Dining on a budget: Arigato Japanese Restaurant in Azusa

By Amanda Newfield, Correspondent

Arigato Japanese Restaurant in Azusa was delightfully satisfying in the most Japanese way, even if I nearly missed the restaurant as I drove up Azusa Avenue.

The face of the venue is nothing special, with a small and almost non-existent porch. But it was the inside of the restaurant that caught my attention.

As I ventured into a narrow building and walked past the sushi bar, I noticed cherry blossoms and a Japanese woman painted on the wall to my left and old style brick that reminded me of the east coast to the right.

The ambiance was peaceful as a Japanese restaurant should be – the restaurant was not too loud and yet not so quiet that one feels compelled to whisper.

The server was pleasant and attentive but not overbearing.

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Then came the food – in a prompt manner, by the way – and it was more than I expected. The $9.95 Dynamite Roll lived up to its name with scallops and crab covering the roll with a sweet soy sauce to top it off. The fish was fresh and tasty and the rice was sticky and delicious.

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What Japanese lunch is complete without tempura? The vegetable tempera was good. I was a little caught off guard by the tempura-covered bell pepper, but the crispy and fresh shrimp tempura was superb.

Arigato, which means thank you in Japanese, offers more types of rolls then I could have asked for, from spicy tuna to Hawaiian volcano. The choices were almost overwhelming.

I decided to be daring and ordered the $4.95 Eel Avocado Roll, which did not disappoint. The eel and avocado were fresh and satisfying; it was a good-size roll for the price.

The family-owned restaurant is at 722 N. Azusa Ave. in Azusa. Operation hours vary. For reservations or to call ahead an order, you can reach the restaurant at (626) 334-5545. Or for menu information or business hours visit www.mrarigato.com.

Dining on a budget: Rolling Sushi in Duarte

By Lafayette C. Hight, Jr.

A couple of things threw me for a loop when I walked into Rolling Sushi in Duarte.

First were the high-boy tables and chairs, which are typically found in any type of casual-dining establishment other than a sushi bar, (it took several hours of mind-racking before I would remember that it used to be a sandwich shop/ice cream parlor) and the second was the absence of an actual sushi bar. 

But I decided to focus on the reason I was there, a craving for sushi.

Rolling offers about 18 different rolls, ranging from the $4.99 vegetable cut roll to the high-end $8.99 rainbow roll. I opted for the latter and a $7.99 spider roll, which was discounted because they were having a 50 percent off deal for the second roll.

I learned that this second in a two-chain restaurant opened about three months ago. The first restaurant is Sushi in the Box located in Temple City.

 

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It took just a few minutes for the chef to create the rainbow of salmon, tuna and halibut, shrimp and avocado over a California roll, which he did just behind the counter.

I’m happy to say that the roll tasted exactly as it should. The fish was fresh, the rice was moist, and with the proper amount of soy sauce and wasabi it was great for a “quickie sushi” type of place.

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The soft-shell crab roll didn’t disappoint either. It is easy to overcook the crustacean, which will make it the consistency of battered rubber, but Rolling got it right on par with the fancy-schmancy restaurants that charge twice as much for the same dish.

In addition to sushi, the restaurant offers several rice bowls – a couple of ramen soup varieties. They don’t serve alcohol, however, for those looking for sake bombs. 

Rolling Sushi is located at 1114 Huntington Drive in Duarte. For more information, call (626) 471-3568.

Dining on a budget: News Cafe & Sushi in El Monte

By Claudia S. Palma

News Cafe & Sushi in El Monte is like two worlds in one.

The counter on the side facing the open kitchen and the signs for breakfast specials give the place a diner appeal.

But the table settings and chairs make the cafe look like a small Japanese joint. As you look around and head towards the back, the Asian decor and sushi bar counter say they mean business when it comes to sushi.

The menu is expansive. There is a separate list for sushi items, which were not all available during lunch the last time I went.

The menu is expansive. There is a separate list for sushi items, which were not all available during lunch last week.The cafe menu featured typical breakfast and lunch fare, from country breakfast to cobb salad and pasta dishes to a bacon cheeseburger.

There are also plenty of vegetarian and salad choices.

The Japanese lunch special featured a bento meal, with items such as chicken or beef teriyaki, miso soup and choice of California or spicy tuna rolls. There were also cut rolls such as caterpillar rolls and crunchy rolls.  

Unfortunately for me, having too many choices is not always a good thing. I am not a very picky eater and want to try everything. I eventually just gave in and tried something from both worlds.

The crazy salmon roll, $9.95, called to me, as well as the Reuben sandwich (nix the sauerkraut).

The Reuben sandwich combo, at $7.95, came with either a pasta salad, cole slaw or fries. I went for the pasta salad (which I regretted later when I saw someone else’s plate with huge steak fries – darn, I love thick fries.)    

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The corned beef, sandwiched with squaw bread and cheese, was good but could have used more pepper or seasoning and I would have preferred it more moist. The pasta salad was made of colorful rotini pasta, some crunchy pieces of bell pepper and onion and a light, tasty vinaigrette.

The crazy salmon roll featured spicy salmon, avocado, cucumber and rice rolled in seaweed and completely covered with long strips of raw salmon and topped with a special light sauce and sesame seed.

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The whole roll was surprisingly good but I wouldn’t make it my favorite. Having their own separate sushi chef was a good call though.

The spicy salmon wasn’t as spicy as I expected. Usually when I order spicy anything from a Japanese restaurant, it really does have a kick.

Warning - the cafe was pretty busy when I went around lunch time and there didn’t seem to be enough waitresses for the crowd swarming in for some cafe food. Be patient or call ahead of time if you are picking up. 

News Cafe & Sushi is located at 11357 E. Valley Blvd., next to El Monte City Hall. They are open from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday; and 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

For information or delivery, call (626) 443-2603.