Even though Little Tokyo and Japantown have come on strong with a rush of recent openings, more good Japanese meals are still available in L.A.’s South Bay. Thanks to an early boost from Japanese car companies like Nissan (now in Tennessee) and Toyota (now in Texas) that set up North American headquarters in the area, Torrance saw the rise of restaurants that met the needs of autoworkers who were homesick for sushi, yakitori, ramen and more. Now you can also find good food from other cuisines in Torrance, a city named for Jared Sidney Torrance. The real estate magnate led investment in 3,500 acres in 1912, which residents voted to incorporate in 1921. Torrance now houses nearly 150,000 people, making it L.A. County’s eighth largest city. In the past century, a culinary and craft beer scene has emerged that would also exceed the namesake founder’s wildest imagination. Learn about 27 of my favorite food options in Torrance.
15. MoDo Hawaii
Mitsuwa relocated within Torrance, reopening at Del Amo Fashion Center in early 2020. MoDo Hawaii is one of their revamped food court’s crown jewels. Chris Watanabe, who grew up in his family’s bygone Watanabe Bakery, debuted MoDo Hawaii in Waikiki’s Mitsuwa market in 2017. MoDo expanded to SoCal with jam-packed pop-ups at Mitsuwa locations in SoCal before going permanent in Torrance, Irvine and Santa Clara in 2020. Rice flour rings that are fried and glazed to order and deliver crispy coats and beautiful chew. On my first visit, I ordered pandan, black sesame, churro, and strawberry with distinct flavors and a structure that resembles a chain of connected balls.
MUST ORDER DONUTS: Black Sesame, Pandan, Strawberry
16. Monkish Brewing
Freewheeling Belgian-inspired brewmaster Henry Nguyen and wife/partner Adriana built a loyal beer following in a small industrial park starting in 2012. During the pandemic, they added a welcoming biergarten, walling off a parking lot, adding picnic tables, tree planters, lights and umbrellas. In the bar, they project a current roster of Belgian-ish, Funky, Hoppy, and Special beers to enjoy on-site and sell bottles to go. For hoppy beers like Banana Space Cookie and Conscience Be Free, they specify varietals. Recent highlights include Feminist, a ruby red Belgian-ish tripel brewed with hibiscus. A Life in Boxes was a tart, funky wildish bottled ale aged in oak puncheon barrels, a collaboration with de Garde Brewing.
MUST ORDER BEERS: A Life in Boxes, Feminist
Sushi is a favorite pastime in Torrance, and Nozomi is my favorite option. The space sports a glass front and contains cream colored and yellow walls, a wood counter, and a smattering of table.s Value is high for omakase, which costs only $55 per person and comes with four cooked dishes, 10 pieces of sushi, one roll, and miso soup to start (or finish). During my most recent dinner, I was particularly enamored with deep fried baby sole, including edible bones; sea bream sushi; giant clam sushi with a nori belt, plum and oba; silver-skinned Spanish mackerel with ginger and scallion; black porgy with yuzu and salt; and pale pink surf clam with wasabi. These selections change with the seasons.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Omakase, Black Porgy Sushi, Deep-Fried Baby Sole, Giant Clam Sushi, Sea Bream Sushi, Spanish Mackerel Sushi, Surf Clam Sushi
18. Offset Coffee
Andy Dispun and Vernon Lindholm co-founded Offset Coffee in 2018 and expanded to El Segundo in 2021, where they started roasting coffee and added partner John Franco. No, the name doesn’t refer to the Atlanta rapper. Dispun and Lindholm like cars and it’s a reference to how race car tires are mounted and sit in wheel wells. Their Torrance location, tucked into a small strip mall, touts light wood decor and a custom two-group La Marzocco Strada with coffee cherry design. This location brews the Shaw blend, while El Segundo gets a PCH blend. Offset’s core menu centers on classic espresso drinks, adding flair to lattes with house-made lavender, rose, and hazelnut syrups. They infuse cold brew with nitro and bomb house-made horchata with espresso. Offset Coffee baristas really cut loose with their seasonal “off-menu” drinks. Capri Sun cold brew is a supercharged play on the pouches I drank after soccer games as a kid featuring effervescent muddled kiwi, strawberry syrup, tonic, and single-origin cold brew (Guatemala Manos de Mujer during my latest visit). Steamed iced “Aericano” is a refreshing twist on an iced Americano they compare to an “instant nitrogen cold brew” and a “cold foam Americano” flavored with simple syrup and orange zest.
MUST ORDER DRINKS: Capri Sun Cold Brew (seasonal), Steamed Iced Aericano
Ojiya’s owners are from the namesake city in Japan’s Niigata prefecture and also operate two Chino Hills concepts. Their compact Towne Centre outpost has thrived in Torrance for over a decade. The space features counter and booth seating, a tarped, light-strung patio, and a jazz soundtrack. Multiple boards and menus tout specials, including broiled yellowtail cheek from the “Ojiya Special,” home made custard pudding from “Ojiya’s dessert,” and crab and salmon caviar & mushroom porridge from “Chef’s Special.” Broiled salmon belly is an indulgent plate starring three fatty, melt-in-your-mouth, crisp-skinned filets served with ponzu, lemon, and mashed daikon. Carbo udon is a Japanese riff on carbonara that combines bouncy udon noodles with bacon, sliced shiitake and long shimeji mushrooms.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Broiled Salmon Belly, Carbo Udon
This fashionable Korean bingsu specialist started in K-Town and later opened this Torrance Plaza outpost. The space features wood-panel and pale yellow walls, brown cushioned banquettes and wood tables. Order at the counter from an overhead menu. They serve a Black Snow Bowl with black sesame shaved ice, a Green Snow Bowl with green tea shaved ice, and the OG Snow Bowl with snow milk shaved ice. The frigid dome also touts a judicious amount of sweetened condensed milk and arrives in a handsome golden bowl from Geochang, Gyeongnam, with matching golden spoons, red beans and two powdered mochi balls. Fresh Baked Black Rice Cake is a glutinous snack filled with red bean and nuts.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Black Snow Bowl, Gold Snow Bowl, Fresh Baked Black Rice Cake
Jeremy Godsil started in West LA in 2017 and built on further DTLA success last year by expanding to Del Amo Fashion Center. The Torrance outpost, located right through the mall’s western entrance between Lemonade and Lucille’s Smokehouse, is now Percolate’s busiest tea bar. A high ceiling helps frame a curved bar, which offers open mall seating. Matcha is a Percolate strength. Matcha Royale stars whisked ceremonial grade Uji Matcha layered atop creamy oat milk and house-made fruit puree (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry), with boba at the base. Spotted Matcha is another beautiful matcha drink, this time layered with nutty roasted black sesame and a choice of milk. Percolate is also one of the best places to enjoy sweet and savory cheese tea. Just Peachy involves refreshing iced peach oolong tea topped with savory “floating cheese top” made with cream cheese and sea salt. Like other good tea bars, Percolate lets customers adjust sweetness and ice levels.
MUST ORDER DRINKS: Just Peachy, Matcha Royale, Spotted Matcha