I suppose you could say that I wasn't exactly in a total date night mode. How does one balance the long and tiring hours of holding multiple jobs, working out, SLEEPING, and leisure in this city? I'm straining to do all of those, especially last Saturday. I was super tired after having to be at the hair salon at 8:30 am. My plan was to go to bed really early Friday night, but we started our netflix, The Color Purple, and then a bottle of wine got opened and well let's just say I had more than my fair share of wine and the movie got done after midnight. Whoops.
I see the girls in tiny dresses and super high heels lined up Friday nights along Cahuenga and I can't stop thinking about how ridiculous and tiring that looks. Oh wait, that was me three years ago.
But I made it through the work day and 6:30 pm finally arrived. I didn't feel hot or made up like I did for date night 1, but you win some and you lose some. Meh, we're past that point of taking over an hour to get ready anyways, it's actually kind of a relief.
We began heading downtown on the 101, which I'm not sure why, I assume it's construction, but the interstate cement had the foulest smell coming through our a/c, it was making me naucious! Normally it only lasts for, you know, 10 seconds? Oh no... not this time. The stench continued for 5 miles. We thought it was our car, but then I opened the window....AHHHH! Disgusting smell. No matter what time of day, the drive to downtown LA on the 101 is atrocious. Absolutely atrocious! It's always crowded, foul smells, stupid intersections where you have to cross 6 lanes in a matter of 15 seconds to get to your exit. Yeah you know which one I'm talking about. Is this why downtown is dead? Is this why nobody talks about downtown LA? Because getting there is such a bitch???
Well foul smells aside, we made it to Little Tokyo. We were a little shocked at the stillness and the availability of parking. We found a lot right behind the plaza for $5 for all night and there was no one there... Ok.... maybe tourists park elsewhere?
Sad to say, but Little Tokyo was kinda dead (and it was way cold, still trying to figure out where this LA heat everyone talks about is). I thought for sure on a Saturday night with a discount event going on, it was going to be packed! I was nervous before about making reservations, but I could see that it wasn't an issue.
We walked around for while, checking out the different places in our little discount book, but unfortunately none of the places in the book were busy, which is a bad sign, and the places we found that had lines out the door or were full, were either ramen places or shabu shabu. Now I know what you're thinking, well duh, those places are where you should go considering they are probably more authentic than anything else. Yes, this I know. But here's the thing... I have a very long and deep relationship with americanized sushi. I love it. I eat it probably 3 times a week. And the thought of just noodles in a soup or fried beef just brings a funny feeling to my stomach, along with memories of a poor college student living in a dorm. And the same goes for bf. We just LOVE over the top sushi. Rice and all. The more non-Japanese ingredients that the roll includes, the more we love. So I'm sorry readers if you were hoping for me to explore those places, I just can't let go of my heart's desire.
So we went through the Japanese Village Plaza where there was a man playing around 8 instruments, organ, guitar, harmonica yada yada, singing ballads from the 80's. The plaza itself is very charming with restaurants and cute boutiques and bakeries and you can tell that there have been many attempts to lure people to Little Tokyo, but I guess it's not the spot for Saturday nights. There's plenty of space to just hold your bf's hand and stroll, sometimes a wonderful date in itself, but that's for another time. We decided to scope out a fun sushi place and went upstairs to a spot tucked away in a corner. It was:
Zencu Sushi and Grill
319 E 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The menu said that it had been voted the best cheap sushi in LA in some magazine, so having that and rolls with cream cheese, we were sold.
When you walk in to Zencu, it kinda has a feeling of a night club trying to be a sports bar. I don't know... it had lamps with red lights and the full sushi bar, but then there were tables of college students yelling sake bomb this, sake bomb that, and a big projector screen playing the Dodgers game, which we were seated right in front of. That's ok, bf and I were tired and didn't have enough brain power, or at least I didn't, to have romantic and meaningful conversations.
We were greeted in good time by our young waitress who gave us menus stock full of fun items and pictures and pleased us by telling us that pints of Sapporo were only $1.99. Hello flashback to nights in Iowa City, I'll take one! It is very rare to get any kind of beverage in LA for 2 bucks, especially a beer. Bf and I are always happy to hear specials like that. So we both got Sapporos and decided on the jalepeno poppers as an appetizer, the salmon roll, and the spicy tuna crunch roll with cream cheese added.... mmm.... So yes, everything we ordered had nothing to do with Japan, but come on, jalepeno poppers with spicy tuna inside? Can't say no. She took our order and quickly brought our beers. I asked bf to come sit next to me to rest my head as we both watched the Dodgers game. Yes, we are that couple that eats side by side, but definitely not the couple that makes out all the time at a bar. But we've never left the honeymoon phase, we get giggly and share plates. It's a good thing, in my opinion. Plus, I tend to get really full when I eat sushi and it's hard to sit up straight afterwards.
