Discovering The Hidden Gems
I had the pleasure of experiencing a sneak preview of Delicious Little Tokyo last weekend and sampled some of the up-and-coming gems in this dynamic cultural enclave of Los Angeles. The festival is going on this weekend, and you shouldn’t miss the savory delights in store. The Japanese Plaza transports you to another place, with multicolored lanterns swinging gently from flowering trees and brightly colored signs blinking advertisements for steamed buns and Japanese cosmetics. Enticing aromas compete with each other, wafting from the diverse collection of bakeries, sushi restaurants and street food stops. A few of the shops that stood out from the crowd include Café Dulce, Takoyaki Tonata, Bad Son Tacos and the Kuragami Little Tokyo Florist
A Sweet Start
Welcoming you into the Japanese Plaza is the conveniently located pastry and coffee shop Café Dulce. It’s the perfect place to start your day, with its wide range of puffy treats and creamy lattes. As you walk in, the pastries showcased in a large glass display catch your eye immediately — sweets such as condensed milk and cookie crusted buns filled with Japanese cream cheese, which come in a variety of flavors, such as blueberry, vanilla cookie crumb and matcha green tea. The sweet and soft bite of the pastry crusts create a delightful juxtaposition to the creamy fillings. Offering a more fusion flare, mouthwatering glazed doughnuts came topped with fresh strawberries, fruity pebbles, Oreo cookie crumbs and other unique combinations. In terms of something to sip, the iced matcha latte embodied the rich and savory distinct taste of green tea paired with a creamy milk of your choosing.
Not Your Typical Tako
A creative and delicious addition to the neighborhood is the quaint eatery Takoyaki Tonata. The owner of the store originally came from Osaka, Japan, where he mastered the skill of making these savory little round snacks, and then decided to bring his skills and this popular street food to Little Tokyo. Takoyaki consists of a fried wheat flour dough shaped into a soft, crispy ball and filled with cooked octopus. Here, the snacks are served with a variety of toppings and flavors, ranging from wasabi to Parmesan and truffle oil. A crowd favorite is the traditional takoyaki topped with kewpie mayo and sweet takoyaki sauce, and sprinkled with dried seaweed. The sweet and salty combination creates a savory steaming doughy treat perfect for whetting your appetite.
A Cultural Fusion
A surprising offering featuring flavors of Mexico reside within the walls of Bad Son Tacos, tucked away in a bustling Asian Supermarket on Alameda Street. The tacos are made with fresh, handmade corn tortillas, which are pressed by the kitchen staff in the early hours of the morning. They are served warm, and the soft and chewy texture creates a delightful contrast to fillings such as juicy carnitas, slowly marinated mushrooms or “hongos,” and rich and creamy chicken molé. For the more adventurous eaters, there is an option for “chapulines,” or the grasshopper taco, in which dried grasshoppers are doused in savory herbs and spices, and served with creamy guacamole and salsa verde. The grasshoppers are imported from Oaxaca, a region in Mexico where the chapulines are quite popular. Chef Elvis Prado, a co-owner of the taco shop, says Bad Sons’ recipes are all based on, and made to represent, the cuisines of Mexico, using fresh ingredients.
It Can’t Really Be Vegan…
The wonder of Donatsu doughnuts comes not only from the deliciousness of the pastries, but from the reality that what you are tasting is 100 percent vegan. This little Doughnut shop will blow your mind — and taste buds — with creative glazes and rich fillings that do not taste at all lacking of butter and dairy. They are perfectly constructed and served fresh and warm. They come complete with soft, fluffy outsides and hot, gooey interiors. The glazes include flavors like matcha pistachio, crème brûlée and hibiscus dragon fruit.
A visually pleasing and calming experience is to be found at the Kurugami Little Tokyo Florist. The flower-arranging workshop organized by second-generation florist Mary Onoue is a unique experience in which patrons pick their own flowers and are taught some of the basics of flower arranging. Visitors have the opportunity to create their own bouquet of flowers distinct to their stylistic approach, with the help of Onoue, who is an expert in traditional Japanese methods. During the workshop I attended, students were smiling and crinkling their eyes in concentration as they plucked blooms and placed their flowers into the little miso bowls gifted by Onoue. The experience was a quiet, cool break to the day of activities, and I had a lovely souvenir to take home.
To learn more about the annual Delicious Little Tokyo Festival visit