Tapas via Tokyo

For the start of my 4th of July holiday, I headed to Ronin Izakaya Bistro in West Hollywood.  Location-wise, it’s kind of strange, because it’s next door to a nudie bar but across the street from a Pho-bulous.  Go figure! I was piqued by the extensive menu of Asian tapas. Small plates and variety are tops in my book. So after landing at LAX, I met up with the siblings for a late dinner.  Now be forewarned, thanks to my sister,  this entry is going to be the most pornographic entry you have yet to see on this site…. and I mean Food Porn not real porn from the nudie bar next door. (Psssh! Get your mind out of the gutter!)

As with every Japanese restaurant, they gave us a bowl of edamame to chew on, but unlike any other place I’ve been before, these beans were distinctly seasoned… almost stir-fried tasting. There was a little garlic and a little spice which made them absolutely flavorful… so much so that Peter sucked off all the green and bean he could leaving nothing but the thin clear outer sheath. I probably should have taken a picture, but that would have been gross.

We decided that each of us would pick 2 dishes and depending on the dish, we may need 2 orders of specific ones. Now let’s just dive on in.

Supposedly, the Beef Tataki Salad was really good as well, but I never got a chance to taste it. In my family, you have to eat fast or go home hungry.

The Garlic Shrimp Scampi was delicious. It reminded me of the salt & pepper shrimp dish that I absolutely love to eat in Chinese restaurants. The garlic sauce on the side made it Italian while the tempura batter made it Japanese. A decent “fusion” dish in concept, but I actually didn’t try the garlic butter dip.

Shrimp and Mochi Dynamite sounded so odd yet extremely intriguing. This was my choice, and after tasting it, I think most everyone would agree. The dish was a spicy mayonnaise or cheesy cream sauce mixed with shrimp and mochi balls and then baked to a golden brown. It went really well with the crispy baguette toasts. The mochi balls gave it an interesting yet slightly unexpected twist.  I kind of like the chewiness that it added.

The Grilled Lamb Chops were served with an Oba Jelly which was quite tasty, but wasn’t able to mask the gamey taste commonly found in lamb. It’s kind of odd, my Mom used to make lamb for us and I was fine eating it, but these days, I can’t seem to get past that taste.  So unfortunately, this was not one of my favorites.

The Ronin Fried Noodles were pretty good in spite of the giant fried egg on top. I am not a fan of fried eggs mainly because of the yolk. Although, the egg itself didn’t taste that good, and I really don’ t think it added much flavor to the dish.  I guess it gave a different texture to the noodles, which were pretty tasty by itself.  This dish ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Blue crab cakes reminded me a bit of the crab cakes I had in Baltimore a long time ago, because it was filled with huge chunks of crab meat. Fantastic! None of that bread crumb stuff taking up space. Although those Maryland crab cakes were like 4 times the size of Ronin’s, I can’t complain because I really only needed one bite of the mini cake to be satisfied. Another good middle of the pack dish.

The Roasted Duck Breast was served with a black raspberry flavored risotto. Although it seemed relatively normal, one bite offered an odd yet delicious complement of flavors. Duck is always very good unless it’s overcooked in which it ends up tasting dry and blah-tasting (like that duck from Le Charm).  However, it was the sauce and slightly sweet-flavored risotto which added an interesting twist to the duck meat. A dish hovering near the top of the pack, for sure.

Another picture of the duck (although half-eaten at this point) which shows the risotto a little bit better. I swear it tastes a whole lot better than it looks here. =)

Sake Miso Clams tasted pretty good as well, although I have to say I loved dipping the toasts in the broth itself more than the clams.  Buttery, garlicky and miso flavored…. YUMMY!

The Seafood Trio Carpaccio had samples of yellowtail, tuna and scallop. It all tasted very fresh and well-seasoned. Near the top as well, but I always love my sashimi, especially when it’s fresh.

Of course, Dumpling Man chose the Chicken Dumplings which had a nice crispy crunch on the outside, but the meat filling left much to be desired. I think each of us had one but in spite of Dumpling Man’s agreement that he has had better, he still finished off the rest of them.

As everyone who eats with knows, I do love calamari, but I decided against ordering the Calamari Fritters. It didn’t matter, because it got ordered anyways and everyone insists it’s because I like it. It didn’t taste necessarily different or more earth shattering than most other attempts, but it’s hard to go wrong with fried squid.

Agedashi Tofu was well done. The soybean cake was very firm and had a more unique consistency… almost custard-like. A solid dish.

Now I saved the best for last. The Ahi Taco Shimi (Did you notice the play on sashimi?).  It was yelped about quite a bit, and after the first round where we had 2 orders, we had another 2 orders in our 2nd round of ordering. Essentially, it’s ahi tuna and shitake mushroom with guacamole on a crispy wonton/tortilla-ish cracker, and to top it off there it is served with a a creamy teriyaki sauce.   I think I sneaked 2 or 3 helpings myself. This by far was the most unique and creative dish, and I absolutely loved it. I seriously want to go back and order 1 dish just for myself. This definitely was the best dish of the entire night.

So overall, the food was very good, and I really recommend it to everyone.

PAFO Ratings for Ronin Izakaya Bistro:
Price 3 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 ½ stars
Overall rating 4 ½ stars

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