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Hungry Cat - My Non-perience

nachosaurus Feb 24, 2010 06:53 PM

Tried to make a reservation at Hungry Cat at 6:30. They said that they didn't have anything then, but had a 6:45. Seemed odd, but fine - what's 15 minutes? Arrived at about 6:50 and there were at least four empty tables - I only looked straight past the hostess, and not behind me. Two were cleared and two were empty with plates and napkins still on the tabletop. The hostess was like - great, you're right on time and grabbed two menus. She then proceeded to open the front door and walk out to the *completely 100% empty* patio. We were like - ummmm, it's about 50 degrees outside, and you have tables inside, and no one is sitting out here - can we get a real table? She said they couldn't. We said - "oh, ok, bye." End of story and end of hungry cat being on my must try list.

On a totally unrelated note, the restaurant was really musty and fishy smelling. I now they serve a lot of fish, but I wonder if they couldn't use a better ventilation system.

  1. q
    QualityMart Feb 25, 2010 12:13 AM

    I too was completely underwhelmed by my one Hungry Cat experience and have no plans to go back. The location and atmosphere is awful. Food was ok but there are other pefectly good or better seafood options around.

    1. c
      cls Feb 25, 2010 06:23 AM

      In their likely defense: most restaurants turn tables in 1 - 1 1/2 hours, most diners arrive between 7-8:00. If you show up at 6:50 and they're fully booked, you may end up without your choice of tables even if the dining room is empty at the time.

      1. l
        latindancer Feb 25, 2010 07:09 AM

        "I only looked straight past the hostess, and not behind me"

        Are you eluding to a line of people behind you? I'm not sure what you mean by this but, nevertheless, the hostess should have accommodated you. You weren't a walk-in, you had a reservation. You asked her about being seated inside where you weren't going to be cold, she said 'no' and she allowed you to walk away? Unacceptable. I'm always a little curious about a place when there appears to be little business happening and there're dirty dishes scattered over a table waiting to be bussed.
        I agree with the smell issue. Regardless if a restaurant serves nothing but fish....if the restaurant smells like fish then there's something amiss.

        2 Replies
        1. re: latindancer
          lil mikey Feb 25, 2010 08:09 AM

          If memory serves me, behind nachosaurus would be the (empty) patio, especially if the hostess was inside which I assume she was if it was that cold.

          You know, I've eaten at HC a dozen times now, and I've never been that impressed. I've never had any service problems like nachosaurus, but the food is always a little off. With the exception of the oysters, which are difficult to ruin as long as they're fresh, the dishes have all been a little amiss. It's like the chef/cook is executing a recipe but not tasting the food.

          So I'm always a little puzzled by the hype the place gets on this board.

          1. re: lil mikey
            nachosaurus Feb 25, 2010 08:23 PM

            yes, i was unclear.

            we walked in and faced the hostess. no one else was waiting or in line or came during our brief interaction. straight ahead were a line of tables along the glass wall on the right. straight and to the leftish was the bar area. behind me to the right, middle and left - I believe was the restaurant. i really didn't see it all that well though. so, i don't know if there were empty tables there as well or not.

            all in all - i just couldn't believe that with a reservation at their requested time and four empties with no one waiting we were not seated inside (even after asking). it's just absurd, and not a place i want to spend money at.

            we ended up at boho. we were seated promptly at the table of our choice. had the crispy rice and tuna (fair, not great - but good wasabi) and shared the burger. the burger was quite good. i thought the bun got a little wet - but i liked the meat (could use a little more seasoning). toppings and taste were good.

        2. l
          lizziee Feb 25, 2010 09:35 AM

          The raw oysters were the best thing we had. My comment on the lobster roll – where oh where was the lobster. The fries for the pug burger and the lobster roll were soggy. The pug burger wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to have it.

          Pics here:

          1. a
            andytseng Feb 25, 2010 10:06 AM

            I've actually enjoyed my experiences at Hungry Cat, but I've never really had to deal with the service aspect as much since I've always just sat at the bar to eat. The waiters/bartenders there have provided good service - might want to give that a shot if you ever wind up there again.

            1. m
              mc michael Feb 25, 2010 11:05 AM

              I've been to Hungry Cat maybe 7-8 times. I've sat inside. I've sat at the bar. I've sat outside (heaters). I've had good food, good experiences and have not noted some odd smell at all. Different strokes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mc michael
                missyp Feb 25, 2010 09:11 PM

                My experience exactly - varied seating locations, meal times, probably eight or so visits. Service always perfectly fine and the food has never been less than excellent. The location is lame, but I love Hungry Cat. It's one of my favorites. Not to further enflame the haters, but it seems to me like a place that would be more at home in the Bay Area (which is generally a compliment, in my book).

              2. y
                yoyo Feb 25, 2010 01:51 PM

                I'm still flaming about mt experince at Hungry Cat. I went for the Blue Crab night with a 7:00 reservation.I got there at 6:45 and the hostess said" I'll seat you in a little bit ". I was standing right in front of her at 7:00 and she was still not seating us. She was letting all these hollywood people in . One group after another. I was fed up by 7:15 and confronted her. She threw attutude at me and said, " Your table is ready now." I'm so mad that I diddn't make a scene.
                Who knew I was going to a hollywood club.I'm just there to eat. The crab was horribly salty.

