Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Geishas Are All the Rage

**Note: I'm home in Southern California.

Many complained that the film adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha" was boring and slow. Some resented the English speech with Japanese accents. Others said it was trying too hard for authenticity. Luckily there is a geisha of another kind wandering the Hollywood scene, and she tastes so good. She's sporting bigger names than the Memoirs' stars and earning rave reviews across the board from the entertainment industry.

The Geisha House restaurant stars Ashton and the people from That 70's show. No wonder this restaurant knows how to attract the Hollywood hotties, it was founded by a cast of them. Travel 3,000 miles west of Washington to a land where flip-flops in mid-January are no biggie. Enter the Geisha House, part of the hip restaurant series by the gang that brought the feathered Farrah-hair back into style. They also started two other Los Angeles posh spots: Dolce (Italian) and The Lodge (Steakhouse) in their free time after Fox shoots.

The stark white face and crimson red lips on the facade outside of the Geisha House was typically Hollywood chic, yes, but inside was something of a dimly-lit Japanese funhouse on crack. In a good way.

Photographers snapping shots of diners handing their keys to the valet boys reminded me of the Disneyland photographers that charm you into a photo after the ride. Too bad they weren't Disney employees, but actual paparazzi. Hollywood chic, remember? High people in high places get a bite to eat here.

But bite is really an understatement. So is raw fish. Each hunk of yellow tail, spicy tuna and oyster was flashy, perhaps, but loaded with flavor. Sometimes flashy can be a good thing, maybe? Besides, when in Hollywood, live lusciously. After handing over our Volvo keys and entering the restaurant, my friends and I were welcomed by the noises of an upstairs club. Jams were bumping and the bouncers were a-waiting at the bottom of a staircase. Apparently this club was not the Geisha House itself, but a nice chaser to the restaurant experience.

As we turned the corner, the lights got progressively darker, and soon we walked through a metallic red hallway. Funhouse, right? Finally, we were in the swanky lounge with a row of brown ottomans to our right. The walls were covered with photographs of authentic geishas, brown oversized walking sticks and behind the bar sat frosted Grey Goose bottles at staggered levels.

Ashton was nowhere in sight, but Kevin Bacon sure was. Immediately after being seated, I got a nudge from my boyfriend and full view of Mr. Bacon sharing a booth with his very producer-esque friend (Think square glasses, baseball cap and clad in an all-black). A few sashimi appetizers later, in walks Tommy Shaw from Styx. Officially, this was the first time I'd thrown back an oyster shooter (their Oyster Shooter Kamikaze..a double shot) while staring at Kevin Bacon's chiseled face. Or maybe just the first time doing an oyster shooter in general...

It took me two swallows before I got the rubbery guy down the hatchet, but luckily there was a pleasant swig of Dewazakura Sake waiting for me. At only $38 for a nice-sized helping, the cherry wood rice wine was "the best in taste and value, bar none," according to a Geisha House-regular and thankfully, our dinner guest. It was enough for our Party of Five (ooh, how Hollywood of me) to down a couple shots and then some.

We missed out on the flashy Euro man with an accent a la Pepe le Peu who supposedly visits tables flaunting a $300 bottle of sake for sale. Our Geisha House insider warned that the bottle is not worth it, "even on his boss's expense account." But just about everything else, surprisingly, was.

Contemporary sushi in a hip, and oftentimes red, environment has been the "in" thing for a while, but Geisha House seems to do it best. The service was spectacular, not snobby, and our waitress even brought the manager out to nab us one of their Asian-inspired aprons, which she said, premiered at Fashion Week this year. (One of our dinner guests was spellbound by the ornate silk design and had to go home with one. Can't blame her, though they did price the "last apron downstairs" at $40.)

Our all-star waitress also refilled my green tea so often that I got a good look at the basement bathroom at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Covered with jagged mirrors pieced together, the bathroom was good until I caught sight of the somewhat disillusioning generic-brand Dial soap. For some reason, it seemed odd that such an ultra-coooool Asian lounge would show its generic labels, but then again, this one was above the rest.

The Heaven Roll was like eating spicy tuna wrapped in clouds. The white rice was fluffy and light, enveloped with delicate seaweed. The Robata World was also a winner-- skewered chicken, filet mignon, salmon, asparagus and tofu-tomato with three fun dipping sauces. They call these their "special sauces," but I promse they're nothing like the ones at In-N-Out right down the block. The trio had a soy-based sesame one and spicier sauce which came with a disclaimer from our waitress. Also, the mixed tempura actually had an eggplant thrown in there! (Kitchenette proposal: from here on out, "mixed veggies" should always include eggplant. Mmm..)

For all I know, everyone around me could have been famous. They all had that look. A little burned out, a little aloof and ultra chic from head to toe. It was the happening place for the Hollywood scene, and any place with Kevin Bacon inside certainly gets my vote. Kinda makes me want to go wear some red lipstick and watch Footloose.


At 2:09 PM, Blogger PL8grrl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger PL8grrl said...

mmmmmKevin Bacon.....

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Spindrift said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Manchurian said...

eggplant is a standard vegetable in genuine japanese tempura


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