Top Five Friday: Healthy Japanese and Asian Inspired Restaurants

Below are my recommendations for fast food, casual, date night, and celebrations for gluten free and vegan options. Each restaurant features Asian inspired food with healthy options, great taste, artistic presentation and ambiance.


Location: 820 Manhattan Ave #105, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266, Table Service
Parking: Street metered parking, 2 hour metered public parking lot  entering off 9th or 10th within easy waking distance to RICE
Hours:  Please note that on the weekdays they close in between lunch and dinner.
Monday – Thursday: 12pm – 2:30pm/5:30pm-10:00pm
Friday: 12pm – 2:30pm/5:30pm-10:30pm
Saturday: 12pm-10:30pm
Sunday: 12pm-10:00pm
Phone: 310-798-7722

Description: RICE offers an intimate Japanese dining experience serving sushi and cooked fare in a warm softly lit environment.

Concept: Healthy Japanese dining using highest quality ingredients that are organic and natural whenever possible. Everything is GLUTEN FREE! No artificial ingredients are used and sauces are made from scratch. All sushi and rolls are made with organic brown rice and organic sweet brown rice (never mixing vinegar and sugar like sushi rice).

Menu Favorites and Standouts: Miso Cod (Roasted Wild Alaskan Black Cod with koji miso), Yellow Submarine Vegan Sushi Roll (Asparagus, avocado, cucumber roll with pumpkin and garlic sweet soy sauce on the side), Kabocha pumpkin and organic white miso soup with a side of brown rice.

Other: The restaurant is within easy walking distance to the beach. Stop by some of the shops nearby such as Pages – an independent bookseller offering fiction, nonfiction & children’s books plus gifts, greeting cards and author events.

RICE Yellow Submarine Vegan Gluten Free Sushi Roll
RICE Yellow Submarine Vegan Gluten Free Sushi Roll
RICE Manhattan Beach Interior
Photo: RICE Manhattan Beach Interior
Pages Manhattan Beach Bookstore near RICE
Pages Manhattan Beach Bookstore near RICE

Reservations: Through Yelp. The restaurant is small and you will most likely be asked upon arrival if you have a reservation although it it not required.

2. Shojin

Locations: 2 Locations in Los Angeles, Table Service

DOWNTOWN LA -Little Tokyo
333 S Alameda St Suite 310 (3rd Floor)
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: (213) 617-0305
Mon, Wed & Fri: 5:30pm – 10pm
Tue: Closed
Sat: 3pm- 10:30pm
Sun: 12pm – 9:30pm (open for lunch)
Parking: Free 2 Hrs w/ validation in parking garage off Alameda St
Park on 4th level for direct entrance

12406 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
Phone: (310) 390-0033
Monday – Thursday: 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Friday & Saturday: 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Sunday: 12 PM – 9:30 PM (open for lunch)
Parking: Street Parking on Washington Blvd. and Centinela Ave

Description: Shojin is an authentic Japanese restaurant featuring food that is delicious and well presented. Everything on the menu is gluten free and vegan so there is no cross contamination. The menu is also labeled for other allergens such as soy, nuts, garlic, onion, sesame. All macrobiotic dishes are original creations and are made from scratch. Vegetables and ingredients are all organic wherever possible. No chemical preservatives or artificial coloring is ever used. All sushi rolls are made from Lundberg organic brown rice.

Menu Highlights: Rainbow miso soup (Japanese style hearty miso soup, seasonal colored vegetables, tomato, snap pea, green and yellow zucchini and basil.) Crunchy Tiger sushi roll (avocado wrapped soy “chicken” and asparagus roll topped with crispy potato

Other: Shojin’s Online Store has take-out sushi platters of their 100% vegan and gluten-free sushi. Order at least 3 days in advance. Perfect for a party with food everyone can enjoy!

Shojin Interior of Restaurant
Photo: Yelp, Rochelle P.
Shojin Kiss of the Spider Woman Sushi Roll
Photo: Yelp, Stefanie A. Shojin Kiss of the Spider Woman Sushi Roll
Shojin Sushi Roll
Photo: Yelp, Annie Y.

Reservations: Through Yelp. They do not take phone reservations. Please note the Downtown location is closed on Tuesday.

3. Asian Box

Locations: 4 Locations Southern California, Fast-Casual Chain Counter Service

445 South Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA, 90071
Phone: (213) 265-7955
Monday-Friday: 10:00am-4:00pm
Saturday and Sunday: Closed
Delivery: DoorDash, UberEats, ezCater

2121 Cloverfield Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone (424) 280-4607
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday, Monday 11am-9pm
Delivery: Door DashUberEatsezCater

4503 Campus Drive Irvine, CA 92612
Phone (949) 769-6196
Daily 11am-9pm
Delivery: DoorDash, UberEats, ezCater

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90067
Located on level 2 next to Chick-fil-A and Chipotle in the dining terrace
Counter-serve w/ shared seating
Phone (310) 203-9702
Monday-Saturday 11am – 9pm // Sunday 11am – 7pm

Description: 100% Gluten Free Menu. Asian Box strives to offer authentic and tasty food that is made with healthier and fresher ingredients sourced locally. The website states they use pesticide and hormone free products and proteins.

Menu Highlights: Create Your Own Box with a base (brown rice, jasmine rice, Asian salad or chilled rice noodles), the protein (white and dark meat chicken, pork, beef, vegan tofu or shrimp), toppers (pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, chopped peanuts etc.), and sauce.
You can also order one of the spring rolls or suggested boxes like “The Workout” that has chicken, brown rice, extra steamed veggies, bean sprouts, pickled veggies, herbs and tamarind vinaigrette.

Asian Box Healthy Japanese Food
Asian Box Healthy Japanese Food
AsianBox, Healthy Japanese Food
Photo: AsianBox, Healthy Japanese Food
AsianBox Gluten Free Japanese Catering
Photo: AsianBox Instagram, Catering Options

Order Ahead Online: Click Here

4. M Cafe

Location: 7119 Melrose Ave Hollywood, CA 90046, Casual Counter Service
Parking: Parking can be tricky during crowded times. 7 Parking Spaces in front or 1 hour street parking 8 AM – 6 PM
Hours:  MON – SUN 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Phone: (323) 525-0588

Description: Experience nutritious macrobiotic and creative dishes drawn from Japanese and world cuisines for inspiration at M Cafe. The entire menu is dairy-free with other allergens clearly labeled on the menu. The majority of the menu is gluten free or has a gluten free option. All of the soy is organic and non-GMO. All of the mixed greens and herbs are from Scarborough Farms.

Ordering: You can order at the counter yourself using the touch screen to select your food off the menu options listed and pay with card. I like how pictures of the food are included. A helpful employee can help you through this process or take the order for you.

Menu Highlights: Organic gluten-free and nut free miso soup with silken tofu, shiitake, wakame & scallions. Teriyaki bowl (gluten free) with heirloom brown rice from Koda farms, choice of plant protein or sustainable seafood, seasonal vegetables, pickled carrot & daikon, shiso leaf, teriyaki sauce (get it on the side) and sesame. Brunch is served until 3pm daily.

Other:  I love the deli and sushi case where you can grab a salad like the M Chopped, a seasonal selection or gluten free sushi. There is a farmer’s market on the 1st and 4th Sunday of the month from 10am-1pm.

Delivery and Pick Up Options: Postmates, Order Online for Pick up. I like how on certain menu items you click the special request button for sauce on the side, soy allergy alert (no mushrooms) or mushroom or capsicum allergy (no peppers).

M Cafe, Interior of Melrose Restaurant
Photo: Sean Pierce and M Cafe's creative director C.S. Valentin
Photo: M Cafe, Healthy Japanese Inspired Food
Photo: M Cafe, Healthy Japanese Inspired Food
M Cafe M Chopped Salad
Photo: M Cafe Facebook, M Chopped Salad

I previously did a post on my appreciation for M Cafe. Click Here

5. RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen

Location: Westfield Century City, Level 1, Table Service for celebrations and special date nights, Attire: Nice Casual-Dressy Casual for Evening
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067
Parking: 3 hrs free w/ validation. Enter parking garage off Santa Monica Blvd.
Hours: Sun – Thu 11:30AM – 10:00PM, Fri – Sat 11:30AM – 11:00PM
Phone: (310) 552-9988

Description: RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen showcases the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Unlike fusion cuisine, each dish on the extensive menu is authentic to its country of origin. The ambiance is dramatic as if you were transported into a gorgeous forbidden city with elaborately decorated dining rooms. The entrance and walkway sets the tone for this unique ambiance as you enter this unique dining experience.

Master Chef Mohan Ismail captures the spirit and authentic flavors of Southeast Asia by incorporating the finest ingredients to bring greater subtlety to the traditional dishes of the region, as well as more creativity in their presentation. In 2016 he appeared on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and was the winner competing with a noodle dish reminiscent of a recipe he grew up with in Singapore.

Ask your waiter for gluten free options and modifications. However, due to the vast menu selections and the busyness of the restaurant be careful for the possibility of cross contamination. My suggestion is that you come near opening where it is not crowded and greater attention to your gluten free requests have been met.

Menu Highlights:
Green Curry Chicken (Eggplant, Sugar Snap Peas, Chayote, Thai Basil, Cilantro with Jasmine Rice), Cocunut Chicken Soup: (Shiitake Mushrooms, Galangal and Sugar Snap Peas), Grilled Chicken Tikka Skewers (Mint Raita with Mango Chutney), Noodles with Wok Fried Vegetables (Snow Peas, Carrots, Shiitake Mushrooms, Chilies, Bean Sprouts, Cilantro and Fried Shallots)

Photo: RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen
Photo: RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen
RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen Culver City Interior
Photo: RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen
RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen Culver City Entrance
Photo: RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen

Reservations: Through Yelp. or call (310) 552-9988

Japanese Inspired Fashion

I love how the beautiful kimono is in style and can be for a casual look over jeans and a white top or a dress to go out in. Below are some kimono options taking you from counter service casual places like AsianBox to the upscale environment of RockSugar.

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