LAGuide

The Best Restaurants in Torrance

17 restaurants to prioritize in the South Bay's biggest city.
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photo credit: Jakob Layman

You might know it as the South Bay’s biggest suburb or the place with the giant mall, but it's also home to thirty parks, Chuck Norris’ first dojo, and one of the country’s biggest Japanese communities living outside of Japan. In this guide, we’ll focus on a number of great restaurants in the area. You can find everything from crispy tonkatsu and soup dumplings to creamy mole negro and fluffy malasadas.


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photo credit: Jakob Layman

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At $280 a pop, Sushi Inaba is one of the most expensive (and tough-to-book) omakases in the South Bay. But the restaurant delivers everything it must for the price: skillfully prepared fish, impeccable service from the chef/owner, and enough food to not have to get a secret second dinner at McDonald’s. Hidden inside Inaba Restaurant, this tiny sushi bar feels less like a meeting of the Secret Society of Seafood. You’ll get symmetrical cuts of ultra-fatty bluefin toro, impeccable golden eye snapper, and 10-day-aged amberjack. It’s all prepared with an expert hand, combining a mix of hard-to-find cuts of fish with some of the freshest seafood you’ll find on dry land.

Madre is an excellent place for a casual weeknight dinner, business lunch, or a date with someone you don’t know very well. The original location of this Oaxacan spot is in Torrance, and the mezcal collection here has to be among the largest of any restaurant in the city. Get the mezcal margarita and order the queso fundido to start. For entrees, focus on the moles—we like the coloradito best—with either chicken thighs or short ribs.

You’ll find a decent plate of tonkatsu on the menu at a bunch of Japanese spots in Torrance, but those fried pork cutlets are the focus at Kagura. This laidback izakaya specializes in everything from premium filets to leaner loin cuts smothered in cheese (all of which pair very well with beer), and serves it alongside an elegant tray of rice, miso soup, and salad. But the star of the show here is their signature millefeuille katsu, made with fatty slices of black pork folded and layered on top of one another. The color reminds us of what we imagine the contents of Meryl Streep’s trophy case look like: brilliantly golden.

It’s hard to nail down what exactly makes this popular Torrance izakaya so special. The food’s a huge part of it—all of the grilled meats are excellent and worth your attention, like medium-rare beef tongue that tastes buttery and tender, or salty, chopped pork cheek accompanied by a biting yuzu sauce. But it’s also the celebratory atmosphere, robust sake list, and the fact that most dishes are made to share, like the pork shabu shabu, or family-style omakase that requires four people seated at the table (house rules) and involves a parade of over 13 different dishes. Either way, if you’re looking to party like it’s 1999, or whatever year, this is the place to do it while eating very well.

The dim sum at this popular spot in Rolling Hills Plaza gets steamed, baked, or fried just minutes before it reaches your lips. The South Bay location of this reliable mini-chain has a bright dining room with a string-lit patio where all of the ordering is done via QR code. Made-to-order dim sum dishes arrive so quickly, you won’t miss the roving carts. They’ve got over 100 dim sum items on their menu, plus a whole menu of Cantonese dishes, so we suggest going in with at least a vague game plan. Whatever you decide, make sure there’s plump pork buns, jumbo pork siu mai, and crispy, crunchy shrimp rolls in the mix. Arrive outside the brunch rush and you should be able to get a table easily.

This blink-and-miss-it Japanese spot in downtown Torrance—semi-hidden behind a pair of big white curtains—is dedicated to bowls of tempura in the same way that The Rock is dedicated to bicep curls. Run by a Peruvian chef who trained in Japan, Carlos Junior specializes in tendon, or sauce-seasoned tempura over rice. Bowls come mounded with hot and crunchy things like fried shrimp, vegetables, eel, and a mind-melting tempura egg with a runny yolk, paired with self-serve pickled ginger and celery that come on the table. Get the fully loaded Special Tempura Bowl if you want to taste a bit of everything—it’s one our of favorite lunches in the South Bay.

Before opening in Torrance in 2018, the owners of Aunty Maile’s ran restaurants in Kona and Las Vegas, spreading legit island cooking across the mainland like Johnny Appleseeds. These days they’ve become known in the South Bay for serving huge portions of homestyle dishes like chicken katsu loco moco and oxtail soup. The must-order at this casual counter-service spot is the mixed plate: Pick two proteins—we prefer the sweet-and-sticky furikake fried chicken and the meaty grilled kalbi—and they’ll load a plate with rice and a big scoop of peppery mac salad. Keep an eye on the daily specials, too.

