Oiwake’s $8.50 Japanese Buffet Can’t Hide From Me


My quest to uncover and defeat every all you can eat buffet in the Greater L.A. area is going surprisingly well.  During my first stint in Los Angeles 7 years ago I was surprised at how few all you can eat buffets there were here, especially compared to Boston the city I moved here from.  But this second go around has been far more successful.  Indian lunch buffets are never tough to find, but there’s also been the Ethiopian buffet on Fairfax, the Thai buffet (also on Fairfax), the Vegas’ish Korean buffet on Olympic, the Brazilian pizza buffet, and the brand new Chinese super buffet I demolished a few weeks ago in Hollywood. And let’s not even talk about the all you eat Korean BBQ places (have you been to Don Day for lunch yet!?)

Japanese, however, has proved to be a bit more elusive.  I’m still waiting for the West L.A. branch of Hokkaido to open up, but in the meantime I was pretty excited when Profiled Luncher Cari recommended Oiwake’s $8.50 tempura and teriyaki buffet in Downtown L.A. last month.


Nestled in the second floor of the Japanese Village Plaza mall in Little Tokyo, Oiwake is clearly more of a sports bar’ish drinking spot than a bon-a-fide eating establishment. Then again, if the atmosphere is bothersome you’re probably not doing it right (i.e. you should be stuffing your fat face, not looking around at the scenery.)


The buffet is small scale, but I had prepared myself for even smaller, so it was a nice surprise.


In addition to chicken teriyaki and vegetable tempura, there was also fried rice and yakisoba, a sweet and spicy chicken dish, a small selection of fishless sushi (unless you consider imitation crab, fish), a salad bar, a few soups, and an udon and soba bar.


The teriyaki wasn’t the best, but the sweet and spicy chicken was as good, if not better, than any mall food court version.  And their fried stuff (tempura veggies and chunks of some kind of fried fish) was as good as any fried stuff can be after sitting out on a steam table for a little bit.  For $8.50 you obviously can’t expect the sushi to be good, but the rice was decent enough to make the california rolls edible (especially the ones they battered in tempura and deep fried.)


Oiwake attempts to make it difficult to win the game by providing tiny plates, a tactic I’ve seen at a number of buffets.  But then they stupidly provide trays, allowing you to easily take two plates at once (which I highly recommend).


For dessert they have jello (the perfect ending for any all you can eat buffet), along with soft serve, and a few baked goods that even I wouldn’t try.  The cool thing is, they provide some pretty decent candy toppings for the soft serve bar…


…which could be dessert all by themselves. Where in the rules does it say you have to put it on top of soft serve? (Gummy bears and chocolate rocks are expensive at those by the pound candy places!)

According to Cari they change up a lot of the food each day, and calling ahead to see if they have the hamburger cutlets is totally worth it.  But I was pretty happy with the selection the day I went, and would feel pretty good about going on any day of the week.  It’s a small buffet with far less turnover than, say, King Buffet in Hollywood, so it helps to have your expectations sufficiently low.  But for $8.50 it’s a pretty great deal, one that shouldn’t be missed if you love buffets and work near Little Tokyo.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • I love all you can eat buffets!
  • All you can eat vegetable tempura and teriyaki chicken for $8.50?  Who cares about the quality, I’m there.
  • The soba and udon isn’t the best, but the small noodle station adds a fun little twist to the buffet
  • They have some nice Japanese stuff at the salad bar, like bean sprouts in sesame oil
  • They have different things each day
  • Deep fried sushi FTW!
  • I’m a fat fuck.

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I’d rather pay $10 and go somewhere decent in Little Tokyo where my food is made to order
  • The quality of the hot dishes isn’t the best
  • A lot of the stuff is kind of bland
  • The sports bar atmosphere is kind of depressing during lunchtime
  • Walking down the stairs after stuffing your face with shitty Japanese food is kind of difficult

Oiwake, 122 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, 213-628-2678

Parking is free with validation. Enter on Central between 1st and 2nd.


Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.