Sakura-Ya – Old School Amazing Mochi in Gardena
Sakura-Ya is the last and my favorite of the three places I’ve posted about which I’ve been going to since I was born; the other two being Sakae Sushi and Mitsuru Cafe.
Sakura-Ya is an old store opened in 1960 that specializes in Japanese confectionary called mochi and manju. They are old school still make all their mochi by hand and still owned by the same family. However, the original husband and wife I grew up seeing seem to have largely retired and younger generations of the family run it day to day. This is great news because I’ve actually been worried for years that it would shut down when the original owners retired, which would be a huge shame.
It’s located in an old strip of stores in Gardena. For a long time it looked like no one had renovated the exterior since 1960, but recently they re-did the store front and it looks much better. However, the interior has looked exactly the same for as long as I can remember. It’s a white room with display cases and a bit of decoration, but overall it’s pretty bare bones. The staff is mainly family and are extremely nice.
Starting from top left going clockwise: kuri manju, imo manju, ohagi, kinako green mochi, pink mochi, kinako green mochi (again), kashiwa mochi, kiku manju , white mochi and green mochi
Here’s what we got:
This manju has an exterior made of wheat flour and mashed chestnut filling. The exterior is quite thin and moist while the filling is sweet, smooth, doesn’t have a strong flavor and is a bit drier (although not in a bad way). It’s a simple pastry, but it’s good. 8/10
This manju has a similar exterior to the kuri manju, but is filled with mashed sweet potato. The sweet potato filling has been spiced with cinnamon, which gives it a fantastic flavor. This is one of my favorite items here. 8.5/10
Ohagi is a type of mochi that has red beans on the outside with a ball of glutinous rice in the middle. The beans have the casings giving it a nice textural contrast. It tastes exactly how it sounds and is one of my favorite mochi. 8.5/10
Kinako Green Mochi
These are mochi where the skins have yomogi (mugwort) in them giving them a green color and a certain flavor which is sort of hard to describe, but is quite light. The rice dough at Sakura-Ya is so good; it’s extremely soft and delicate, much more so than other stores. The red bean filling is perfect; not too sweet, smooth, but still has textural contrast from the red bean casing. It is also topped with kinako powder, which is a roasted soybean powder that gives it a slightly bitter flavor, which I enjoy a lot. 8.5/10
This mochi is pink because of food coloring. The skins are the same, so they’re amazing. The filing is mashed white bean, which is very smooth and sweet. It has a slightly more muted flavor than red bean, but is just as good. This is a must-order. 8.5/10
This type of mochi is wrapped in a leaf. The dough is much more gooey and sticky than the normal mochi and the leaf imparts a certain sort of herbal flavor to the dough. The filling is the same red bean filling. While this is still quite good, it’s not quite as good as the regular mochi. 8/10
This manju has a very thin open pancake made of wheat flour that is filled white mochi and red bean paste. It tastes just like it sounds and while it’s pretty good, it’s not my favorite overall. I found the rice dough to be not quite as soft and delicate as the rest and I prefer the straight dough with beans as opposed to the pancake. 7.5/10
This is straight forward rice dough with red bean paste. This is a really good one. 8.5/10
Same as the kinako green mochi without the kinako. This is another winner. 8.5/10
Overall, this place is great and it really stands out from the crowd. I highly suggest trying it out.
16134 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90247