Sawtelle Kitchen is West L.A. Japanese 101

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Even though it will likely never compete with the South Bay for Japanese food supremacy, Sawtelle has managed to compile a decent enough collection of lunch options to make those of us who live and work on the Westside less likely to make the drive down the 405. If you want a decent katsu curry, there’s Hurry Curry of Tokyo or Curry House.  Japanese fried chicken?  Furaibo has great lunch specials. Cheap hot bento boxes to go?  Tempura House it is. Sushi?  Kiriko if you’ve got money, Hide Sushi if you don’t.  And now that Tsujita is open, West L.A. could reasonably lay claim to serving the best ramen and tsukemen in all of Southern California.

But as much as I enjoy lunching on Sawtelle one place has never enticed me: Sawtelle Kitchen.  I don’t know if it’s the valet parking, the disproportionate number of white people who eat there (yes, I’m a self hating gaijin), or the fact that you could plop the place down on Doheny, and it would fit right in.  Thanks, but no thanks.  That is, until a trusted (read: Japanese) friend told me they have a decent hamburger/meatloaf and their salad dressing is amazing.  Amazing, as in they closely guard the recipe and won’t you give you any extra in a to-go cup, amazing.  No salad dressing could be that good… but I’m down with Japanese hamburger!

Once you walk in, it’s pretty clear why there are so many white people. If you were going to take your non-Japanese co-worker to lunch in West L.A., Sawtelle Kitchen is the least intimidating restaurant on the strip.  From its all english menu to the ”this used to be an Italian restaurant” decor, it’s the one place on Sawtelle that could legitimately be a non-adventurous business lunch spot.   And, in addition to Japanese standards like katsu and pasta with caviar and seaweed, there are a good number of seafood and meat entrees that wouldn’t be out of place at a Cheesecake Factory.  And in L.A. one can never underestimate the soothing power of a good salad with renowned salad dressing.

While much of the menu is over $10, there are a small number of lunch specials that fit in the Midtown Lunch budget.

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Like the fried chicken wings in a light teriyaki sauce.  For $8.95 you get 8 plump little “wings”, plus a miso soup, rice and the *drumroll please* salad!  The chicken had the same light glaze as what you get at Furaibo, but here they were way more moist.  I could see some people would like this slightly more refined version, and head to heat in a blind taste test Sawtelle Kitchen would probably easily win out.  But when I’m in the mood for this kind of fried chicken I’ll probably still hit up Furaibo instead.  (Crispy thigh FTW!)

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And the salad dressing?  I probably wouldn’t have noticed its awesomeness if it hadn’t been pointed out to be me by a far skinnier person with more refined salad dressing palate than I. Then again, I did ask for more on the side (they’re pretty skimpy with the stuff) and proceeded to pour it over everything and anything that we ordered. So there’s that.

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The chicken thigh katsu curry ($9.95) was also incredibly well cooked, but the curry itself was a bit too much like soup for me.  I like my curry to be a thick chunky sludge.  And you have to pay an extra $1 for the salad… which I imagine would be a deal breaker for some.  The katsu was nicely cooked, and tasty.  But if I want curry on Sawtelle I’m probably going to still hit up Hurry Curry of Tokyo.

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As promised, the best dish was the hamburger meatloaf which is served as a lunch special for $9.95.  The meat was perfectly cooked to a nice medium pink in the middle, and the demi grace glace sauce is far better than the curry.  But why get hamburger meatloaf when you can get deep fried hamburger meatloaf!

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And there’s the money order: Meat loaf katsu ($9.95).  It doesn’t get better than this at Sawtelle Kitchen. The key is to ask for some of the demi glace on the side, and it’s the perfect Sawtelle Kitchen lunch.  The meaty perfectly cooked hamburger, with the crispy katsu shell and the rich brown demi glace sauce?  Delicious.  It also comes with potato salad, and you get some of that salad dressing poured over your shredded cabbage.

So if you’re having lunch with a salad lover or a Japanese food newbie who might appreciate a bit of refinement, Sawtelle Kitchen is the perfect crowd pleaser- even for a cheap fatso like me.

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

  • Imagine that… a place on Sawtelle that actually uses quality ingredients and knows how to cook their food properly?  Will wonders never cease.
  • Love the outdoor patio and the valet parking!
  • I’m a big fan of Japanese salad dressings, and this one is pretty great.
  • I really hate places that have dried out fried food… this place manages to keep everything nice and moist.
  • Hamburger katsu with brown gravy FTW.
  • Japanese enough for me, white enough for my boss and co-workers. The perfect lunch meeting spot!
  • Did I mention I love patios and salad dressing?

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

  • If I wanted to eat a place that looked like the Urth Caffe I wouldn’t be eating on Sawtelle
  • The salad dressing did not change my life.
  • For curry katsu or fried chicken I’d probably rather eat at Furaibo.

Sawtelle Kitchen, 2024 Sawtelle Blvd. 310-473-2222

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1 Comment

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    What a surprise. I had a very average dinner over happy hour here just the other month that would never compel me to come back. Everything served me seemed to come from the cheapest ingredients and was carelessly assembled. Stranger still, your review really makes me want to go back.

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