photo credit: Izakaya Hachi
If you were building a party restaurant, you’d probably start with big tables and booths, an even bigger selection of booze, and then eventually, after curating the perfect playlist, you’d get around to picking out the food - but chances are, you’d just write down “wings, etc.” and call it a day.
That’s where Hachi, an izakaya in a Torrance strip mall, is different. Sure, they’ve got the booths and the booze, but they’ve also got some pretty damn good food, too. Which is why they just might be the ultimate all-purpose party restaurant. Whether you’re celebrating your 21st birthday to your grandma’s 81st, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
You sense that as soon as you walk in. They’ve mastered a special kind of controlled chaos in here - the dining room is a tiny sea of mahogany tables filled with groups pouring each other sake, dunking ramen into shabu shabu broth, and ordering pitcher-after-pitcher of Asahi. Want something a bit closer to the velvet-rope, VIP experience? You can reserve one of their three private booths, which are set off from the rest of the dining room by wood panelling and tiny curtains that make you feel like some power broker trying to seal a deal to buy Marina del Rey (if that’s your kind of party).
photo credit: Izakaya Hachi
At any good izakaya, you want food that’s going to stand up to the copious amounts of Asahi Super Dry you’re putting away, but the menu at Hachi goes way beyond standing up - it becomes the star of the show. Provided your party has at least four people (per restaurant rules), you should order the group omakase, a family-style meal that features 13-or-so crowd-pleasing dishes coursed out over almost two hours. Some of our favorites are the peppery Jidori chicken meatballs, the salty, tender pork toro with yuzu chili sauce, and a pork shabu shabu that’s big enough for a standalone meal: Berkshire pork loin and belly, cabbage, and mushrooms in an excellent tonkotsu broth, finished off with tender ramen noodles.
If you’re looking to expand your order, go for the grilled beef tongue. It’s thick-cut, cooked medium-rare, and served buttery and tender. Other non-omakase favorites of ours are the battera (pressed mackerel sushi) and the uni and beef sashimi - raw Wagyu, wrapped around a piece of fresh urchin and shiso, then topped with caviar. It’s as excellent as it is decadent.
But not everything is as great. Some dishes on the menu - the beef skirt steak or the fried chicken cartilage, for example - mostly just taste like salt, and don’t stand out from other, cheaper versions in this izakaya-heavy part of town. And Hachi’s not really a good place to come alone, or on a date, unless you’ve got the appetite of four (and the alcohol tolerance of eight). Like any party, it’s better with a group.
Despite those limitations, we’re still dreaming up excuses to have a celebration here. 32nd-and-a-quarter birthday? Hachi. Thelonious Pup finished dog therapy? Hachi. Saw a red-shouldered hawk on our drive home? Hachi. This is the kind of all-purpose party spot that everyone should have in their back pocket - because celebrating the little things in life is important. Especially when the celebration involves shabu shabu.
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Pork Shabu Shabu
Whether or not you’re doing the omakase, make this hot pot a part of your order. The tonkotsu broth isn’t too heavy, which is a good thing when you’re loading it up with pork loin and belly. The ramen that comes at the end is just OK, but the broth is so filled with vegetables and pork bits at this point that you won’t mind at all.
Santa Barbara Uni & Wagyu Sashimi
This non-traditional combo is an absurdly decadent dish we would probably make fun of if it weren’t so good. You’d think the mix of sea urchin, caviar, and Wagyu would result in a mouthful of mush, but the raw beef has just enough bite that this becomes a truly excellent example of both flavor and texture.
Do not judge this toro by its looks. This tender, salty, chopped pork cheek is one of our favorite dishes here, especially when dunked in the accompanying yuzu kosho sauce.
When you’re looking at the Charcoal section of Hachi’s menu, this might not jump out at you. But ignore the skirt steak and ribeye, and go straight for the beef tongue. It’s one of the most tender, flavorful pieces of beef we’ve had in recent memory.
If you don’t like “fishy” fish, then you definitely shouldn’t order this hikarimono. But if you do, then this should be at the top of your list at Hachi. The vinegary mackerel on top of the densely packed rice in this battera is superb.