the wallet being just over two dollars a skewer. We were pigging out and kept the kitchen busy. Probably why they let us stay an extra half an hour beyond our limit. Thanks team Kokko!

Yakitori Kokko
509 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
+1 (650) 401-7008

Verdict: In the mood for yakitori, pay this place a visit. Just make sure to make reservations.



Pabu is the type of place that can make you hate your Facebook friends. Every time someone checks into the restaurant, I was guaranteed to see posts of some delicious looking food. Now, it was my turn to return the favor. And after dining here, I understood why everyone was so excited. It’s a great looking place with even better tasting dishes.

The restaurant was a joint venture between Michael Minna and Ken Tominaga to bring in an upscale izakaya experience to the Financial District here in San Francisco. I have to admit, I tend to steer clear of the FiDi. After all, that’s where people work, including myself, and have power lunches. To me, I imagined inflated prices for mediocre meals.

I sure am naive.

For $95USD a person, we were treated to a very epic journey through Japanese cuisine. Pabu’s omakase nails it. The chef took us from classic izakaya foods to their house specials and rounded it out with quality sushi, that included spoonful of originality. And if you think we went home hungry, think again. Take a look at what we had (see pictures). It was an incredible experience. One that I need to make sure I try again.

101 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
+1 (415) 668-7228

Verdict: Yes, do the omakase. You’ll be in for a wonderful journey.

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