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Apr 15, 2007 01:30 PM

gonpachi on la cienega (review with a double helping of pictures)

braving the possibility of a hole in my wallet, i ventured to the spanking new gonpachi on la cienega's restaurant row this past friday. what can i say? it's a gargantuan themed temple to japan fetishists everywhere, built from the ground up with imported wood (no nails) and samurai armor to the tune of 18 AND A HALF MILLION dollars, according to our waiter.

yeah, but how is the food, you wanna know? in a nutshell, it's an entirely competent assortment of extractions and samplings from the south bay at slightly jacked up prices: decent and occasionally spectacular yakitori, proprietary soba, and sushi (which i have yet to try).

they also have a fairly exotic sake and japanese wine selection, and the place is almost entirely waitstaffed by non-japanese servers who've gone through some manner of extensive training (ostensibly involving ropes and ninja stars). thankfully, that doesn't seem to hold true for management or the people who actually make the food.

gonpachi is like miyagi's rich, hip kid cousin from the motherland. time will tell if it becomes the black-turtlenecked scamfest it apparently aspires to be.

pictures, pictures, and more pictures:

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  1. I enjoyed the soba very much!

    The Kushiyaki/Yakitori was hit-and-miss, they use real red-hot charcoal sticks and the smoky floavor was there. Just some of the sticks, particularly the yakitori choices, didn't cut it for me.

    Cherry Tomato with bacon was great,
    Corn was great,
    Tebasaki (wings) horrible,
    Tsukune mediocre,
    Duck Breast flavorless.
    I am surprised to see relatively few yakitori choices given the size of the grill line, it would seem they could do so much more easily.

    The sushi was quite poor.
    Brewed in Japan tap beer (Kirin, Sopporro) was good.

    The Japanese staff clealy want to help and make it a top notch place. It will be interesting to see if they end-up dumbing it down or improving it with time.

    1. Hey Rameniac,
      Nice post and you caught me and my friend in that pic from on high that includes the grill bar. We are at the lower right corner of you pic, at the corner of the bar - LOL!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ciao Bob

        that's hilarious! sometimes i wonder how many 'hounds there are out there... or we all just have similar foraging patterns.

        i guess it was probably a good thing that i stayed away from the sushi...

        1. re: rameniac

          Darn right, the sushi was totally dissapointing (and I told the sous chef all about it). I will say, however, as you can see in your own picture, I didn't sit at the sushi bar. Normally I wouldn't have "gone there" on the menu but my friend insisted on trying it. I prefer to look a sushi chef in the eye and dare him to give me a mediocre piece, or screw up the order as the servers did (no shiso with thte squid as requested). I also prefer to tell the sushi chef if something isn't up to par. The sous chef seemed to want to hear the raves and especially the rants. We'll see if they improve.

        2. re: Ciao Bob

          heheh I see Ciao Bob! I bet the entire place was filled with chowhounders!

        3. Very nice photos. We also tried Gonpachi last Easter Sunday. We really liked it, I also wrote a review here at chowhound few days ago, please take a look. We try a variety of dishes, and all of them were very good in our opinion.
          : )

          1. awesome looking restaurant, like being on the set of "Crouching Tiger," the garden in front is really nice... food was mediocre, unfortunately. The worst was a dish that sounds really good "asparagus wrapped in bacon." However it was actually 1 single asparagus spear chopped into 6 minscule pieces and fried in tempura. No bacon that I saw. I know it's a "small plates" restaurant but that's ridiculous. I would come back here for a fun group dinner that involved lots of saki drinking, but not specifically for the food.

            1. BEAUTIFUL pictures- is it super expensive to dine????

              1 Reply
              1. re: miffy

                you know, going into it, i was expecting something SUPER expensive. it is a little bit more expensive than similar stuff you can get in torrance, but it was a far cry from the wallet breaker i was expecting.