Kid Hit Menu Items: Not only is cold zaru soba appealing to most kids, it’s also nutritious and is the main attraction at the compact, efficient and down home Ichimiann Bamboo Garden restaurant in Torrance. We had a super hungry and cranky older boy who protested anything other than ice cream at the Foster’s Freeze next door, but he scarfed down the negitoro don rice bowl with tuna and scallion we ordered for him, and he probably would have gone for two pieces of inari sushi if he weren’t in such a hurry to get next door. (I usually stay away from tuna for lots of reasons but made an exception.) Even though handmade tender soba and to some extent, udon is the main draw, the bigger menu at the Rolling Hills location with sushi and tempura wouldn’t hurt.
Adult Perks: A big slate of handmade soba and udon offerings, mostly in fish-based broths with choices ranging from curry to lots of meat and fish combos. Or go for a hearty don rice bowl. Beverages consist of self-serve hot and cold barley tea. I love how the earthy nutty flavor of this drink butts up against and mellows out salty broths and sauces.
Pros: Those combo choices and toppings and a photo-illustrated menu help. It’s cheap and high quality. I had no regrets about nameko oroshi (adorable mushroom caps and grated radish) with thin firm udon noodles and all the condiment trimmings in that aggressively savory broth with a sweet finish. Many of the dishes come with the option of soba or udon, and served hot or cold. The long counter with lightweight plastic low stools was a fun way to mix up usual seating arrangements.
Cons: We arrived for a late post-Queen Mary lunch just before the restaurant closed lunch service at 3:30, but I bet the rushes get intense, and space is TIGHT. Although there’s some bamboo planters outside, this isn’t a lush garden setting. Instead it’s essentially a cramped utilitarian dining room with a counter and cash register smack in the middle. I don’t even think there’s a restroom, or if there is it’s buried in the back of the kitchen.
High Chairs: No
Parking and Access: Street parking or lot parking next to the modest building located in what’s a charming quiet corner of Old Torrance.
Other Tidbits: After a few exhausting hours wandering around the Queen Mary while the Steampunk conventioneers were making their way out, I strong-armed the family into going to Torrance for a Japanese lunch. Victory! Because frankly, it’s probably best to sit over cocktails in the arresting Observation Bar than to have a full meal — if you can stave off the brood’s hunger. Some quick smart phone recon landed us at Ichimiann Bamboo House, and unknown to us and luckily for the kids, it happens to sit next to an original, beautifully intact Foster’s Freeze. (Our next visit to Long Beach for the Aquarium, however, will be timed around a rec I got from Zach Brooks via Twitter for Sanuki No Sato.) And just for fun and because it’s so damn amazing, I can’t help but include a couple more Queen Mary shots.
1618 Cravens Ave., Torrance
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Friday (closed Tuesday), 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.