Oshogatsu 2016 and Osechi Ryori


Happy New Year, everyone! 2015 came and went in a flash. It was truly a year of so many ups and downs, but there was so much to learn and so much to grow from through all those experiences. I am so grateful to have my amazing friends and family who have supported each other and helped us all stay afloat, even when we were in some deep water. I truly believe in the power of community, support, friendship and family and knowing that someone has your back, no matter what, is something that is so fundamentally important. We are not alone, stay connected!

Osechi Ryori Collage 2016

I am honestly not a resolution type of person and I believe that with each breath we have a chance to start over again. We don’t have to wait till a new year to get a new perspective or to do things differently, we can begin again at any time. It seems challenging, but the more we do it, like anything, the easier it is. New Year’s Day is always filled with food and family. 2016 was no  different and I am glad that I can show five years of osechi ryori on Unrivaledkitch  2015, 2014, 2013. 2012, 2011 and this entry is my 6th.

As much as I have let go of blogging, it is still such a big part of me to share my food, especially these special dishes that I learned to make as a child and some that I have revised or are family favorites. A lot of the the Osechi dishes are things that are particularly important to my Bachan, who has influenced so much of my life and my cooking. And although she’ll always ask me not to do it, it is my pleasure and privilege to cook this food for her and my family every year.

Osechi Ryori 2016

So here is the 2016 Oshogatsu Japanese New Year Osechi Ryori dishes and other Japanese food that we had for New Year’s Day.

Oshogatsu 2016

Oshogatsu 2016 Collage with Bachan




California Roll

Spam Musubi

Beef Korokke  

Miso Shrimp

Chicken Katsu

Sesame Chicken


Tuna Sashimi

Roasted Japanese Mushrooms

Char Siu-Style Sliced Pork

Sweet Asian Fried Chicken Wings



Pork Wontons

Bachan Jello

Kinpira (sato shoyu gobo and carrots)

Sesame Gobo

Tazukri (candied, dried sardines)

Kamaboko (pink and white Japanese pressed fish cake)

Shishito Peppers

Namasu (pickled carrots and daikon)

Nishime 5-Sided Carrot, 5-Sided Daikon, Kombu (rolled seaweed), Shiitake Mushrooms, Satoimo(taro root), Renkon (lotus root), Takenoko (bamboo shoots), Gobo


Ozoni (New Year’s Japanese Soup) (Kombu, Carrot, Kamaboko, Daikon, Imo [taro root], Renkon [lotus root], and Mochi in Seasoned Homemade Dashi)

Ozoni Unrivaledkitch


Oshogatsu 2016

May you and your loved ones have an amazing 2016 and beyond filled with luck, love and your heart’s deepest desires.


Happy New Year!





Aburiya Toranoko‏

2013-04-08 19.17.58 2013-04-08 19.42.47 2013-04-08 19.42.53 2013-04-08 19.45.012013-04-08 19.49.052013-04-08 19.56.08Pressed under an apartment building high-rise in Little Tokyo is Aburiya Toranoko, a Japanese restaurant scattered amongst countless others in the downtown L.A. region. I hadn’t heard much about this place before my sister gave me a bloomspot certificate for my Christmas present—she saw the menu and thought it might remind me of our trip to Japan. The promotional expiration date on the certificate was quickly approaching,smooth so Brandon and I went on a date, not really knowing what to expect. 

Toranoko has a gorgeous mural on the large wall, where most of their seating is located; it is adorned with paintings of Japanese characters, which gives a light and distinct nature to the dark dining room. The middle of the restaurant is home to a long communal table with small dividers, should smaller groups choose to dine with large chandeliers over the table. A large bar fills the opposing side of the restaurant with many illuminated bottles of liquor. The brightly lit sushi bar plays host to the most intriguing part of Toranoko: as a focal point, three sushi chefs line the bar and about 10 seats are available to witness the preparations of each dish. A large classic Japanese painting with a tiger holding a baby tiger in its mouth sets a tone of fierceness in the air.
Toranoko is much different than the classic timeless sushi restaurants of La Cieniega, like Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills. But Toranoko offers delicious offerings with flavors and techniques that are on par with some of the best in the area. We were a bit adventurous in our selection of hot and cold dishes and to our delight, the aesthetics were very interesting and wonderful.Our waiter was polite, but very busy, seeing as there were only two servers in the whole front of the house for a Monday night. It seemed as if most of the emphasis was on the preparation of the food. We watched with anticipation as we sat at the sushi bar for the next dish and as we waited each dish that came out was, for the most part, better than the last. Executive Sushi Chef Seiji Nakano was preparing many different delicious dishes with beautiful elegance and graceful technique that highly skilled Japanese chefs are so well known for.Dishes