Some edemame came, (pea pods, can be cold or hot, usually has salt on them) and were soon followed by the poppers. They were so creamy in the middle and crunchy on the outside. Positively sinful. I most definitely recommend ordering these while drinking a Sapporo, watchin a Dodgers game. It's kinda like having wings and a Bud Light while watching football. Check out the picture:
Not long after downing our poppers, the two sushi rolls came out. Here they are:
However, the salmon roll looked divine. Plus, I love it when sushi rolls have a separate sauce that is placed with them, I'm not a fan of soy sauce, way too salty. First bite.... and it TASTES simply divine. By far, the BEST salmon roll I have ever had, EVER. So juicy, cooked just right, was still warm and was complimented by a sweet brown sauce. MMM, MMM, MMM! Get this roll. Get it. No question. So delicious.
During our meal, we talked about how tired we were... it's amazing how you feel physically, can completely change the way that your night will go. I asked bf what I should call this posting since everything seemed kinda slow and low key. He said, "Feeling Old in Los Angeles." Ha, it's true that this city can do that to you. You work and work and work and just try to keep up, pay your bills and then you try to be active, you try to keep the youth inside you alive. You feel the city sucking the energy out of you, the gas pump guzzling your wallet, Rodeo drive living as an Emerald City that you try so hard to reach some day. What do you do? You start writing on the internet about it and hope for the best, I guess.
We wanted to get a dessert, but we thought we should try to find a more authentic Japanese bakery or something and not get it at this restaurant. Found out that the restaurant only had one Japanese worker that wasn't there that night after asking the waitress about the sake bomb thing and how that came about....She had no idea what I was talking about. lol.
All in all I would say Zencu is a great place to take groups of friends and very casual dates. You can get some yummy sushi, good beer deals, and watch a game... Don't go there for a quiet date night, it's just not set up for that. Price was fairly good, I think our total bill came to $30? Reasonable.
After the restaurant, we decided to perouse the shops before getting dessert somewhere. I found this great little boutique, who also was NOT included in the book, called Blooming Art. It was a small shop with a bunch of random stuff; bags, framed art, books, trinkets, all made in Japan as far as I could tell. Bf was most interested in this massive ET, doll?, I guess you could say. It's sitting up top looking over the store with its arms spread.. a little odd...The store is for sure an inexpensive and unique place to buy little gifts. I decided to buy my mom's late birthday present, an incense holder and 3 types of incense all made in Japan and then a super cute purse (for myself). It was only $25! Check it out:
We left the shop and headed towards the bakery just a few doors down... alas, it was closed. And everywhere else were full out restaurants that we didn't really feel like going to for dessert, so I did something that I said I wouldn't. I found a tea and crepe place in our discount book and we headed out of the plaza towards it. Bf had mentioned the crepe place earlier because he knows my obssession with crepes and French things in general, but I said, "No! We have to have Japanese in Little Tokyo!" Well... like I said earlier, things didn't really go as I had imagined.
The little place is called Four Leaf Tea and Crepes. It's absolutely adorable inside. I loved the decor and it has the best women's restroom in LA. I adored the going green advisement on the wall. Check out the pictures I took:
It was kinda funny, the place was essentially empty and it was after 9 pm, but they had 3 bright eyed young guys waiting anxiously to help us. I asked them if they were Japanese: negative. They explained that the Japanese population was of an older generation and not as flourished as communities like Koreatown. One of the guys showed me a board of events and happenings in Little Tokyo. We totally missed out on a sake tasting festival the week before! Damn! I grabbed a community newspaper to keep up with the cultural events that were happening in the future, I'll be sure to keep you, readers, posted.
There's a lot to choose from on the menu. Lots of different types of crepes, coffee drinks, tea....We ordered my standard: a crepe with nutella and bananas, with vanilla ice cream. Now, if you've never had a delicious French crepe, I would say you should start with this. Once you've had Nutella, you can never stop thinking about it. Watch out though... the calories are huge! Our discount book got us a free iced green tea latte... not great, it's one of those things you have to have a certain palate for. Just didn't work for bf and I. The crepe was amazing, the only thing I would critique is it didn't need the extra hershey sauce and they could have put the ice cream on the side of the dish as opposed to inside the crepe. Crepes are best when they are warm and oozing with Nutella. The way it was presented was rather impressive however:
Well my friends, this is basically where date night 2 comes to an end. On the way home we admired the beauty of downtown, wondering what downtown needed besides a Lakers game to come alive. It's clean, the skyscrapers are beautiful at night, there's a lot of restaurants and walking around one can do...Our drive home west on 1st also took us through historical Filipinotown which we had never seen. I was confused...it looked like a deserted place and I hardly saw anything that looked Filipino... Hmm another place to discover on date night? Could be.
I would say you definitely need to visit Little Tokyo, but if you're looking for a crazy, wild night, perhaps you should save that for Hollywood. Try to go to Little Tokyo during a cultural event because I don't think the Japanese culture is accurately represented there, or at least I didn't feel totally exposed to it. Now, some of you might be thinking, "Awww you should have done ____!" or "You don't know what you're talking about!" Well if that's so, tell me about it, I would love to write more about Little Tokyo and experience new things... maybe even... ramen. I did though, feel the love in Little Tokyo. One can tell the sense of community, whatever the ethnicity, there is there. Little Tokyo is essentially made up of two plazas, and though they be small and maybe not the most happenin place, they deserve your attention. And your love. Love on angels. :)