Lomita is a small town tucked between the Harbor Freeway and the Palos Verdes Penninsula in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, and a place I had only passed through prior to visiting this unique Peruvian Japanese restaurant.
A Nikkei Peruvian friend of mine, who knows I love seafood, first told me about Kotosh At Kamiyama, and insisted I had to check it out.
One of the defining features of Peruvian food is the fact it is a fusion cuisine, borrowing and melding elements from native pre-Columbian, Spanish, African, Italian, and Asian traditions. Peru is home to a large community of Nikkei Peruvians, Peruvians of Japanese descent.
Having said that, it is no surprise that Kotosh (named after the temple of the same name in the Huánuco region of Peru, which at 5,000 years old is among South America's oldest) offers both traditional Peruvian cuisine as well as Japanese sushi.
One of the hallmarks of this restaurant is the quality of the ingredients used as well as the friendliness of the staff, many of whom are Japanese Peruvians. Despite being a compact space, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
On both occasions I visited, Kotosh was full. There must be a reason so many people make the trek (or should I say pilgrimage?) to the unremarkable, and a bit hard-to-find, mini-mall where it is located.
Quite frankly, if Kotosh were not so far from where I live, I would be a regular customer, and eat my way through the entire menu.
I'm not Kotosh's only fan.
In a recent review, The District Weekly, says, "Even if you were to erase one country from its cookbook, Kotosh would function just fine—better, in fact, than other restaurants that focus on a single cuisine. More remarkable is that the restaurant truly does work best with both, easily breaking the boundaries of typical fusion food."
Circle of Food writes, "It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve been to Kotosh and the food memories are still floating around in my head." At Insider Pages, reviewers call Kotosh, The Best of Two Worlds.
Finally, if you prefer the Japanese side of the menu, Jonathan Gold, one of Southern California's most well-known food critics, calls Kotosh, "a cheerful South Bay sushi mecca."
Numerous reviewers at Yelp sing Kotosh's praises. I particularly enjoyed this:
"I've stayed away from this place for a long time. Peruvian and sushi? It just sounded like all kinds of wrong.
"Not so," a coworker of mine informed me. In her foodie ways, she went on to describe the delicious dishes. Still, the idea of this combo scared me.
Finally one night, I was in the mood for something different. So, to Kotosh I went. And waited. And waited. It seemed like an excruciatingly long time before I got to put my order in on a Saturday night.
That's when a patron approached me. "Give this place a chance," he said. He went on to say he probably would have left if he were me, but that I should stay because "the food is rockin." Then he recommended the tallarin saltado (spaghetti with sauteed onions and tomatoes) and the Peruvian Slur (crab asparagus roll, topped with salmon, avocado and the tasty Peruvian green sauce).
Fair enough. At his enthusiastic recommendations, I ordered them. Then, in time, I devoured them. There was not a scrap to take home to enjoy later. I was that greedy and it was that good! The patron had been absolutely right: The Food is Rockin!!!
Since then, I have been back and have enjoyed other delights. The Peruvian food makes my taste buds dance in joy. The sushi is also very good and fresh. The staff is friendly, and even when super busy (like my first Saturday night experience), they will greet you with a smile.
I've just learned to order ahead..."
On our recent visit, I had to order leche de tigre, which is off the menu, but the staff was more than willing to prepare. Literally, Tiger's Milk, this is a glass of the juice in which the ceviche is marinated, a tart and spicy marriage of lime, garlic, and the Peruvian hot pepper rocoto that explodes in the mouth and opens up the taste buds.
We also sampled the sashimi-like halibut Tiradito de Lenguado (at our initial visit we tried the almost sinful Tiradito de Atún, with tuna sliced so finely it melted in our mouths).
Photo: Rosheila Robles at The District Weekly
The Ceviche de Pescado is excellent, the fish is fresh and firm, and not too spicy. In case you want to tart it up a little, there is Kotosh's version of the ubiquitous ají verde, Peruvian green hot sauce, which is a bit milder and creamier than at other Peruvian restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
We also ordered the classic Lomo Saltado, which itself is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisines. It was a solidly prepared dish and the meat was a bit better quality than in many other local Peruvian restaurants.
The crab-stuffed Spider Roll was the perfect complement to the Peruvian dishes. And there was an Arroz Chaufa de Mariscos, mixed seafood fried rice, that was so good it disappeared before we had a chance to take a picture.
People rave about the Peruvian Slur roll, which is a crab and asparagus roll, topped with Norwegian salmon, and a dollop of Peruvian green hot sauce, as well as the Tallarín Saltado, which is stir-fried spaghetti with onions and tomatoes and your choice of chicken, fish or beef.
They're on our list for a future visit.
Photos (unless otherwise noted): Canelita
Kotosh At Kamiyama Peruvian Food & Sushi
2408 Lomita Blvd., Suite #C
Lomita, CA 90717