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

r
rameniac Apr 15, 2007 01:30 PM

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:

http://rameniac.blogspot.com/2007/04/...

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  1. Ciao Bob RE: rameniac Apr 15, 2007 04:53 PM

    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. Ciao Bob RE: rameniac Apr 15, 2007 06:19 PM

      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!
      Bob

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ciao Bob
        r
        rameniac RE: Ciao Bob Apr 15, 2007 10:22 PM

        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
          Ciao Bob RE: rameniac Apr 16, 2007 10:44 PM

          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
          p
          pirikara RE: Ciao Bob Apr 16, 2007 10:48 AM

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

        3. lvgoodfood RE: rameniac Apr 15, 2007 07:07 PM

          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. a
            assassin RE: rameniac Apr 15, 2007 09:03 PM

            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. m
              miffy RE: rameniac Apr 15, 2007 09:55 PM

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: miffy
                r
                rameniac RE: miffy Apr 15, 2007 10:19 PM

                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.

              2. a
                alexfood RE: rameniac Apr 16, 2007 12:41 AM

                Can you compare to other yakitori places in town, e.g. Yakitoriya on Sawtelle or Koshiji in Little Tokyo?

                1 Reply
                1. re: alexfood
                  Ciao Bob RE: alexfood Apr 16, 2007 10:35 PM

                  Hard to compare. I have had much better chicken sticks at those, as well as Nanbankan and Kokeekoko (And, the soboro don at Kokeekoko just rocks my world). Gonpachi doesn't measure up, chicken-wise, beak-to-beak, to these places. But the quality of some items is really high and the Soba and Tempura are darn good, if not out-of-this world. I am going back tomorrow to try some more things.

                2. c
                  cls RE: rameniac May 25, 2007 07:55 PM

                  I have been twice now to the sushi bar and it is definately one of the best in LA. I wouldn't know about sushi at the tables, but it comes from the kitchen and not the sushi bar so chances are it's not that great. The sushi bar is a completely different experience and is basically a private room. The head sushi chef is Nobu Shishido who used to own Take Sushi on Sunset and is really pulling out all the stops at Gonpachi. It's great, but out last bill for two was $290 before tip with two glasses of sake and 1 dessert.
                  The staff in the sushi bar is great, but the restaurant staff is incompetent, overwhelmed, insincere, and frantic.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cls
                    r
                    rameniac RE: cls May 27, 2007 11:44 AM

                    so has anybody been here since the big organizational shakeup?

                    1. re: cls
                      a
                      alexfood RE: cls May 27, 2007 11:48 AM

                      Nobu-san is one of the great sushi chefs in L.A. So happy to know where he's at, but very frightened by that bill! What fish did you have? Was it omakase with cooked dishes as well? I remember having the best toro, aji, ikura & uni at Take Sushi...

                      1. re: alexfood
                        c
                        cls RE: alexfood May 28, 2007 08:40 PM

                        It was omakase, 1 cooked dish, and soba. The owner is trying to introduce Americans to soba he says, and it is good.

                        Our first bill was much less ($280 for three, omakase with drinks) but it was about a week after they opened and I think our second bill reflects the actual pricing. There is a menu with pricing for different omakase menus though.

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