Aun Deli Cafe: Taking Japanese Breather on Pasadena Side Street [CLOSED]

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Aun Deli Cafe keeps a low profile on a Pasadena side street.

After emigrating from Hokkaido, Japan, where she wrote recipes for a “food company,” Yuki Komada opened her six-table Japanese café on a one-way side street near the Ice House comedy club in Pasadena, promising “nutrition in every bite.” “Nutrition” brings to mind bland, flavorless food. Thankfully, Komada’s cooking was light, clean tasting and surprisingly flavorful.

On the menu, Komada provides an elaborate exploration for why she chose the restaurant’s name. “Aun means ‘breath’ in Japanese. In the Japanese alphabet, A is the first letter, N is the last letter. From birth (A) until death (N), we need breath & good nutrition.” Komada’s explanation is a stretch. Thankfully, her food is straightforward.

Japanese Food Los Angeles

By ordering entrees, we each received a complimentary cup of vegetable miso soup (normally $3). Soybean by-products are pretty much my kryptonite, but I’ll try anything. The soy-based soup was surprisingly silky and flavorful, floating with shavings of carrot, potato, shiitake mushroom, spinach, gobo and firm tofu cubes.

Japanese Food Los Angeles

Komada’s yakisoba was extraordinary, easily the best I’ve eaten in Los Angeles, with a concentrated intensity of flavor. Noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, candied shards of ginger and onion, cabbage and chicken breast before getting sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Japanese Food Los Angeles

The Four Color Rice Bowl ($7.50) 
featured a base of brown rice topped with piles of luscious ground chicken, velvety scrambled egg, shredded cooked salmon and spinach. Nori strips, salty roasted seaweed, graced the plate’s center.

On the Aun website, Ms. Komada claims brown rice “has not had the bran covering the rice grain removed,” making it a “better source of fiber…slows down the absorption of carbohydrates…tame the blood-sugar roller coaster.” Good to know.

By ordering entrees, for an extra $1.70 an item, we were given access to the deli case, which features options like ratatouille, boiled spinach with sesame, and avocado fruit salad.

Japanese Food Los Angeles

Kinpira was a root vegetable salad featuring gobo (greater burdock), celery, carrot and lotus root cooked with soy sauce and brown sugar. The veggies were firm and sweet. Chikuzenni was a stew involving chicken, gobo, lotus root, carrot, konnyaku (yam paste) and shiitake mushroom slowly cooked with soy sauce and brown sugar. The konnyaku was gelatinous and speckled. Overall, despite a similar soy and brown sugar treatment, the second side was less compelling.

There was an interesting selection of organic teas, available hot or iced, including Citron Oolong, Orange Blossom Green Tea, and Unity (citrus and mint blend), but we opted for a glass of caffeine-free Ginger Lime Rooibos ($2). According to the menu, “West Indian lime variety gives a unique and zesty citrus flavor with notes of ginger and rare ices.” Agreed. The tea was high quality, didn’t require sugar or offer a bitter aftertaste.

Komada has managed to carve out a nice niche for herself. Without Susan LaTempa’s recent review in the LA Times, there’s very little chance I would have found Aun Deli Café. Hopefully Komada’s business can survive in its sub-prime location. The food is certainly good enough, let’s just hope people get a chance to taste it.Y


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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