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Oct 27, 2007 11:29 AM

Katsuya Hollywood - A Pleasant Surprise for Lunch

Dining options are pretty dire in the Hollywood Boulevard environs. One can only eat so much Baja Fresh, the time it takes to get a simple Double Double at In-N-Wait can consume an entire lunch break, and one will only endure so many overcooked burgers at 25 Degrees before one throws in the towel there. Moreover, the healthier options in the area are pretty much limited to the glorified 7-11 that is Famima!! So when, while stretching my legs the other day down towards Vine, I saw diners' filling the newly opened Katsuya midday, I almost lept with joy. Something halfway decent and healthy reasonably near the office - all right!

Clearly Katsuya Hollywood is a big deal - they have their own lane of traffic blocked off on Vine for the valet. We were a bit confused, expecting a door in the front, the going through the one on the right, only to have the one on the left opened for us by the friendly hostess. The grid of floating white sushi knives floating in lucite cubes (which I assume double as bar tables as people wait for tables when it's crowded) lacked the impact I'm sure they have at night; clearly this place was designed to be experienced at night.

We were guided to the side with the sushi bar and seated at a banquette and handed the menus. Two types of soy sauce - light in the white decanter, dark in the black stone one - are on the table. The menus feature a combination of cold and hot entrées, appetizers, rolls, sushi, and, most surprisingly, a good offering of lunch specials. Before we headed out to Katsuya, one coworker said to me, "Isn't that going to be expensive?" But the miso black cod lunch special, at $12 with miso soup, rice, and vegetables, is a full meal at a good price. A large slab of flaky cod comes baked on a leaf, lighty dressed with miso that does not overwhelm the flavor of the fish. There is a small dish of steamed zucchini and a few florets of chilled broccoli with it; this is not a trencherman's lunch, to be sure, but it was just right for most ladies and guys with smaller appetites, and a cut roll on the side should fill up the hungrier sorts among us.

Or there's the $18 lunch special of eight pieces of sushi and a choice of chicken or beef teriyaki or vegetable tempura. The eight pieces of nigiri-zushi included the de rigueur filler egg (ick), eel, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, halibut, shrimp, and mackerel. There were two fights amongst us, one of which I won - who got to eat the piece of hamachi - and one of which I lost - who had to eat the piece of mackerel. And the mackerel was actually fantastic. It was the first piece of mackerel that did not taste like licking the deck of a fishing boat; I quite enjoyed it. My friend who ordered it chose the chicken teriyaki. It came with the same vegetables and rice as the cod. The chicken was a smallish grilled breast, sliced, with teriyaki sauce over it. It was a good sauce, not too sugary, but it is not the most memorable version I have had of the dish by a long mile. It is almost certainly healthier than those versions, but still, rather boring.

We had a California cut roll here as we hunted around for items. As California rolls go, this one was solid. I chose the spicy tuna on crispy rice, which was a solid rendition. I appreciate that Katsuya's spicy tuna is not mouth-numbingly spicy, but a touch more heat might be nice. The two stars of the day were the specialty rolls we ordered. These will pad out the bill, to be sure, but they are really what one comes to Katsuya to order. The first was the Katsuya Roll, filled with salmon, tuna, yellowtail, scallop, and likely a few other things I'm forgetting, wrapped in rice, then in cucumber. The cut roll slices, easily around three inches in diameter, are held together with toothpicks, and the best method of attack is to use the toothpick to dip the rounds in the ponzu sauce provided. We expected that to be the ne plus ultra until our final, last-minute choice came to the table. Having seen so many baskets of vegetable tempura come out to other tables, we got a sudden hankering for something fried, though, at $12, it was not going to be a basket of vegetable tempura. We could use that money on something far more deserving - like the rock shrimp tempura in the spicy tuna cut roll. The fried shrimp are tossed in a spicy sauce, almost like a spicy Japanese remoulade, then sat atop eight pieces of a spicy tuna roll wrapped in soy paper. It really is a treat. No, it's not for purists, but it sure is tasty.

Sadly, the appealing robata options listed on the website aren't available in Hollywood. The robata bar is at the Brentwood location only.

With one of the large bottles of Asahi split between two of us and a glass of viognier, the total for lunch was $109 before tip - about $36 per person. And if we had been more frugal, just getting a lunch special each, we each easily could have slid out of there with change from a twenty after tip.

