LA city guide: Eating and drinking along Sawtelle Boulevard

Check out the best eating and drinking on Sawtelle Boulevard with our LA city guide to the the area's new wave of restaurants.

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<em>Clockwise from top left:</em> banh mi from Nong Lá Vietnamese Cafe, snow cream from Blockhead's Shavery Company, Gama Ray at Plan Check, boba at Coco Fresh Tea & Juice

Clockwise from top left: banh mi from Nong Lá Vietnamese Cafe, snow cream from Blockhead's Shavery Company, Gama Ray at Plan Check, boba at Coco Fresh Tea & Juice

Downtown's Little Tokyo may have a 75-year headstart on Sawtelle Boulevard, the West LA enclave between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevards known as Little Osaka. But amongst the bevy of stores and restaurants in the area a spate of restaurants have recently opened. This new crop of culinary contenders complement existing classics, turning the primarily Japanese restaurant row into a collective dining destination. Here's your LA city guide to the best eating and drinking on Sawtelle Boulevard.


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Plan Check

  • Price band: 2/4

Chef Ernesto Uchimura has moved beyond burgers, to an extent, since his Umami Burger days. But now the former executive chef of the chain is part of the city's new burger-focused eatery. Dig into the PCB, aka Plan Check Burger ($11), layered with dashi cheese, caramelized schmaltz onions, pickles and ketchup leather, or upgrade to the Habanero Cheeseburger ($13), with spicy and smoky chile cheese and bacon. Other standout dishes include Smokey Fried Chicken ($13)—crispy-coated Jidori chicken with smoked milk gravy, sweet yam preserves and spicy pickled okra in a cast iron skillet. Sure, there are salads, but why not pile on gut-busting comfort foods like Pastrami Nosh ($12), starring double-rubbed and double-smoked pastrami plated with molten Swiss cheese, kimchi mustard, pickles and a fried egg, and, for people who have the intestinal fortitude for dessert, cruller donuts ($6) fried to order. The bar offerings are equally tempting with Julian Cox-designed cocktails—try the bourbon and plum wine-mixed Little Osaka Sour ($12)—beers by the bottle and on tap and an extensive selection of Japanese whiskeys.

  1. 1800 Sawtelle Blvd
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ROC Kitchen

  • Price band: 1/4

While ROC typically refers to the Republic of China, this Sawtelle newbie offers the tastes of the Republic of California, translating to seasonal and enlightening touches on a Chinese menu. Dishes include the fairly traditional—three-cup chicken ($14) features juicy dark meat bathed in soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, roasted garlic, fresh chiles and Thai basil—and relatively nouveau, such as spicy sautéed shrimp and shishito peppers ($15). Dumplings are also on offer, from crispy shrimp and pork—griddled discs resemble flying saucers—to soup dumplings (pork, $7; crab, $9.25), a rarity on the Westside.

  1. 2049 Sawtelle Blvd
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Nong Lá Vietnamese Cafe

  • Price band: 2/4

Nong Lá fills a gaping Vietnamese gap on the Westside. Minimalist wooden tables and countertops and black-and-white photos set the modern space, while comforting classics such as pho are served by the bowlful. Choose beef—toppings vary from beef ball and thinly sliced rare steak (both $7.95) to an everything version ($8.50) of steak, brisket, beef ball and tripe—or chicken ($7.95), featuring free-range chicken and broth seasoned with cinnamon and cloves. Each bowl comes with a side of Thai basil, bean sprouts and a ginger-garlic-chile dipping sauce. Other favorites include banh mi (8” baguette for $5.50, 12” baguette for $6.50) and bun ($7.95), rice vermicelli noodles served with cucumbers, carrots, daikon, bean sprouts, lettuce, cilantro and peanuts and topped with meat toppings. Of particular note are the bo nuong cha gio, also served as an appetizer; these crispy egg rolls are filled with ground pork, shrimp, carrots, glass noodles and shallots.

  1. 2055 Sawtelle Blvd
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Tsujita

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

When Tsujita opened in 2001, ramen had already gained traction in LA, but this Sawtelle storefront took the soup noodles to another realm and introduced Angelenos to tsukemen. Also known as dipping ramen, these thick, springy noodles are served alongside broth—porcine-rich tonkotsu soup that simmers for 60 hours and combines with seafood for savory complexity and a blast of umami. The lunch-only (for now) options include basic ($9.95) or topped with char siu pork ($10.95), double pork ($13.95), scallions, mushrooms, nori or soft-boiled egg. Tsujita switches up offerings entirely at dinner, with a varied menu of refined Japanese comfort food that includes ox tongue stew, a spicy hot pot with sliced pork and winter vegetables or seared, vinegar-soaked saba. There’s also beer, wine, sake and soju cocktails crafted with fresh fruit.

  1. 2057 Sawtelle Blvd
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Seoul Sausage Company

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Chef Chris Oh and brothers Ted and Yong Kim operate this contemporary Korean-inflected sausage parlor with a decidely party vibe. The loft-like space houses a DJ deck on the mezzanine and a colorful wall mural declaring “Make Sausage Not War.” The trio lapped the field on The Great Food Truck Race with their handmade sausages of spicy pork—the ground meat is also showcased in the creative, arancini-like Flaming Ball ($3)—and kalbi ($7), served with garlic-jalapeño aioli and kimchi relish on a toasted roll. Specials further riff on recognizable favorites like Da KFC ($8)—crispy chunks of thigh meat are dredged in semolina and panko and topped with scallions, carrots, daikon, tangy chile sauce and a sweet square of cornbread and Sriracha honey butter drizzle—and galbi poutine ($8), piles of crispy fries with juicy pulled short rib meat, cheese, avocado-lime crema, pickled onions and scallions.

  1. 11313 Mississippi Ave
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Robata-ya

  • Price band: 2/4

Chef Mako Tanaka presided over the now-shuttered Mako in Beverly Hills for years and now brings the same cutting-edge vibe to his new Sawtelle restaurant with daring ingredients such as fugu. But at the core of Robata-Ya’s culinary program is the robata, an open charcoal grill where skewers of Kurobuta pork, veggies and chicken—namely, Jidori chicken, including liver, breast meat, meatballs, skin and even bone—are grilled to order. Don't miss chicken oysters ($2.50) with crispy skin and savory teriyaki sauce or the spicy meatball ($2.75) with a ginger kick. Lunch is prime time to get your bang-for-your-buck bento-box fix (chicken, $10; filet mignon, $12)—thin-skinned chicken gyoza, delicate vegetable tempura, miso soup, salad, spicy tuna roll and, of course, more skewers.

  1. 2004 Sawtelle Blvd
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Users say

1 comments
Emily
Emily

So excited to see some love for my neighborhood! There are so many great restaurants in the area and this guide really covers the gamut.