Egg Custard |free range egg | ikura| soy broth

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This egg custard was a delightful little dish. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was because I’m not very familiar with egg custards, but Brandon was very excited about this dish. The texture of the egg was very velvety with such a smooth cool texture. The salty addition of Ikura, salmon roe and soy broth added a level of texture and salt to the tender custard.
Uni Goma Tofu | fresh sea urchin | sesame | wasabi
2013-04-08 20.04.25I love Uni, I know that a lot of people don’t like its overtly seafood flavor, but I love it. Fresh uni was paired with a homemade sesame tofu. The soy sauce over the sesame tofu with the uni was really astoundingly unique. It was like something I’d never tasted before, which is always something I look for in a restaurant. The texture of the tofu was so creamy and smooth, without much of the watery flavor that is associated with tofu. A brilliant dish.
Sunomono | cucumber | seaweed
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The sunamono consisted of pressed cucumbers with a various arrangement of other colorful seaweeds. The seasoning had enough acid to salt ratio and the vinegar was refreshing and light.
Steamed Foil Mushrooms | enoki | shiitake | shimeji
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Steamed in a foil pouch, these mushrooms have a very simple clean flavor. Nothing was remarkable about them, but they were very high quality delicious Japanese mushrooms.
White Fish Carpaccio | Japanese shiso | pesto
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The fish on this carpaccio was cut just a bit too thick, which made it a little bit chewy when consuming. The shiso gave the fish a very fresh quality and the pesto garlic oil added a bit of a different element to the dish.
Buta Kakuni | braised pork | spinach
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This braised pork belly was deeply flavorful. The sweetness and salty balance of flavor in the dish was really well done. I loved the addition of hot dry mustard to mellow the fatty pieces of pork. Chopped green onion and sauteed spinach added brightness and a very fresh element to this intensely flavored dish.
Chicken Leg Confit | wasabi | green onion
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I rarely, if ever, order chicken when I go out for a nice dinner, but Brandon loves chicken and how could we pass up something confit. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and extremely succulent, while the skin was crunchy and very flavor forward. A perfectly cooked chicken leg.
Toro Tataki Salad
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Mixed greens with a deep purple toro that was a very rich piece of tuna. The flavor of the dressing was mild to really let the pieces of toro shine in the salad.
Aburi Kanpachi
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This delicious amberjack fish was served sashimi style with ponzu and house soy sauce. The technique for warming the fish with Japanese charcoal and a torch, makes the lightly cooked fish contain a slight smoky aroma and faint flavor. The fish was sliced perfectly with small grooves cut into it to allow the flavoring to melt in. Fantastic.
Japanese Scallop
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Dry packed Japanese scallops were super tender, completely delicate and delicious. The sashimi was paired with lemon and wasabi to add a bit of dimension to the clean simple flavor of the scallop.
Overall, it was a fantastic meal. Everything had an attention to detail that seemed to carry the passionate artistry of fine Japanese food. I’m sure we’ll be back for another delicious meal at Toranoko. Thank you for a wonderful meal.




Izakaya Sushi Ran



Sometimes catching up is the perfect medicine for a busy holiday season. Amongst this crazy holiday season I was grateful to take a night off to have a girls’ night with my sweet friend Bryn. We looked online for a new place to eat and we found Izakaya Sushi Ran, which is a little sushi place in Toluca Lake. Located in a small strip mall, Izakaya Sushi Ran is a quaint little place that makes delicious sushi. As we chatted and decided on delectable delicate pieces of sushi, the atmosphere led to a very comfortable and wonderful experience. Though a little on the pricey side, the menu has a very wide variety of different Japanese dishes, but we decided that sushi sounded wonderful.


