The following Japanese restaurants prove that there is life beyond sukiyaki and tempura. Curry Club (6623 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 939-4627). Japanese-style curry is all the rage in Japan. And if you’re a curry aficionado, you’ll love slopping the extraordinarily delicious, thick, coffee-brown curries over a mountain of sticky, stark-white rice. For about $5 you have a meal that would satisfy any appetite. Curry Club offers seven different curries--plain sauce, mixed vegetables, beef cubes, chicken, shrimp, mushroom and scallops. All curry dishes come with rice and salad. The Curry Club also does a nice salmon saute served on a bed of spinach with rice and salad--and at $5.90, a real bargain. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., dinner only Sat. MasterCard and Visa. No liquor. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, food only, $6-$15. Hokka Hokka (318-A E. 2nd St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-2280). This sunny little take-out/eat-in spot specializes in bento , attractively boxed Japanese lunches that combine color, value and variety. The menu here changes every day but might feature broiled yellowtail, curried meatball, Chinese dumplings or mini-croquettes, all hunched into special compartments on a disposable plastic tray and complemented by eight balls of sesame-studded cooked rice. Another bento might include a chicken leg, sweet bean, burdock root and spring rolls. Added bonus: Nothing is more than $5. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Beer and sake. Street parking. Bento for two, $8-$10. Mifune (356 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 628-0697). This seven-stool counter in the Aji-no-mei-tengai , a second-floor restaurant emporium in Little Tokyo, serves some of the tastiest soba (handmade buckwheat noodles) in Los Angeles. Specials include ikura oroshi soba , topped with salmon egg and grated radish, or nabeyaki combination, a giant heated ceramic bowl overflowing with vegetable tempura, seafood, chicken and a choice of soba or udon , fat wheat noodles. Lunch and dinner daily. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Full bar. Parking in building. Soba for two, $5-$15. Taiko (14775 Jeffrey Road, Irvine, (714) 559-7190). Do as they do in Tokyo and begin with a bottle of Sapporo draft in this white-hot Irvine restaurant. The numbered specials change daily and might include wafer-thin rolled cucumber stuffed with a mayonnaise-rich crab salad. Another might be the baked scallops in a thin bechamel sauce served in a giant shell. Assorted sushi include fresh and snappy tarako (cod roe) and yellowtail, which has a clean, flowery fragrance, nicely offset by sliced fresh ginger. If you want the best of Taiko, sit at the sushi bar--the selection of sushi is limited in the main dining area and the waitresses are not allowed to bring the various specials to the table. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri.; Sat. and Sun. dinner only. MasterCard and Visa. Beer and wine. Shopping center parking. Dinner for two, food only, $18-$35. Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar (5239 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 766-3868). This jazz club/sushi bar is modest, delightful and slightly wacky with its homemade new wave/Japanese decor and high-spirited staff. The casual hip crowd finds good jazz the perfect background for good conversation and good fish. The portions of yellowtail, tuna and halibut draped over hand-formed rice slabs are roughly the dimensions of a Heath bar. The ikura and flying fish egg sushi are oblong seaweed shot glasses brimming with orange roe; quail eggs are added on request. You might finish with nato. This ultra-fermented soybean substance is supposed to cure everything from melancholy to baldness. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., dinner only Sat. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Full bar. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$30.
Five Adventures, Japanese Style
Compiled by KATHY JENKINS