With my Asia trip around the corner, I've been finding myself craving noodles left and right. Ramen would typically be my go-to meal, but the dry summer heat + hot broth do not make for a terrific combo. Instead, I found another solution: soba. Living in the South Bay, I'm surrounded by a multitude of mom and pop shops whose expertise lie in Japanese cooking. So soba hopping? Why not?
But before I get ahead of myself, where exactly is the South Bay you ask? The area is nestled between Los Angeles and Orange County and consists mainly of the Beach Cities (Manhattan, Redondo, Hermosa), the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Torrance and inland cities such as Gardena, Carson and Lawndale. I've often thought of the South Bay as the middle child of Southern California. It often gets overshadowed having LA and the OC nearby, but take a step into the neighborhood and you'll find yourself among some of the most delicious mix of Asian cuisine.
First stop: Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden, Torrance
Tucked away in old town Torrance next door to Foster's Freeze lies this unsuspecting gem. Bushels of overgrown leaves surround the building and if it wasn't for the red umbrella planted next to the open door, this cozy Japanese eatery can easily be overlooked. Inside, the decor is simple - light green walls with matching stools and a few wooden tables housing chopsticks and soy sauce. Japanese characters and posters line the walls and once you're welcomed by the sound of the ukulele playing in the background, your eyes are immediately drawn to the menu of noodles, broths, and toppings.
I ordered their special - zaru soba with a side of spicy cod roe rice - and grabbed a cup of barley water as I waited. I'm no expert when it comes to soba but the firm texture of the noodles and the nuttiness of the buckwheat came through with each bite. The saltiness of the spicy cod roe and heat of the rice balanced well with the cool mildness of the noodles. The dish was definitely simplicity at its best. Ichimi Ann shows you that there's no need for fancy food or elegant tables - just quality food in a place that feels like home.