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In the polyglot of SoCal dining, we know our banh mi from our bento. But a visit to a Japanese cookware shop with elegant tools and a helpful proprietor just raised our home-chef skills to a new level.

We were surprised at the range inside the little Hitachiya in Torrance?s Rolling Hills Plaza. Red, green and blue cast-iron teapots ($178) complement both traditional and minimalist decor, and a bamboo colander ($13) would look Cali-cool hanging on a wall after steaming fish or vegetables. Even the simplest items are elegant, including bamboo turners ($12) that won?t scrape Teflon, bamboo shopping baskets (from $96) and a copper-banded cypress handai (from $70), or sushi rice bowl, that cools rice while removing extra water.

Of course, there are splurge-worthy knives from Sakai, the town known for samurai swords. Bonus: You can bring in your own knives for sharpening.

What makes Hitachiya accessible to home cooks is the cheerful expertise of owner Hirota Masazumi, whose family owns a similar store near Tokyo?s fabled fish market. He?s our new guide for the kind of light, healthful food we?ll be longing for after our holiday gluttony. 

Hitachiya, 2509 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance; 310-534-3136 or

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