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We enjoyed salmon sushi and white tuna sushi with ponzu along with spicy scallop with vegetable and baby lobster rolls. The pieces of fish were so fresh and delicious. The white tuna was cut perfectly and had a wonderful little char on it. Both rolls were large and very tasty. The service was helpful, but not overbearing, which gave us plenty of time to chat and catch up.

Thanks for an amazing evening Bryn!

Izakaya Sushi Ran

10658 Riverside Dr
Toluca Lake, CA 91602





My Birthday Celebration at Matsuhisa, Beverly Hills


As Brandon and I made our way down to Beverly Hills from Ventura, my birthday dinner seemed to be well anticipated.  We’d eaten together years ago in Malibu at Nobu, and to say the least, that was an unforgettable meal and dinner, but Matsuhisa was even more than I remembered Nobu to be. Both restaurants having differing charm and mastery, Matsuhisa makes my Japanese heritage sing out very loud.  The dishes and plates remind me of my Bachan’s kitchen. The old, darker, shady lit tables are situated about two inches away from one another. If you don’t like small confines, this probably isn’t the place for you, but if you want real Japanese precision and flavors with Peruvian interest, you’re in the right place.

Matsuhisa is situated on a darker length of La Cienega and Wilshire with a small sign and nothing too flashy. It’s in the presence of Fogo de Chão and other well-to-do eateries of the Beverly Hills nature. As you valet, you can’t help but notice the plethora of high-end driving utensils indicative of the restaurant’s prestigious location. But as you walk in, the prestige dissipates to a comfortable hum of all of the following type of people: from the hipster, famous, family, business and even those seemingly “fresh off the boat,” joining themselves for some of the freshest fish and flavorful tried and true dishes that Nobu has to offer. Matsuhisa is Nobu Matsuhisa’s first U.S. restaurant and still stands in all its glory from the late 80’s. If you’re picturing a lot of modern anything, then you’ll be mistaken. It’s quaint, meant for business and that business is devising, developing and delivering this man and his amazing accomplices who put together this brilliant food on a daily basis.

At our 8 p.m. reservation we were seated quickly and efficiently at a most miniscule table, which is situated about two inches from the other two two-top tables that adjoin us. Seeing as the restaurant was completely full, there wasn’t much room for negotiation. A very hospitable and knowledgeable waiter greeted us as we perused the menu looking for favorites and new ideas to try. We decided to order a single omakase to split between the two of us, as well as a multitude of single dishes off the menu to accommodate a variety of options listed.

Omakase is the Japanese phrase for “I’ll leave it to you.” This allows the chefs to pick their freshest or most favorable dishes of the season for each tasting. I love the idea of omakase because it takes the choice out and excites the palate with an interesting surprise, course after course.  At Matsuhisa, we knew that some signature dishes would be provided to us, which we openly welcomed. Our omakase consisted of:

Mixed Vegetable Hand Roll with Miso Dressing

                This interesting dish was not your traditional hand roll because of the distinct absence of rice. The fresh avocado, sprouts, cucumber and carrots dipped in a light miso dressing and rolled in the freshest, crisp and most flavorful piece of nori made for a memorable and delicious first course.

Toro Tartar with Caviar

                I know that bluefin tuna is overfished, but it’s so delicious. The lusciousness of this tuna is fantastic and rivals the flavors of other conventional fish in the sea. This was a small dish packed with flavor from the pungent wasabi and soy that just cut through the fatty richness of the toro. I love the plating of this dish; it was so ice cold and refreshing because of its placement in shaved ice.

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno Ponzu

              This is a classic Nobu dish. The delicate fish was in a light ponzu with dynamically bright yuzu flavor. Extremely enjoyable.

Sashimi Salad

                Baby spinach piled up with a spicy jalapeno dressing and fresh pieces of seared tuna, salmon belly and scallops. The scallops were melt-in-your-mouth fresh and everything on the plate was simple, yet delicious. The plate wasn’t overly exciting, but the fish was sliced perfectly and tasted amazing.

Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Cactus Salsa

                Genius. Nobu Now, the cookbook, has this recipe and I humbly appeal to you to go buy the book and make it, or simply go to Matsuhisa and eat it, because it’s that delicious. Brandon doesn’t normally like cactus and I don’t think a lot of people can get over the slime factor, but I’m used to it. I’ve been eating cactus my whole life, but definitely not like this. The Yuzu (Japanese citrus) is a key element in this amazingly simple, but delicious salsa and the soft shell crab is perfectly crispy with just the right crunch. The mild spice from the shisito pepper is a lovely addition to this fantastic dish.

Miso Black Cod

                You really can’t get any more traditional Nobu than Miso Black Cod and you don’t need to because it’s just good. I love black cod; it’s flaky, meaty and succulent and this dish was no exception. Just a piece of fish on a plate with a couple small dots of miso sauce, then gone in a flash.

Miso Soup

                You can’t say anything bad about it, but it wasn’t an over-the-top elaboration, just good soup before the sushi and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.


                Nigiri style sushi presented with Toro, halibut, squid, king crab and fresh water eel.  After all the food I’d already eaten, I was very happy to have some sushi rice at the closing of the meal. This sushi was all very fresh. The only one we decided we didn’t really enjoy was the squid because it’s such a strange texture and trying to chew its strangeness is always a weird ride for me.

So since we shared these dishes, we also ordered other things off the menu, which included:

Sweet Potato Tempura

                I love sweet potato. And there is something about Nobu tempura sauce that’s just so wonderful. Its ginger salty sweetness is just perfectly complimentary to the lightly fried and wonderfully crisp sweet potatoes.

Golden Eye Snapper with Dry Miso

                If you look up a picture of golden eye snapper it looks like a gold fish on steroids; however, it definitely doesn’t taste like what I imagine that would taste like, but then again, most delicious fish are hideous anyway. I’d have to say this was my favorite dish of the evening. The snapper was so delicate and fresh that you could hardly even notice it was fish in the first place. These are the kind of dishes people need to eat when first introduced to sashimi; I’m sure they’d change a million minds.  Dry miso adds a flavorful crunch of salty texture to the very delicate fish flesh and the addition of oil and lemon creates an impeccable combination of flavors.

Albacore Sashimi

                Simple, clean, delicious albacore with smoky dark soy sauce, garlic and fresh chives—such a beautiful plate with crisp refreshing flavors.

Mussels with Spicy Garlic Sauce

                I really enjoyed these mussels. The addition of small asparagus spears gave nice contrasting texture to the mussels. The sauce was light and complimented the dish well.

Chilean Sea Bass with Vegetable Umami Sauce

                Brandon and I love Chilean Sea Bass. This was a very well-prepared piece of fish; just cooked on one side for optimal opaque tender flesh. The umami vegetable sauce was described as about 20 different minced vegetables that gave the fish a very different flavor and a little bit of texture. The red onion accompaniment was very Peruvian in flavor and well designed to accent the tender pieces of fish.

King Crab Tempura with Sweet Chile Vinegar Sauce

                King Crab is just one of my favorite things to eat, especially if it’s already shelled and ready to eat. I’ve had this king crab at Nobu Malibu and it was just as delectable as I remember it to be.  The sauce is wonderful and the heat from the thinly sliced chiles makes each bite increasingly spicy.

Lastly, dessert: banana bread pudding with custard ice cream.  I don’t really like banana, but after all that other food I took a couple of bites of ice cream and handed it over to Brandon. The bread pudding was deliciously crafted, moist and full of banana.

Overall, I had one of the best meals of my life. I loved the simple well-to-do flavors and clean execution that Matsuhisa’s been dishing out over the last couple of decades. Nobu and all the people at his fine establishments are doing something very right and I’m grateful and astounded by the amazing gifts these chefs and everyone else are able to produce and have others enjoy.

