Kid Hit Menu Items: Plenty of rice, cutlets, tempura, sushi, udon, soba and ramen etc. happily coexist under one roof at the various SoCal locations of Mitsuwa Marketplace. But most folks go to the Mar Vista/West L.A. location for Japanese grocery (plus books and videos) shopping and the best ramen at Santouka.
Adult Perks: I don’t know about you, but I’m all about Santouka’s rich, porky, intense, milky shio (salt) ramen and those gorgeous silky noodles. The bowl comes filled with a balanced amount of accompaniments such as bamboo shoots, finely sliced green onion, and mushroom, and is topped with two juicy pork slices and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Hard boiled egg is kept aside — perfect for sharing with tiny fingers searching for small bits of soft food. After trying the other varieties I go back to the shio, or more specifically, a regular sized Combo A with the side bowl of leek rice ($8.98). Although when I was pregnant I’d put away an entire large order. Some day I WILL make it to Mitsuwa’s Hokkaido Festival, dammit. In the meantime, I need to read up on Japan’s many traditional ramen styles.
Pros: All the vendors have beautiful fake food displays and make non-verbal ordering easy. Sometimes pointing is useful for adults, too! The food court arrangement is quick and convenient, and the multiple options in the Japanese food range include Sanuki Sandou for other noodles, Misasa for other miscellaneous Japanese cuisine, and Asakusa Tamaya rice bowls… Multitask by running errands along with your Mitsuwa stop at its distinguished neighbors, CVS and Chase bank. And Mitsuwa has a Shiseido counter (the SL3 is my fave lipstick and is now discontinued at Barneys, in case you happen to be on the hunt for one).
Cons: Most food stalls are cash only, hence the aforementioned Chase location comes in handy but there’s also a B of A ATM on the premises. Tables can be hard to get and require some hovering and waiting during busy times. My friend and I made the mistake of bringing our kids without another adult, leaving us to figure out how to best get the dangerously hot food to our table. I can’t leave my little guy alone these days, so she took care of the task. A brief separation anxiety moment passed, but her daughter handled it well.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Surface parking in the surrounding mini-mall lot.
Other Tidbits: When Yaohan market opened on Centinela near Venice Blvd. in the early 90s — or sometime when I first started to drive and spent a lot of time on the Westside — we’d go and load up on the pickles and Pocky and other treats. I don’t remember which businesses were in the food court during the early days, and didn’t keep close track of the marketplace’s evolution as it became a Mitsuwa. So I felt pretty silly when I made a pilgrimage to Santouka in Costa Mesa not knowing there was a location in Mar Vista. At least it was tied into another O.C. excursion, and was totally worth it regardless. Anyway, meals at Mitsuwa are great for parties of all sizes because of the communal table area with stools, and movable two and four-tops can accommodate various numbers of diners.
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Mar Vista (other So Cal locations in Costa Mesa, Torrance, and San Diego)
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.