from the West side to the Far East

A few weekends ago I took a trip in the Wayback Machine. Visiting my folks in West LA inevitably turns into a reminiscing fest, but this time was a little different.

The family got together to belatedly celebrate my dad’s 87th birthday which we re-unionized in Little Tokyo. Much has changed since the family used to frequent the retail stores and restaurants of “J-town.” What’s left of the J-town we knew are just a few gift shops and of course, Fugetsu-Do, where they make the best manju in LA (even chocolate manju, which was delicious).

We had lunch at this great curry house called, you guessed it, Curry House, in the newer part of the area. When we got there at noon, we were able to get a large table however by the time we left, there was a long line out the door. Not only was this place popular, the food was outstanding (I guess popularity and good food do sometimes go together). Various curries and spaghetti dishes take up most of the real estate on the menu and in trying both, I can safely say this place was GREAT. Curries were spiced perfectly, the spaghetti was al dente, both served with a variety of meats and vegetables of your choosing.

After lunch, we all caught a play at the East West Players Theatre called “Voices from Okinawa.” It’s interesting to see community theatre when all you’ve been exposed to in the past four years are Broadway productions. That’s all I have to say about that.

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After the show and since we were in our old J-hood, us “kids” decided to venture for a looky-see into the restaurant formerly known as Far East Cafe, now called Chop Suey Cafe and Lounge. The cash register station was still there (although the register had since been updated), situated by the front door near the old glass candy case display. Only one wall still had the wooden booths intact, although the spaces where booths once were, can be “sponsored” for a mere $10,000. A number of placards displaying sponsorship donors were glues to the walls. Upon asking the waiter what exactly the $10,000 gets you, he shrugged, “I don’t know.” The staff were gracious enough to let us walk around the restaurant, as I’m sure they are used to people just like us, wanting to reminisce about the good old days of almond duck, homyu, and egg foo young. The upstairs looked pretty much the same, though I don’t recall the ceilings being so low (I suppose back then, we were all much shorter, too). The new owners added a side alley “lounge” called “The Far Bar” which was decorated with twinkle lights, trees , and industrial style outdoor furniture. Reminded me of restaurant patios in New York City. We took a look at the menu, but no real familiar dishes to be found.

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When I came home, I googled “Far East Cafe” and found a gaggle of sites documenting other peoples’ pilgrimages to the restaurant. All I can say is, I’m happy to have the warm memories of birthdays, banquets, anniversaries, and memorial services held at the old Far East Cafe, but also happy to have chosen NOT to eat there. While I was sad to see the restaurant in its current state (though much better than having it demolished, as it almost was), I think eating there would have spoiled everything that was built up til then.

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