Good Cheers Just Part of the Tradition

There is an old tradition that is adhered to strictly at the Daimon Japanese Restaurant.

Whenever the front door opens at this quaint Sunset Beach establishment, the young Japanese sushi chefs standing behind the well-stocked, circular bar bombard diners with a raucous "ir-rash-shy-MA-say," which means "welcome" in their native tongue.

The greeting is reminiscent of Boston's make-believe bar, Cheers, but the friendliness and warmth that emanate from this Pacific Coast Highway establishment is by no means a facade .

As in the "Cheers" bar, Daimon's offers a place "where everybody knows your name." And if they don't, they will make it a point that you feel like part of the Daimon family by the time you leave.

Daimon's is unlike most other Japanese restaurants: the decor in the sushi bar and dining room is simple, even rustic. The wood paneling creates a warmth that almost compels patrons to slip off their shoes.

In the sushi bar, the offerings are plentiful, and the sake as warm as the smiles on the faces of the chefs, who dress in surfer-style T-shirts and jeans. While munching on squid, yellowtail or shrimp, sushi-bar-goers will find themselves irresistibly tapping their toes to the new wave music that emanates from the sound system.

An all-you-can-eat happy hour for $12 is a definite draw for sushi lovers, who will have almost undivided attention from fun-loving chefs. As the sake begins to flow, the chefs will often join in making toasts and daring the more hearty eaters to try the raw quail's eggs.

If you don't happen to favor the rice wine or the hefty bottles of cold Japanese beer, there is always the full bar, which takes up a corner of the rear dining--or Teppan--room. The bartender pours generously and with the same enthusiasm as his counterparts manning the sushi bar.

But the fun doesn't stop at the sushi bar. The Teppan room is equipped with three hot tables, where diners will enjoy watching their food cooked before their eyes.

The Teppan chefs keep their clientele amused with puns, anecdotes and precision knife-twirling. They will also fling succulent pieces of shrimp, beef and chicken into the open mouths of diners, who wear bibs in case they miss the flying food.

Daimon Japanese Restaurant, 16232 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach. Open daily, 5 to 11 p.m. (213) 592-4862.

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