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Sunday, January 31, 2010

California: Shin-Sen-Gumi (Gardena)

Back Post #4:

After a day filled with pastries and fresh soba noodles, we ended the evening at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori in Gardena. There’s no such thing as a restaurant that specializes in yakitori in Florida anywhere (I’ve looked!). So when I heard about this place, I knew we had to stop by.

Once again I had made reservations a month in advance so we could sit in a private room in the back. It’s an extra fee of $1 per person to use the private room, but it’s worth it in my opinion since the front room is a bit cramped for space. However, one day I’d like to go back in order to sit out front and experience the atmosphere.

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When you first enter Shin-sen-gumi you are warmly greeted by the entire staff. Everyone shouts out greetings and it’s a very welcoming atmosphere. If you want, you can buy a drink for the staff and they’ll come by and share a toast with you with an enthusiastic “Kampai!”

The service here is stellar even though it’s always incredibly busy. The wait staff is attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and the specials. ^_^

So they brought us a menu, which is analogous to your traditional dim sum menu.

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They also had a whiteboard conveniently placed in our room with the specials of the evening.

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Halfway through our meal we figured out the trick to eating at Shin-sen-gumi. If you’re new there and don’t know what you want to eat, order one of each thing you want to try right off the bat, then order seconds of the things you do like after your first round. Even better, if you’ve been there before, order what you want straight away. Why? Because stuff sells out and things even an hour into service can go missing from the menu sadly. We learned this the hard way because around 5 items we wanted to try throughout the course of the evening just went “poof.” It’s not their fault; I solely place the blame on us not ordering fast enough. =)

I ordered the nankara, which is deep fried chicken cartilage.

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Yes, I wanted to know what chicken cartilage tasted like. =P I like crunchy textures, so this was right up my alley. Honestly, I was the only person in my party to enjoy this dish. It wasn’t anything special and tasted entirely how it was advertised (lols?). It was even better when dipped in a little bit of salt mixed with lemon juice, Mmmm!

The boys ordered some roast duck, which I didn’t really touch so I can’t comment on.

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However, I can tell you that dish of roast duck multiplied into four by the end of the meal. The boys really liked their duck!

I ordered a piece of mackerel off the special’s menu. I’m such a sucker for mackerel!

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Mackerel is an oily fish and always has this subtle smoky flavor which I love. <3 Then came an order of takoyaki!



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I’ve tried so hard to actually like takoyaki and I have come to the conclusion that’s it just not for me. It’s not that it isn’t made well; I just don’t really enjoy the taste of it. =(

My boyfriend also ordered this dish and it was delicious!

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I’m not sure what it was called exactly, but it was an omelet with meat inside, garnished with bonito flakes. ^_^

Next came the parade of never ending yakitori! We ordered SOOOO much and I took SOOO many pictures, so I’m a bit lost as to which picture goes with which description, but I’ll try my best.

Eel livers:

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I like liver and I love eel, so I thought that eel liver might appeal to me. Apparently, it really doesn’t and has a very fishy aftertaste which I didn’t enjoy at all.

Tofu:

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We didn’t really enjoy this one either, the tofu was just sort of bland…

Onigiri (rice ball):

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Sadly, once again, the rice ball suffered the same fate as the tofu and though I enjoyed the crispy texture, the flavor was just lacking.

Meataballs:

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These were delicious! Absolutely delicious! So savory, tender, and extremely addictive. I can’t count how many rounds of these that we had.

Simply Grilled Shrimp:

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Delicious, just lightly salted, and grilled.

Chicken Wing and Skin:

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The chicken wing was good, but we were hoping for a bit more in terms of a serving. The skin was awesome, but then again, when is grilled chicken skin not awesome?

Chicken thigh with special sauce, Chicken thigh lightly salted:

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The chicken with the special sauce was superb, definitely a must try if you go here. ^_^

Chicken Liver:

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I love chicken livers, so I was happy with their rendition of chicken livers. Mmmm! Not really for those who don’t like the taste of liver already though…

Pork Sausage:

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Honestly, once again, forgot what this tasted like. However, it was good enough that we got a second order of it. =)

I know I also ordered some chicken heart, onion, potato, chicken cartilage, and flap meat…but I’m not sure where those pictures went. C’est la vie! I can definitely say that the meat selection beat the pants off the grilled veggies.

I was honestly hoping to try some more daring pieces, such as the special heart, tail, special skin, gizzard, intestine, and feet…but sadly they sold out. *sniffles*

At the end of it all, this was our damage…

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Look at all those sticks! Think of our bill! ^_^() It was soooo worth it though! Dinner took about 2 hours in total, as food came in small waves. But since our drinks were never empty, the awesome service, great good, and wonderful company we were blissfully happy the entire time.

If you’re looking for a casual night out with friends, good food, and don’t mind a bit of noise, I’d suggest trekking out for some yakitori. Food on sticks, never tasted so good before! ^_^ Oishii!

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori
18517 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 715-1588
Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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