Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nanbankan: My (Not Anymore) Neighborhood Yakitoriya

This blog post is dedicated to the Westside... (WESTSIDE!) Since I recently moved home to Koreatown, I decided to write about one of my favorite places in my old neighborhood. I literally used to live a couple blocks from Nanbankan and would walk there for dinner time to time when driving seemed so much work. Yes, driving 2 blocks seemed a lot of work at that time... Nanbankan is fairly popular due to its minimalist yet elegant decor and atmosphere. If you want to see the grilling action, I suggest you sit at the yakitori bar but keep in mind you might smell like smoke. I usually opt to sit at a table more out of habit than necessity.  

Every person gets an order of veggies with a miso-based sauce to enjoy while they wait for the food. I like this much better than chips or bread since it's so much healthier. We usually devour this mini appetizer within one minute, but I never feel bad about it - haha!

yellowtail roll

Whenever J and I go to a yakitori spot, we have the usuals that we order. This time, I wanted to go off the grill menu and try a few of their non-grill items. The first to come out was the yellowtail roll filled with sprouts, avocado and even a carrot. I wanted a very simple roll, but this one did the job.  

beef tongue

shitake mushrooms

bacon-wrapped asparagus

chicken liver

chicken wings


chicken cartilage

We ordered our usual stapes; me with my liver and tongue and j with his cartilage and wings. The tongue was actually beautifully cooked and super tender. I also almost always enjoy liver, so that was an easy one for me. J's enjoyed his cartilage but not so much on the wings. I believe he wanted crispier skin, not burnt. We both really enjoyed the beef. Although I can't remember what cut of the meat it was, it was tender and the delicious with the sweet soy-based sauce. The bacon-wrapped asparagus were just okay for me, but J really enjoyed them since it combined two of his favorite things: asparagus and bacon.

stuffed mushrooms

potato, sour cream

We moved onto the non-meat items, working our way through the stuffed mushrooms with radish, scallions and ponzu sauce and the grilled potato with sour cream topped with scallions and chili powder. I expected the mushrooms to come out warm, but it was served cold. The flavors were fine, but nothing extraordinary. However, the grilled potato was quite fantastic in both texture and flavor. The almost-burnt layer from the open flame gave a wonderful smokey flavor and nice textural contrast, especially when eaten with the cool and creamy sour cream. The added hint of spice from the chili powder was subtle and welll-balanced. While I would definitely order the potato again, J thought it was pedestrian and pretty average.

salmon onigri

clams, whitefish, green beans, mushrooms

assorted mushrooms, tomatoes

octopus sunomono

I ordered the salmon onigiri because I wanted something filling, but immediately regretted it once I saw the salmon and rice ratio. I think I'm used to the more generous filling from the homemade onigiris. Nonetheless, the outside of the onigiri was crispy and nicely seasoned. We also got the clams and assorted mushroom dish. Both were passable, the clams being a bit better than the mushrooms. I think I was having a bad mushroom day. We finished our meal with the refreshing octopus sunomono. The octopus had the perfect texture, it was tender but still had a bite to it. The combination of the sweet octopus with the pickled cucumbers and seaweed result in a refreshing and delicious mouthful.

It's a well-known fact that I will miss living on the Westside, being able to walk over to Nanbankan or any of restaurants on Sawtelle Blvd. for lunch or dinner. I still haven't eaten at all the great Westside eateries, but I'm sure I'll eventually get around to it. More than the food, I will miss all the memories I've made living on the breezy side of town. The late nights, the lonely nights in and even my crazy neighbors... But, I must say that being back in Koreatown is pretty damn convenient. I forgot how easy it was to meet people up for a drink and find something to eat at 2 AM on a Wednesday. I also forgot how central Koreatown is to everything else. Besides the insane traffic and congestion, life is pretty good in Ktown, my hometown.

11330 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90189
(310) 478-1591


bagnatic said...

welcome home right? :)

your yakitori pics makes me want to drink a few bottles of beer. yumz.

chopinandmysaucepan said...

I love the gentle chewy texture of the raw octopus with a little soy and wasabi.

Kung Food Panda said...

I've always wanted to try Nanbankan, but never had a chance.

kish said...

always looking for really great izakayas. great tip!!!

i love beef tongue mmmmmmmmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

ur blogs are making me hungry :(

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Anonymous said...

Just moved out here. Thanks for posting!!

Anonymous said...

how come ure not posting delicious pictures anymore? i want to eat all of these things RIGH NOWWWWW

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