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Name-calling over an izakaya: The Open Door, Monterey Park

Can a glowing review on Chowhound and 20+ 5 star reviews on Yelp-hell be wrong? Hell yes. Call it irrational exuberance. Mr. Greenspan is no longer vogue, but his biography was a good read and by god, The Open Door’s food is just not that good.

Beyond the various chazuke, a dish which pre-dates sushi, from the Heian Period (794 to 1185), there is absolutely nothing of interest on the menu. Not the much loved (by truffle oil frauds) truffle butter edamame, not the miso cod, and DEFINITELY not the Bar Hayama’s tuna tartare on crispy rice cracker doppelganger. C’mon man. How long has Hayama, a mere 23 miles away, been open? Since July ‘07. Tuna tartare over crispy rice? Wait for it… is so ‘07.

After browsing the menu front to back 4 times, it was decided no crudo plate would be ordered. Want raw fish in Monterey Park? Go to Sorafune. Want Edo style nigiri near Monterey Park? Toshi in Little Tokyo. What remains? Not a whole lot. With no certainty on the origins of the unagi used over the don, no clue the pedigree of the kitchen (the rumors of the chef at a certain Las Vegas Hotel fusion/lounge establishment fails to inspire), fail safe items such as kurobota wieners (also available at the Yelp loved Ruby Table), soy braised pork belly, grilled prawns (3 for $4.50, holy shit !?!?) and chazuke were ordered. After the moderate bill came, a secondary stop at Old Country Cafe (to which a whole photojournal should be devoted) was deemed necessary to stomp the appetite.

Braised pork belly craze in LA Japanese restaurants can trace its origins to Katzuto Matsusaka’s Beacon, erected in 2004. Its braised pork belly dish made LA Mag’s top 25 of ‘04 and the rest of the city rode the wagon. Now this once lowly fatty discarded chunk of porcine is touted by all Angelenos living in a country currently obsessed with bacon explosion. In this case, the dish isn’t lousy because it’s dated - pork will never be dated again. It’s lousy because I can braise a better chunk of pork loin. No shit. The fat globules dressed in over obtuse dark soy didn’t melt, the skin of the piggy recalls tough cheese rind. Salty chewy lard isn’t sexy. Nuclear failure.

And to the kitchen staff/owner/family member/operator: them 2 cute Korean girls you wanna hire? Whom you were trying so hard to impress with free food + booze? Quit trying so hard. They, much like the lil girls on Yelp, think miso cod is sooooo good. Seriously? Miso cod? That whore of a pesces dish from Nobu’s book, circa 2001? Please.

Now someone on the Internet owes yours truly $25 for writing a buncha loquacious praises.

PS: The restaurant was doomed by the rudimentary “What is Izakaya” Q&A printed on front page of menu. No chance.


And yes, I got called a f**king retard for the above review... That's a first for me. Really.

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  1. Part of the problem might be that the clientele in Monterey Park (or SGV in general) does not demand, much less demand, real izakaya.

    Sort of like going to the westside to look for good dim sum. Not going to happen. Different demographics, different level of expectations ... different level of food execution.

    1. have to agree with the original poster, the food was sub par. they need to try some izakaya places like bincho to see what it should taste like. the buta kakuni at open table was terrible! Since they just opened, i hope they can make their food better.

        1. Wow - too harsh in my opinion. Totally agree with other posters - MP is known for Chinese food (cheap but not all of it good) so to finally have some else is a big relief.

          1. Not a shock. In the battle of palates, chowhound > yelp, always.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ns1

              And the back lash continues. Some one is now spewing 4 letter word because _I_ am, supposedly, deleting reviews on Chowhound. C'mon now, I ain't no MOD and I'm NOT that ugly!

              Oddly, I went to 2 blazinly good izakayas last weekend in .. of all places, Las Vegas: Ichiza (Vegas' version of Izayoi/Musha) and Raku (beyond complex & dashi stock, just mind boggling).

              And the irony? On the way to Raku, I saw banners for "Social House", the high end Japanese restaurant at which the chef of Open Door was supposedly head chef. The advertisement read something to the effect of : eat, drink, party. riiiight..

              1. re: TonyC

                Oddly enough, a few posts down, is another poster loves the place


                So does anybody have a comparison of this place to say...izayoi, or better yet, Izakaya Bincho?

                I mean, there's good in relative terms..and good in absolute terms...

                1. re: ns1

                  I say go and judge for yourself.

                  This is such a personal thing -- i.e., good v. bad.

                  For example, I wouldn't set foot in Din Tai Fung if you paid me with every single dollar in the TARP fund, but there are those on this board who worship at the doorsteps of DTF as if it was the holy grail of all things XLB.

                2. re: TonyC

                  I was at Raku earlier this month. To me, it was one of those "good for Vegas" izakaya. I think Torihei (which serves both yakitori & oden, like Raku), is a couple notches better than Raku. Having gone to Raku at the end of a long drive, I was hoping to be blown out of the water, but was not....

              2. I actually think their best dishes are the sashimi/sushi dishes. it's a shame to judge a restaurant that harshly having only tried 4 dishes and calling the other dishes "dated". I feel it's a welcome change to the area and beats driving out to the westside.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Baron

                    i believe they are only open for dinner...i'm not too sure but try giving them a call....

                1. I love Ichiza in Las Vegas in chinatown. The ichiza ramen with kanuki is amazing and I loved, loved, loved the tofu and tuna salad. Definitely a must if you're craving some good sushi or in my case...pork belly. For dessert, I tried the honey toast. It was really tasty, but didn't beat the pork belly or the tofu and tuna salad. Come visit Vegas babies!

                  1. I tried this place recently and I agree with Tony C to the extent that the Yelp reviewers overhyped this place and although the food at Open Door is not inventive or cutting edge by any means, it's not as bad as this post made it out to be either.

                    I have been to more izakaya's than I care to remember and I have yet to find one that has an all around exceptional menu, yet alone a menu that inspires creativity and after-thought. Yes, there are certain dishes at Izakaya's that may be particularly good like the buta-kakuni at Haru-Ulala, the Chilean Sea-bass at Izayoi, the Tsukune at Honda-ya, several dishes at Musha, etc., but for the most part, I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the intricate culinary prowess of Open Door because it's just an izakaya! In Japan, izakaya's are plentiful and they are simple places with simple dishes served with lots of booze. Sure dishes are tasty and other are blase. If you're looking for Michelin star quality or even Michelin bib gourmand quality in either Japan or in LA, you shouldn't expect it at an izakaya!

                    So yes, this place won't knock your taste buds or your socks off but it's decent for what it is and a welcome change in the neighborhood as the other posters said MP is more known for it's Chinese cuisine. As for Open Door serving dated dishes, my guess is that the restauranteur of Open Door wanted to accommodate dishes people have become familiar with over the years. It's a tough economy out there and operating a successful restaurant business during good times is hard enough.

                    I suggest you try this place for yourself but don't forget, it's an izakaya so comparing it to other "regular" restaurants may be misplaced. You don't compare AOC to Hatfield's right? Same concept applies here. Sorafune was brought up as an alternative but it's fire and foremost a sushi restaurant. Sorafune also has a miso cod that is done quite well and just because they serve that dish doesn't mean they should be blasted for biting Nobu's circa 2001 creation.

                    Lastly, I saw two waitresses but by no means were they cute. My standard for women are definitely on par with my standard for food. Different strokes for different folks but don't forget Einstein's adage about everything being relative.