Despite lots of local competition, Hakata Ikkousha is one of our favorite ramen shops in the area. It’s a great spot to grab a quick bowl of tonkatsu, but they’ve also got some other popular options like “God Fire” for spice lovers and “Black Devil,” where the broth comes infused with a heavy dose of black sesame paste and garlic. In addition to the top-notch noodle bowls, they also makes some of the best spicy karaage we’ve ever had. Get a large order of the juicy, honey-coated Japanese fried chicken with a side of rice for the table, and try not to argue over the leftovers.

At lunch and dinner, this long-running strip mall sushi bar offers a bargain $80 omakase that includes 10 pieces of nigiri and a toro with green onion roll, prepared by chefs who are focused but friendly. The fish selection here is the best in the South Bay, so along with standards like toro and seared albacore you’ll often find snow crab, surf clam, mackerel, and halibut. This is a great place to load up on Santa Barbara uni, too—apparently the owner married into a family that runs a sea urchin delivery company and gets first dibs for his restaurant.

This strip mall spot is a very good place for affordable sushi. They’re open for takeout only, so marvel at the Dodger bobblehead-decorated bar going in, and order the No. 8 Special. It involves nine pieces of sushi and two rolls, and at $18, it’s the most expensive thing on the menu. Add on an order of the fantastic, salty mirugai (giant geoduck clam) if they have it.

King’s Hawaiian Bakery doesn’t just make the grocery store rolls we’ve been devouring at cookouts since we were kids, they’ve also got a restaurant in Torrance with pretty forgettable food. But the restaurant isn’t why you’re here – the bakery up front serves a huge variety of excellent, mostly Hawaiian pastries. The almond stars are good, and the malasadas are the biggest, fluffiest donut holes you’ll ever eat. You’ll get them to go, but probably spend a few minutes on the patio eating one by yourself before you take them back to the office.

Torihei is a strip mall izakaya with long lines and fantastic robata. Make a reservation if you can, otherwise, they hold some tables for walk-ins. When you do eventually sit down, pick something from the long and affordable list of sake and shoju, and then order the karaage and xiao long bao oden (Chinese-style shrimp dumplings in Japanese hot pot) to start. The robata choices are all excellent, just make sure your order includes the butter scallops and wasabi beef tongue.

One of the most reliable BBQ spots in Koreatown has another location in Torrance, where you can plan a big group gathering in the neighborhood. Much like the crowded location on 6th Street, wait times at this location can go longer than Gone With The Wind. But their high-quality meat and pork combo platters make any wait worth it. It’s not the kind of loud place where celebrations rage until 2am, so expect to be seated near a large family or a laid-back birthday celebration while you go to town on some marinated short ribs and beef belly.

If you’re looking for a low-key Japanese spot that does a bit of everything well, Wadatsumi is where you’ll find it. Located at the far end of the very same strip mall as Baekjeong and Hakata Ikkousha, it’s a great spot for fresh chirashi bowls full of albacore, hamachi, and salmon roe. The simple raw fish dishes here are way less extravagant than what you’ll find at higher-end sushi bars, but that doesn’t mean the fish quality is any different. We’re also big fans of their roast beef salad, topped with thinly sliced meat and ginger dressing.

Ichimi Ann is a family-run Japanese restaurant that treats handmade noodles like science. Their specialty is soba, which you can order in a hot broth or served cold with a side of soy sauce for dipping. But you can also drop in for a bowl of silky udon to slurp down on your lunch break. It’s all simple, fresh, and exactly the kind of comforting food we crave at the end of a hard week.

Cho Dang Tofu is a strip mall Korean spot in Torrance, serving everything from sizzling bulgogi platters to soft tofu stew. While meat dishes like their beef ribs and pork belly deserve your attention, vegetarians can also find a bunch of great options here outside of just banchan. The mushroom soon tofu is silky and full of tender king oysters, and the vegetable dumpling tofu stew has a good balance of chewy and crunchy textures.

This just might be the best spot in Torrance for pupusas. In fact, the bakery has been around since 1994, and continues to serve a bunch of excellent Guatemalan and Salvadoran dishes in its original space on Western Avenue, and at a second location in Long Beach. We especially love their revueltas pupusas filled with tender chicharron, but you really can’t go wrong here. Their extensive menu includes everything from chunky beef stew and sweet corn tamales to carne adobada and pepian.

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