Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gonpachi @ La Cienega's Resturant Row

After months of delay, Gonpachi is finally open in Beverly Hills. If you drive down La Cienega Blvd. it's really hard to miss it a Buddhist temple-like behemoth standing amongst old American standards like Lawry's and Arnie Mortons. I decided to nickname it Todaiji after the temple in Kyoto but realized it looks more like Kill Bill's House of Blue Leaves. You know, the one where the big showdown takes place.

The original Gonpachi is in Tokyo and apparently the parent company, Global Dining Inc., went through painstaking measures to bring every piece of wood from Japan to build this edifice. Supposedly, not one nail or screw was set into the wood of this building. ...Guess that explains the delay.

The place is absolutely stunning. So much so that they could feed me crap and I'd still go home happy. Rameniac and I sat at the bar sipping, respectively, on beer and Choya plum wine while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive. I started getting tipsy fast cause I hadn't eaten a thing, plus the wine was a little strong. Never had plum wine made with black sugar (kurozato). Very, very sweet. As my head started spinning, I looked above and noticed a set of samurai swords on the wall. A bit kitschy if you ask me. But heck, I heard that real-life ninjas came to the restaurant's grand opening, so if that's what it takes to defend the castle then I guess it's alright with me.

Once the party was gathered, we were led upstairs to what resembled a dimly-lit atrium. Kill Bill flashbacks start hitting me in rapid fire. Remember that one scene where Uma Thurman sprints up the banister to fight her evil nemesis? Very doable here.

So anyway, on with the food:

I was surprised that our Japanese friend, of all people, decided to order this oh-so westernized sushi roll. But you know what? It was actually done well. The sliced cucumber and crab were packed in even proportion and the sauce was tastefully light. It was the Japanese version of the American version of sushi, if that makes any sense.

Gonpachi makes their soba by hand. There's a spectator booth near the front door where a guy puts on a little show every two hours, kneading and cutting the buckwheat dough the way they do it in the motherland. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the noodle master is still a little jet-lagged (or maybe too much plum wine?). The noodles were decent but not as good as what I've had in Japan. Didn't sink into my teeth just the way I like it. Though Mikey had the soba with tasty duck broth, and he devoured that thing in an instant.

Their sumibi-yaki dishes seemed to be their other highlight so we ordered a bunch of those. By the way, there's a lot of terminology involving Japanese grilled dishes: Yakitori refers mainly to grilled chicken parts. Kushiyaki encompasses other grilled parts of whatever animal or vegetable you wish to eat. Sumi is a type of charcoal wood known to do wonders in every day life. It purifies air and water, and makes food taste better when you cook with it. So whatever animal or vegetable part you throw on the grill, if there's sumi under it, it's called sumibi-yaki.

This is their tebasaki, soy sauce-flavored and grilled chicken wing. Tasty. Yes.

Their bacon-wrapped asparagus was quite good too. Crisp asparagus surrounded by juicy meat.

Now this was the true winner of the night: the tsukune, a beautifully seasoned chicken meatball, er, meatslab. Highly recommended.

And for dessert... citrus "gazpacho"! It was a delicately pureed mixture of grapefruits and oranges topped with orange sorbet and a macaroon-type thingie. Refreshing.

And now for the grand tour. Yes, you can ask your waiter to have a looky 'round the place.

Their sake display:
One of several dozen private rooms. Unfortunately they don't seem to have rooms with actual tatami (straw-woven) mats, but they do have banquet rooms where you can do the kneel-down-and-lose-circulation thing:

One of their more intimate sushi bars. That guy on the right was totally trying to get it on with the girl next to him. I really hope his breath was fresh:

I love fancy restrooms. Wash up in style after a good flush:

And finally, the exterior view.

We had a fun time at Gonpachi, mostly just with gawking at the architecture. This place is ideal for company dinners, first dates, and those with a fetish for Japan. I must warn you though. BRING YOUR SUGAR DADDY/MOMMA! Each of those grilled dishes range from 3 to 8 bucks, and unless you're on a liquid diet you're gonna need to eat at least 5 of those plates, plus a round of soba and sushi.

Though maybe... if you could get one of those ninjas to stop by, maybe he could throw a smoke bomb so you can make a quick getaway. Never hurts to try.

134 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 659-8887

Gonpachi on Urbanspoon

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BoLA said...

Ooo... I'll have to give this place a try, for sure! Looks great! Thanks for the review w/Rameniac! Wonder if he will write his side of the story.

BTW, I loved Kill Bill! All this place is missing is some fake LA snow. ;)

Pirikara said...

He has, he has!

Clare said...

Everything looks appetizing, and I love the atmosphere - especially the bathrooms.

I love Japanese chicken meatballs so I am definitely going to be trying those. Great review :)

r a m e n i a c said...

yeeeeeeaaaah. lawl lawl...

Doug said...

I'll have to recommend this haunt to a few ninja friends of mine who've been looking around for a good Japanese restaurant.

Pirikara said...

haha, tell me when you go. I'll bring my geisha friends and we can all party!

kaz said...

Hello, I went to the Gonpachi in Omote-Sando in Tokyo for my bday. I hope the US version didnt sell out to the original atmosphere and the restaurant workers yelling out, "hai douzo-----"

kaz said...

oops, did i say omote sando? i meant nishi azabu...doh

Anonymous said...

maybe the reason this place reminds you so much of Kill Bill is because it was filmed here. It really was. Duh!

Pirikara said...

Thanks for the info, Anon. I did a net search and it seems that the Kill Bill house was definitely inspired by Gonpachi in Tokyo's Nishi-Azabu. Some people say it was filmed at the restaurant and some say that a replica set was built at a Beijing studio. Either way, it's an impressive site.

kaz said...

Kill Bill set was inspired, it wasnt actually filmed at Gonpachi. At least thats what the workers said at Nishi Azabu.