5/07/2013 03:15:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate: Yakitori and More at Honda-Ya

The gray fortress at Alameda and Third Streets - most people just call it the Little Tokyo Mall - isn't necessarily booming with restaurants and nightlife, but the restaurants that are there are some of the more popular ones in Little Tokyo, especially Izakaya Honda-Ya. The mall seems dark and a little depressing when you ride the escalator to the third floor, where Honda-Ya and the always jamming Manna Korean BBQ are, but once up there, all sorts of people are milling about, waiting for tables at either restaurant. Just about any night at Honda-Ya there's a wait, and the large room is always packed with lots of skewered things, big bottles of sake and pitchers of Kirin on the tables, and smoke billowing from the grill.

You have to scan a bunch of menus, but first things first: Mark down what you want from the grill on the little piece of paper they give you and hand it in. You really can't go wrong with any yakitori - the meatballs, bacon-wrapped tomatoes, quail eggs, gizzards and chicken skin will do the trick - and other dishes like marinated burdock root (a personal fave), the agedashi tofu and chicken karaage are good. This last time we threw in a order of a pork cutlet "special" on a whim, which ended up being our favorite of the night. The nicely seasoned fried pork was smothered in a slightly sweet sauce and topped with an egg and some pickles and vegetables to the side. It was just a mess of flavor on a plate, but delicious. Or that was the sake talking. Either way.

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