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The Open Door: A Wonderland of Food (Monterey Park) [Review w/ Pictures]

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Recently had a wonderful meal at The Open Door in Monterey Park. The Open Door is something that I wouldn't expect to find in the area and the prices are quite reasonable. Read on!

Review formatted with pictures: http://www.twohungrypandas.com/2009/0...

Text Review:
Chef Kouji Yamanashi's creations are what they serve in Alice's Wonderland, formally known as The Open Door. It's as if the food jumped into the rabbit hole (the Monterey Park plaza on Atlantic Blvd. and Garvey Ave.) and went through the whimsical loops (Chef Yamanashi's head) before hitting our dining table. Tater tots--BAM--tossed in truffle oil. Sweet potato fries--BAM--is served with a dash of curry. Fried rice BAMed with butter. It's all twisted and wicked, but in a deliciously satisfying way.

Lychee Cocktail (Happy Hour Special: $10 for a quart/~4 servings) - The lychee cocktail is dangerous. It's like when Alice first enters the Wonderland, and she is met with a bottle that says DRINK ME. Naively, she drinks it and she shrinks into a tiny thing. So sweet with the lychee syrup, we easily gulp down the sake cocktail. Let's just say, our impairment shrunk.

Truffle Tater Tots [$3.75 (Happy Hour Price)] Comfort food with a sophisticated twist: Tater tots doesn't exactly scream fine or even semi-casual dining, but the white truffle sauce dares you to criticize its place on the menu.

Imo-Fried Sweet Potato Fries with Curry Aioli [$3.75 (Happy Hour Price) - Again, another comfort food that's been given a special element, though we wished for a stronger curry flavor in the aioli.

Yuzu Pepper Whitefish ($12) Our favorite appetizer of the dinner, the whitefish is soft and tasty with the ponzu olive oil.

Fried Rice ($4) On the menu, its simply labeled fried rice, but the essence of The Open Door is that nothing's ever that simple. The twist in this oldie is the butter used to stir-fry the dish. We credit it as different, but Evelina couldn't eat this buttery dish because of her lactose intolerance and since it was nothing special to Wes, this was the only dish that had leftovers.

The rice in the Crispy Rice Tuna ($7.50) is really firm, but crispy. A little spice is added on top of the fish that tops each piece. We highly recommended this crunchy dish.
Yellowtail with Crispy Onions Roll ($7) This handroll was the least "special" dish we had that night. Tasted like any other handroll we've had.

Salmon Sashimi with Wasabi Sour Cream $10 The wasabi sour cream gives a nice tang in the dish while the cucumbers offer a refreshing balance to the sweet and salty roe that pops in your mouth.

Braised Meat and Potatoes $11.50 The beef short Ribs is glazed with a deim soy sauce, which enhanced the beef flavor. The beef is so tender that it falls off the bone. The waitress informed us that this is the most popular dish on the main menu. Complimented with a side of potatoes, this dish is at the top of our list.

The Beef Carpaccio had beef tenderloin in a pool of balsamic vineger and oil. Tomatoes and onions gave the dish a kick and some color.

The Almond Pudding ($4) is a creamy delight topped with lychee syrup. The jello is very sweet and silky.

With its ever-changing Happy Hour menu, there's always something new and unique to try at The Open Door, a Japanese Izakaya where food is served tapas-styled and alcoholic drinks are a-plenty . Don't expect your mom's typical cooking here. Heavy use of truffle butter, unique mixes of unsuspecting flavors, and those killer lychee drinks can make the unknowing patron feel like the Alice in Wonderland.

Note: The Open Door only opens for dinner from 5-10 pm. Happy Hour is from 5-7 pm.

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The Open Door
122 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

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  1. You and TonyC should make sure never to go eating out together.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/593976

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Yea, I saw that. We have eaten with Tony before. People have different taste.

    2. the fries and tater tots look a lot like the frozen ore-ida stuff.

      2 Replies
      1. re: wilafur

        They are but the preparation makes a whole lot of difference (in this case truffle oil and curry powder). They would go really well with beer.

        However, I do feel that the chef should be able to make the sweet potato fries in house.

        1. re: wesleywong

          I wouldn't call peppering baked US Foods tater tots with curry powder and truffle oil "preparation", nor "whimsical". It's at best trite, at worst, tired. And may I remind: there is no such thing as "truffle oil": http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/din...

          Received downhill alert recently (last month) from neighbors. Can't imagine this joint falling further than its starting point. And really, the excuse there are "no Japanese" food in Monterey Park is just such a crock of doo-doo. Before the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Sino-Vietnamese, and now the Chiou Chao, there were the Japanese in MPK.