I really couldn’t have imagined a more perfect meal for my 27th birthday celebration. I also couldn’t thank my amazing boyfriend enough for making me feel so special on that day and every day. He knows me oh so well, as seen with this incredible choice of restaurant. Great choice Bistecca! Seriously though, it couldn’t have been any better. I want to thank all my friends and family for their amazing heartwarming messages and love for me on my birthday. I love you all so much and life wouldn’t be the same without you all.


Thank you everyone for sharing in this very special evening with me.







New Year’s Day OShogatsu and Osechi-ryōri

New Year’s day is one of my favorite days of the year  because it’s time for family and friends, new beginnings, reflections and always tons of food. Last year I went over the traditions behind everything (if you want a bit more information, check out this post) and this is the 2012 version of the feast. I prepped, cooked and then packed everything up and took it to Pasadena to surprise my Bachan. It was a really amazing experience. Bachan never expects it; however, the perfect smile and delight that I could tell she felt from knowing I made all these things, from the memories that we shared together when I was little, was worth the all work.
I’m ready to get back into my kitchen and start the overhaul, work through new ideas, and make new memories. It’s been a phenomenal, exciting, and definitely very busy holiday season and I have so much to look forward to in January and throughout the new year. I hope 2012 is off to the start you wanted it to be. But if it’s not, just remember that every day can be a new start. Cheers!
Here’s the Menu
Kagami Mochi
Manju (Japanese sticky rice confection)
Ozoni (Konbu, Carrot, Kamaboko, Shitaki mushroom, Imo (taro root), Renkon (lotus root),  and Mochi in seasoned homemade Dashi)
Ponzu and Ginger Salmon Yaki (skewered salmon)
Sweet Asian Fried Chicken Wings (my mom’s contribution)
Char Siu Style Sliced Pork
California Roll
Spicy Salmon, Cucumber and Avocado Roll
Salmon Sashimi with Cucumber and Takuan
Jūbako (tiered decorative Japanese boxes) filled with the following:
Sake, Honey, and Lemon Poached Jumbo Shrimp
Takuan (yellow pickled dikon)
Kamaboko (pink and white Japanese pressed fish cake)

Kinpira (sato shoyu gobo and carrots)
Namasu (pickled carrots and daikon)

Takenoko (bamboo shoots), Carrots and Gobo (Burdock root)
Tazukri (candied, dried sardines)
Roasted Kabocha (Japanese squash)
Jūbako boxes filled with varying Japanese vegetables:
5-sided carrot, 5-sided daikon, kombu (rolled seaweed), shitake mushrooms, satoimo(taro root), renkon (lotus root)

Last Day In Seattle

On the last morning in Seattle I did a lot before heading down to Sea Tac for my flight to long beach. I woke up early and had a lovely cappuccino from a local coffee shop in Queen Anne called Caffé Lardo . The coffee shop was simple and the espresso was wonderful.

As I left I decided to stop at a local market Metropolitan Market  in Queen Anne just to take a peek inside, the place was beautiful. They seem to take lots of pride in their grocery establishments here in Seattle which I enjoyed immensely.


I also took a trip to a local record store called Easy Street Records which had so much used music and new music is was really wonderful. I listened to some tunes for a bit and then took off to the Space Needle . I took the elevator up to the top to see the lovely sky view of Seattle and out towards Lake Union and over the Puget Sound. It was a bit cloudy and cold but really lovely. I spent a good amount of time sitting and looking into the sky.





After the Space Needle, I headed down to have a bite of sushi at Obasan in Queen Anne. The sushi was very tasty and the service was excellent. That last meal capped off my adventures in Washington and I took the monorail to the middle of the city then caught the light rail to the airport. I had so many amazing adventures this time around. Seattle really is a place I feel in love with the first time I went there, this trip reaffirmed how much I love it there and I’m sure I’ll be back soon.


Twitter and Foodbuzz

Eat with your eyes

Teriyaki style Steak skewers with bamboo shoots, pineapple slices, zucchini and white onion, Japanese radish and cabbage, spam musubi, California roll, cilantro almond pesto pasta salad with Roma tomato, roasted baked potatoes with sour cream and Parmesan…