Oh, Little Little Tokyo, the gem of the LA’s west side. Aside from Little Ethiopia, there’s really nowhere else that you can be driving along regular LA streets, suddenly find yourself in a foreign country for two blocks, and then pop back out into regular LA again. There’s a pretty steady stream of awesome restaurants and stores in this foreign territory and for this review a group of us headed to FuRaiBo. In order to be seated immediately, we had to sit in their floor room (like a tatami room, without the tatami). This meant sitting on the floor. While this sort of seating is not common in modern Japan, it certainly still exists. The trouble with this seating at FuRaiBo, however, is that their floor seating gives a distinct lack of leg room, such that my legs couldn’t even get under the table. Nonetheless, while seating played a role in the meal, it didn’t define it.
FuRaiBo’s menu is great, and not only because the first couple pages are entirely Japanese. No, it’s great because of what it offers, which is a vast array of Japanese foods that are neither sushi nor ramen. So, in looking at the menu, I couldn’t help but think of Bo Jackson, who according to a Nike campaign back in the day, knew just about everything. It was called “Bo Knows” and I figured I could twist that around for this review.
FuRaiBo Knows Beer
$9.50 for a pitcher of Kirin or Sapporo. Just sayin’.
FuRaiBo Knows Chicken
Well, at least the fried variety. My first dish (as pictured above) was the Tori Pirikara. This was some sweet and spicy fried chicken (nuggety in size) and delivered precisely on that promise. As with most Japanese food, the spiciness itself was questionable, but there was a little kick. The sauce went perfectly with the karaage-style texture of the chicken and was easily the highlight of my meal. I also ordered their Teba Saki (chicken wings) and to continue on the spicy theme I ordered them “Extra Spicy.” Although this had been called FuRaiBo’s Special Chicken on the menu, I was quite disappointed. The wings were pretty dry and had very little flavor. Even the extra spiciness added very little to the wings. Although the price was right at $4.10, I polished these off thinking I could do better at home.
FuRaiBo Knows Beef
Here’s where I managed to surprise myself. I consider myself quite knowledgeable when it comes to Japan and Japanese food. Not an expert by a long shot, but still I feel pretty confident. What that said, I somehow managed to accidentally order Beef Sashimi. I don’t know what came over me, but as I read the item on the menu and said it aloud to our waitress, I kept thinking I was ordering sukiyaki. Huge difference, but one that has led me to appreciate raw meat just a little. These tender strips of beef had been seared ever-so-slightly around the edges to kill off any bacteria, but were utterly raw otherwise. They had a great even marbling and came with a ponzu sauce for dipping. I’ve gotta say, I was surprisingly happy with this cold beef. It was easy to take down, had good, beefy flavor and didn’t have any of the uncomfortable chewiness I’ve experienced with tartare. Would I trade in cooked beef for sashimi? Hell no, but I am glad to know my accidental order gave me a new appreciation for a crazy food.
By the time I had finished, my legs had fallen asleep more times than I could count, and I found myself doing my best to sprawl on the floor. While not every dish was a home run, I was very happy with my meal. It was good to eat at a restaurant that paid homage to authentic Japanese food and if I don’t hit up FuRaiBo again, it will only be because LA has so much other food to offer.