(This post is the first in a series of gawd-knows-how-many unfinished posts I have hidden deep in the depths of my post library. Had I been more on top of it, this post should have been published in December.)
There are Los Angeles foodbloggers.
And there are San Diego foodbloggers.
And there would certainly come a time for the two to meet. So when Kirk, our beloved foodblogger from San Diego, emailed me to tell me he'd be in town, I arranged a mini get-together of local bloggers for the two groups so co-mingle. But somewhere in that fucked-up, obsessed-with-Bizarro-mind of mine, I couldn't help but think of the "Bizarro Jerry" episode of Seinfeld where Jerry, George and Kramer finally come face to face with Elaine's new friends who bore an uncanny resemblance to her OG chums. What if, despite so many similarities most of which revolve around our common passion for food, we had absolutely nothing to talk about once we met up? I imagined uncomfortable moments of silence, obligatory questions like "So...I hear it's going to rain this weekend" followed by "Uh yeah. Mm-hmm" and twiddling thumbs.
Fortunately, however, our Bizarro meet up was far from boring. On a Saturday night, some of us Angeleno foodbloggers--Oishii Eats, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, Best of LA, Rick James/Diet Chili Cheese Fries, and myself--came face-to-face with Kirk and fellow San Diegan food fiend Jack at Little Tokyo's Restaurant Koshiji. I don't think there was one odd moment of silence as we all had so much to talk about; this was the first time meeting and/or hanging out with Kirk for some of us but it felt as though all of us had known each other for years. I'm really glad to have added Kirk--such a funny, kind and caring person--to my growing circle of food-loving friends.
Unlike its loud & trafficky Bizarro twin Kokekokko down the street, Koshiji is more of a low-key yakitori joint. Service can be extremely slow which could swing the pendulum on meetups like ours either way: either it could make things even more uncomfortable if say, the foodbloggers from the other side of town really are like Bizarro Jerry, or in our case, it gave us more time to chat over the good chow we've had in recent weeks and drool over Kirk's recent experience atUrusawa.
Small cups of raw vegetables with a small dish of miso-based dipping sauce seem to be included with each person's place setting; a much welcomed snack while we waited for our server to take our order and bring us our food, but unfortunately not quite enough for people like ourselves who were starving.
Finally, our food started to arrive. Although we all ordered separately, our food came out very much un-separately, so it took some investigating to remember who ordered what and in what quantities. Luckily, one of the things Isaac and I ordered was Koshiji's chicken yakitori course, so those skewers had been separated from the rest of the pack.
The chicken-on-a-stick course was on the whole, unimpressive. The plain ol' poultry meat skewers--negima (chicken w/ green onion), tsukune (chicken meat ball), sasami (chicken breast with shiso leaf), kamo (duck breast w/ miso sauce) and tebakara (chicken wings)--though not bad, didn't have that just-came-off-the-grill caramelized and smoky wow-factor that I was looking for. My favorite part of a yakitori meal, however, comes not so much from the chicken-meats-on-a-stick but rather from the chicken-parts-on-a-stick. While the liver skewer was just plain gross, the crunchy-textured sunagimo, or chicken gizzard, skewer was pretty damn good as were the cute little quail-eggs-on-a-stick, better known as uzura.
Our yakitori chicken course came with a bowl of soboro-don, a hearty bowl of seasoned ground chicken with egg over rice, and a small cup of broth with...cilantro???? Koshiji lost major points with me right there--what person in their right mind puts cilantro on Japanese food? The soup was given straight to Isaac. He loved it. Enough said. As for the soboro-don, I thought it was a little on the bland side, not quite as tasty as the one I'd had down the street at Kokekokko.
Koshiji was able to redeem itself with some of its other menu choices, however. Their chicken karaage, probably the only non-food-on-a-stick item we ordered that night, was crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and had nice hints of soy and ginger. We almost mistook our kaori (pork belly) wrapped around subtley spicy shiso leaf for grilled mushroom caps upon first glance, but fortunately figured out that they were not someone else's grilled funghi dish. Grilled spirals of squid (ika), scored for even more textural interest and wrapped around shiso leaf, were also delicious. Toumorokoshi (sweet corn) were charred in just the right spots. And with our orders of what are probably my two favorite meat-on-a-stick of all time--crispy kawa (chicken skin) and salted-just-right tan (beef tongue)--koshiji certainly did not disappoint.
All in all, despite the slow service and a couple of misses on a few of their items, Koshiji is a welcome addition to my Little Tokyo dining list. I liked that it was chill, and the awesome company made it that much more fun. Of course if I were Elaine Benes, I'd be forced to choose sides--hang with my OG LA foodbloggers or my newly found San Diego ones. But this isn't Seinfeld after all, and it's good to know that I can hang with both. In the same room. At the same Bizarro restaurant.
123 S. Onizuka St. #203 (in Weller Court)
Los Angeles, CA 90012