Review: Hakata Yamaya

9 January 2013

Having been stuck at home through the holidays, flying solo the entire time, I decided I needed to get away for a few days. It’s been a hectic time, but a productive few weeks. Within the time everyone else was stressed over holiday shopping and resting from their New Year’s hangovers, I managed to get so many things moving — from finalising my moving plans to really tossing my heartbreak away. So I deserved a few days of rest and feasting! I felt so optimistic about 2013 at its open, and it’s still moving well…

So I decided to make a two-part trip, the first part in Los Angeles. Now I really don’t like the long flight from NYC, but LA has probably the most underrated food scene in the country and I wanted to visit a few places — including my favourite restaurant in the world Il Grano (review coming in a few days) and the pop-up restaurant by my friend Walter, Barbershop (review coming also in a few days). However, after the long flight, my relaxation begins at one of my favourite places in the US to eat, Hakata Yamaya.

Hakata Yamaya is one of the coolest places to go for offal eaters, as it is one of their specialties. Focusing on both the hotpot and the yakiniku (BBQ at your table), this unpretentious restaurant has been one of my favourites since I found it by accident a few years ago. I come by here every time I am in the LA area, even though it’s a hike down to the south part of Torrance.

And as usual, I went with yakiniku. Now this is a no-BS place, the flame is bloody hot and you gotta be careful. My tongs actually partly melted during my session this evening… But after my beer came I placed my order for the first round…


The first plate that came out was the skirt steak. Very simply seasoned with pepper and sea salt, I threw a few pieces onto the flame…


It was extremely tasty, the meat very tender and flavourful. As I was finishing the first set, the next dishes arrived. My first offal selections arrived: the first stomach (left) and intestines…


The first stomach is nice and tender, and very flavourful. The intestines are extremely difficult to cook as the fat dripping out of them create near hazardous cooking conditions! To balance the feast I also had a large plate of assorted vegetables to grill, including a few hot peppers…mmm…


I took a little break at this point after all the delicious morsels of food. The skirt was fantastic as was the 1st stomach. So with a bit more beer, I ordered a second set of dishes… I knew tonight was gonna be fun! It was “offaly” fun!

First that came was a plate of mentaiko, the wonderful spiced roe that I have grown to really love on its own. It’s good to eat roe that’s not salty, and these worked great before my next set of bits for the grill…


The rest of the dishes all came out together: the rib meat, tongue, and 3rd stomach. Each of these are special and were amazing after hitting the grill.


The tongue was tender and nice, but it was not as good as the other two. The rib meat was amazingly flavourful…it was as good as a toro from tuna, as it just melts in my mouth… The 3rd stomach was also amazingly good. It only needs very quick cooking, and I enjoyed it with the plethora of cabbage I had grilled earlier.


By this point I was spent…with so much food and beer in me, I was happy. My motel (yeah, I took a room in a crappy little place just to be near this place) was not too far, so I let the really cute waitress talk me into a nice glass of shochu on the rocks. She talked me into a second one.

But I knew that was enough for me, so I left happily and headed back to the roach motel. This was a brilliant start to the trip and the first restaurant visit for 2013. This is a good sign, and maybe my earlier optimism for 2013 was spot on!

Hakata Yamaya
2529 Pacific Coast Highway
Torrance, CA


4 thoughts on “Review: Hakata Yamaya

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