Before our flight back to SF, Pdho and I had dinner with Smooth Obturator, Triple T and Triple T’s brother (who I haven’t given a nickname too). We decided to go to Shinsen Gumi which happens to have other outposts that focus on ramen and shabu shabu, but we ended up going to the one that specializes in yakitori. The moment you step into the restaurant, you’re greeted with a booming chorus in Japanese which I can only assume is something along the lines of “hello” or “welcome”. What’s even more notable is throughout the entire dinner, all the staff from the chef, waiters, waitresses and grill masters will randomly bust out something in Japanese from someone taking a drink of sake to someone else getting up to go to the bathroom. It’s kind of festive but oddly unsettling to the meal as well.
I can’t recall the exact name of this dish, but it was essentially deep-fried shrimps tossed in a sweet and sour-like sauce. It was delicious.
The Fried Calamari and Shrimp Croquette were two very solid dishes. The calamari was mainly tentacles, but they were nicely battered and fried. I really liked the shrimp croquette, but then again, I’ve never met one that I didn’t like. It was creamy and flavorful on the inside and hot and crunchy on the outside. Delicious!
I really liked this pancake. It was essentially an okinimoyaki, but I can’t exactly recall what was inside, if it was seafood or meat. Although I’m not a fan of bonito flakes, it actually didn’t muddy the taste at all. I think it was one of the better okinomayaki’s I’ve had.
The Agedashi Tofu was fine, but I’m not a big of the gooey layer that surrounds the tofu. I’m not sure what it is, but the slimy texture is a little odd tasting to me.
Takoyaki aka “squid balls” [Courtesy of Oishi Nazi, I stand corrected and it’s actually octopus and not squid. Thank you, Oishi Nazi!] are balls of dough mixed with tiny pieces of octopus. Generally speaking, I haven’t really liked any of the takoyaki that I’ve tried including those in Osaka, from where they originated. I think it’s because the octopus pieces usually are not only big but very chewy, so it becomes such a chore to eat. However, these octopus balls were actually pretty good mainly because the octopus was more finely diced and mixed throughout the dough.
Smooth Obturator insisted on two orders of the Soboro Don which was ground chicken marinaded in dashi and served with rice and sliced ginger. It didn’t sound that good, but it actually tasted quite delicious. It reminded me of a bento box that I used to order from a food cart back in college but much better. The ground chicken had a nice rich flavor that you wouldn’t expect from chicken. According to Smooth Obturator, “it’s all about the dashi.”
The Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard where mushrooms and chopped seafood is mixed throughout. Although I usually like it, I thought this one tasted a little bit bland.
The main focus obviously was more about the grilled foods and the variety of different yakitori, so in addition to the other dishes, we ordered a number of different proteins on the stick.
There was a lot of grilled meats that we ordered including beef, sausages and tongue. With the smokey, grilled taste, it all tasted pretty good.
The chicken yakitori was quite tender and juicy, and the meatballs were quite good as well.
As Pdho often says, “you can’t go wrong with bacon” and in this case, both the bacon-wrapped asparagus and bacon-wrapped chicken turned out to be very good.
The grilled shrimp was actually a little bit on the dry side.
All in all, the food was very good and the ambiance is very fun. It’s definitely the kind of place that you want to go when you’re in the mood to drink, eat and be rowdy. I enjoyed a majority of the dishes particularly the yakitori which was definitely one of the high points of the meal. The Soboro Don was also very good. There was quite a lot of food though, and I didn’t even include everything, so we were pretty stuffed by the end.
18517 South Western Avenue
Gardena, CA 90248
PAFO Ratings for Shinsen Gumi:
Price 1 stars
Ambiance 2 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars