by Jannelle So

It’s the New Year; but please allow me to veer away from the norm. So while everyone is talking about getting in shape and shedding off those unwanted pounds generated by holiday parties and get-togethers, let me tell you about more eating and enjoying it more. Because taking it from author J.R.R. Tolkien: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

I did have the privilege of doing all that recently, as I filmed my Christmas Eve or Noche Buena special for “Kababayan LA.” Instead of the usual cooking I do in the studio, I endeavored to go out and feature two of my favorite restaurants in the Torrance and Carson area.


I was first introduced to Gaja some years ago by my sister and brother-in-law. Like many, I was so used to the notion that Japanese cuisine was all about sushi and teriyaki; that I was both surprised and curious to discover Gaja, a Japanese restaurant serving Japanese pancakes – okonomiyaki.

“This is Japanese pancake but we don’t serve it for breakfast, as in the American pancakes,” said Mr. Taka, president and owner of Gaja, who further epxlained that name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked.”

We cooked about 11 small pancakes with same batter mixed with ingredients like green onion, scallions; but with different toppings, ranging from scallops, squid, octopus, beef, chicken and many others. Mixed with Japanese mayonnaise, the result is a burst of different flavors in the mouth – one part salty; one part sweet; and other parts indescribable, but definitely tasty.

The cooking part was also enjoyable – flipping pancakes, putting in toppings, etc. For someone like me who rarely (Ok, almost never) cooks, it was a great experience. And because they serve in decent portions, the meals are best to share. Bring your family and friends. This place is enjoyed best with a large party!

But make sure you save room for sweets. Desserts at Gaja are not only unique, also beautiful and delicious. The shaved ice comes in different flavors, and mixed with Japanese dessert staples like mochi and red bean paste.

Also, the flavored beers are a must-try!


But for those of you kababayans missing the spirit of the Philippines, literally and figuratively, you should try House of Seafood in the City of Carson. They serve San Miguel beer and a variety of other popular brews. HOS is one of the few restaurants that can also serve alcohol and liquor. And though it’s Filipino-owned, it’s not entirely a Filipino restaurant.

“This is a seafood restaurant first. The inspiration came from our favorite seafood place that we used to frequent. But it was all the way in Anaheim and one time, I joked to my mom that we should start something close to where we live,” said Michael Nocos, owner and manager of HOS.

“A week later, I told my son to start looking for a place for a restaurant. He had already forgotten about his earlier comment. I took his joke seriously,” said Susan Boyes, mother of Michael.

The result of a joke is a clean, inviting restaurant that serves dishes that appeal to anyone’s palate. And there’s a wide variety to choose from – from appetizers to pasta and entrees. I highly recommend the cornmeal calamari; and of course, their seafood mixed with Cajun spices.

Ok. So I may not be a food critic; not even a food blogger. But I love to eat and in my experiences dining at different places, I know good food when I taste one. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, I invite you to Yelp both places and read the reviews for yourself.

Both places were featured on “Kababayan LA” recently, if you missed it, check out segments at

What diet?! Happy New Year, Happy Eating!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.

Jannelle So is Host/Producer of “Kababayan LA” that airs daily at 4:30pm on KSCITV-LA18. Catch previous programs at Like her on Facebook: Follow her on Twitter: