Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Closer Noodle - Mishima

8474 West 3rd Street, #108
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Google Local Info

I seem to spend more and more of my life these days at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, for the general poking, prodding, screening, testing, and tweaking that comes with middle age. (Since when did 47 become middle age, anyway? If I wasn't so tired all the time , I might protest!) Of course I always park at the Beverly Center and walk the two blocks, saving ten bucks or so for parking. And, since I was trained as a child to expect treats after visits to the doctor, I always take myself out to lunch on the way back. But where are you gonna go for lunch at or around Bev Cen? CPK? How 80s. Grand Luxe Cafe? Yuck. PF Chang's? Double yuck. Chipotle? Well, yes, but I'm middle aged, so I rarely have a burrito for lunch anymore.

I go to Mishima. Tucked deep in the corner of a strip mall on Third Street just west of La Cienega, it's a squeeky clean, reasonably priced, impeccably tasteful cafeteria of the type you expect to find in Little Tokyo, not on the Westside. It is, as my friend Kent would say, "sooo Japanese," from the minimalist, brushed metal sign out front to the cool marble bar that offers counter seating inside.

I first discovered Mishima when searching for Udon noodles, and there are some who maintain these are the best in town. I wouldn't argue. They're thick, tender on the outside with a springy, manly resistance on the inside. The variety of broths are few and simple: tender flank steak, pork, chicken, or tempura. The traditionally mild and subtle flavor can be juiced up with the chili powder or seaweed-and-sesame sprinkles on the table.

Other faves: the curry udon is rich and hugely satisfying comfort food for a rainy day. Also available here is an excellent bowl of Sansai vegetable udon, Japanese mountain vegetables that include a variety of mushrooms, greens, and herbs that I guarantee you don't know: honeywort, bog rhubarb, shuttlecock fern, or spikenard, anyone? The names are unfamiliar, but if you like veggies but are bored of broccoli, green beans, peas and carrots, these are delicious and different. Other items on the menu range from soba noodles, sushi and sushi combos to rice bowls, from bento boxes to light and delicious salads of albacore or soft shell crab.

The only things on the menu more than ten bucks are big bento boxes and combinations of soup and rice bowls (like the one pictured here, of plain udon noodles with a bowl of slightly sweet, tender miso pork don with onions and mushrooms over rice) that are easily big enough to share; nearly everything else is in the $5-9 range.

Add a $3.75 pint of draft Kirin Ichiban, and that not-painful but certainly-invasive last procedure recedes into the distance, a memory now pleasantly clouded like a Japanese mountain landscape... a landscape abundant with bog rhubarb, who knew?