Service was a bit slow to start with; it took time to get our drinks and for us to put in our orders. However, as soon as things got rolling, everything kept on at a good clip. And our server was charming. Everyone from the runners to the hostesses was really friendly and outgoing, not something one might expect from a restaurant with such a hip, scene-y reputation. And the place does just look great inside, from the large photo murals to the couches and chairs to the infinite mirror bathrooms with the slab sinks that caused both me and my friend to perform a double-take.

All told, I was pleasantly surprised on all fronts by Katsuya - the service, the food, and the price. It really made quite an impression on my coworkers, who had no idea what was down there until the car rounded the corner. One of them is already planning our next lunch trip there...

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  1. thanks for the good review. I walked past last week and am planning to try it soon.

    1. Don't forget about The Hungry Cat which is also in the area!

      1 Reply
      1. re: love2eat

        Lunch at The Hungry Cat was considerably more per person on my one visit there. We ordered considerably less, and it still costs us nearly $50 each. The PUG burger is really the only affordable lunch option there - I nearly fell off my chair when my $17 order of scallops came, and it was literally just two scallops sitting atop a meager serving of cannelli beans - and service there is sloooooooow. Katusya's lunch options are a much, much better deal.

      2. Okay I guess I will have to try it now. I drove by the other night and there was a Lamborghini and a Ferrari parked out front which was completely gross and tasteless so maybe lunch is the way to go.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rezpeni

          True enough, I think that the lower prices are not the only allure of dining at Katsuya at lunchtime.

        2. Tried it for lunch yesterday. Per your suggestion had the Miso Cod, a sushi cut roll and some edamame. Miso Cod was perfectly cooked and very tasty but the sides are kind of ridiculous, literally two little broccoli florets in a ginger dressing and a cucumber salad. The roll was good but not amazing. Staff was very very friendly and seemed anxious to generate some repeat business, at 12:30pm the place was basically empty. Total was about $35 with tip. Can't help but think of what I could have had for that price at Azami or Pizzeria Mozza. Room is definitely cold and over designed for my taste. I would go again if somebody invited me but not of my own initiative.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rezpeni

            Well, yeah, it would be nice to have lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, but that's not really in the cards for us due to distance, difficulty in getting a reservation, and the time it takes to eat there. (Our last visit there, we stood at the valet stand for nearly twenty minutes.)

            I think the best strategy is going in a group and ordering a few of the cheaper specials to fill up with, then a few of the specialty rolls - which are really the reason one comes to a place like Katsuya - for variety. We have so many lunches at 25 Degrees, Lucky Devils, Skooby's, and other burgercentric joints that are in our immediate vicinity, so it's nice to have this non-red meat alternative that's not so far from us.

            1. re: Woolsey

              Woolsey, you should also try having lunch at Los Balcones del Peru on Vine and De Longpre. Their hours are a little spotty it seems, but it's definitely a good mix to throw into the neighborhood. Also, if you make it all the way to 25 Degrees, then you can definitely also drive east to places like Sushi Ike, Ruen Pair or Jitlada for lunch. I personally also like Doughboys but parking in that area is such a hassle, so I just end up walking.

              1. re: SauceSupreme

                Doughboys will never be on my agenda.

                I've been trying to pry people down to Ammo, Los Balcones, and hell, even Roscoe's for some variety for months now, but no one wants to go anywhere they can't walk to in less than five minutes. Aside from Mozza, the only success I've had is getting to Bowery, Palms Thai, and Katsuya. It's like pulling teeth to get people to walk down to Lucky Devils. ("It's so far!") We're in the building right next to 25 Degrees (across from the dining black hole that is Hollywood & Highland), which is why that's such a common destination. My coworkers will piss and moan about how awful 25 Degrees is as they sit with their overcooked burgers and greasy fries - their once fine quality has really hit the skids in the last few months - and swear they're never going back. And yet, a few days later, I'll hear from those same people, "You want to go to 25?" My answer now is an unshakable, "No."

          2. Thanks for the tip on Katsuya. Here are a couple of other ideas to shake it up.

            If you can get to Vine, you can get to UZBEKISTAN on La Brea. That will be a good change of pace.

            YONNI'S on Wilcox, north of Hollywood is good for a healthy sandwich.

            The JUICE BAR on Hollywood, a half block west of Katsuya is also good for a healthy sandwich, I had a great turkey sandwich there a couple of weeks ago. It's a couple of doors west of DOS BURRITOS, which has some of the best burritos in town.

            IL FORNO has good pizza if you get it fresh. If you order a whole pizza, it's one of the best in town.