                1. wilafur Feb 25, 2010 02:27 PM

                  i went to hungry cat this saturday and had ressies. we showed up about 10mins early but the hostess accommodated us with a smile. we were given the choice of interior or exterior seating and opted for interior. within 5mins we were seated.

                  that being said, the food was ok. nothing spectacular, other than the oysters which were very good.

                  the pug burger was decent but not mind altering and the salmon was meh.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wilafur
                    lizziee Feb 25, 2010 02:32 PM

                    I think everyone is in agreement that the oysters are good, but.........

                    1. re: lizziee
                      mc michael Feb 25, 2010 02:55 PM

                      The oysters are good. The fresh fruit cocktails are good. The fish carpaccio kida thing they do is good. And I like the pug burger. The lobster roll is good, but too little.

                  2. honkman Feb 25, 2010 04:06 PM

                    We went recently for the second time and had good but smlow service. The food was good but a bit overpriced for what you get.

                    1. e
                      epop Feb 25, 2010 08:10 PM

                      Aside from the Asian places (that make this city livable for a seafoodmaniac) the seafood scene in L.A. is dismal. Hungry Cat is one of the better in the area but that isn't saying much.

                      36 Replies
                      1. re: epop
                        lil mikey Feb 25, 2010 08:15 PM

                        Providence is OK, too.

                        1. re: lil mikey
                          cls Feb 25, 2010 08:47 PM

                          Or about 1000 sushi restaurants serve some seafood...

                          1. re: cls
                            epop Feb 26, 2010 04:02 PM

                            I said aside from the Asian places. Some of the sushi bars are superb, yes.

                            Mariscos is slightly hit or miss (had a ceviche that was perfect once and almost inedible once) but definitely their snook can hit the spot. That ought to be the standard.

                            Water grill is fine for what it is.

                            I've been spoiled abroad. Cali just doesn't have it as far as seafood (with a couple exceptions), aside from sushi.

                            1. re: epop
                              cls Feb 26, 2010 07:25 PM

                              So you did. My mind read Chinese restaurants.
                              Every region has it's specialties. Sushi, albeit imported, seems to be our seafood specialty. Angelini, Church and State, Drago Centro, Ortolan, Sona, Madeo, and others do pretty good, sometimes very good seafood.

                              1. re: epop
                                Ernie Feb 26, 2010 09:00 PM

                                That is a lot of "asides"

                                What type of seafood are you looking for? If it is something uniquely East Coast, you are on the wrong coast for that quite obviously

                                Los Angeles does have good seafood available, but you typically won't find it concentrated in one menu. I've had everything from fantastic fish with charmoula, halibut almondine, superlative wild salmon, exceptional swordfish, etc. but they've all been at wildly different, often nonseafood-specific places in the greater Los Angeles area

                                PS please don't call it "Cali." Only tourists do that

                                1. re: Ernie
                                  epop Feb 27, 2010 12:17 PM

                                  Now people who live here do it too.

                                  As for California seafood: it is difficult to find places that have great whole fish. I spent a lot of time in the Mediterranean and there's no comparison to it here. Last week in San Francisco I went to a small farmer's market and there was a great stand there with people selling all kinds of supremely fresh whole fish. Lots of small fish.

                                  Santa Monica Seafood doesn't cut it. The wild salmon here in California is flown in and might as well be Manhattan. There's no difference. We have Gladstone's and those lousy places like Reel Inn lining the coast, posing as seafood houses.

                                  1. re: epop
                                    Ernie Feb 27, 2010 03:49 PM

                                    I have also spent a lot of time in Spain and Greece, but not impressed with the seafood there especially considering cost

                                    Regarding purchasing fish in Los Angeles, there is no need to go to a weekly little farmer's market. You can go to any modern Asian supermarket in the area and find live whole fish priced very reasonably, e.g., 99 Ranch. I've yet to see live crab, live sea cucumber, live lobster, live spot prawns, etc. at any small farmers market in San Francisco

                                    1. re: epop
                                      lil mikey Feb 27, 2010 03:50 PM

                                      I don't think it's a matter of great versus "dismal" seafood in LA. Ernie and cls had some good finds, and Providence received 2 Michelin stars for its seafood. So clearly I think it's more a matter of what style you're looking for.

                                      Fresh, off-the-hook fish prepared very simply like you get in certain Mediterranean locales is hard to come by here, as the population has squeezed out all the small local fishermen with the exception of the Dory fleet in Newport Beach.

                                      But as you pointed out, that's an LA phenomenon (not "Cali"??, as you mentioned you liked some fish you had in SF). I think the closest you'll come to the exact style you're looking for is south of the border, although you can probably find it in some of the smaller towns north of Santa Barbara.... I'm thinking Cayucos, Morro Bay, etc.

                                      But here in LA, westsidegal mentioned Mariscos Chente, which you dismissed out of hand due to their ceviche. But you like the snook, which I also like, and deemed it the "standard."

                                      If that's your standard, you should be focusing on Latin places.

                                      The whole fish at El Katracho, a Honduran place in Sherman Oaks, is fresh, well prepared, and has a delicate white meat similar to the snook at Mariscos Chente. But it's a little more delicate, and it's not fried.

                                      And I wouldn't completely write off ceviche overall. Try the ceviche at Puro Sabor in Van Nuys, or other Peruvian places. It's VERY fresh, and you get a nice sized portion.

                                      Good luck.

                                      1. re: lil mikey
                                        epop Feb 28, 2010 09:48 AM

                                        I wasn't writing off Mariscos but saying that it is inconsistent. When it comes to ceviche I don't want to take that risk, like with sushi.

                                        True, the fish is expensive in Greece (approaching the cheaper LA prices), but I've had many a fish caught after I arrived at a restaurant.

                                        I was pointing at these places that serve seafood in general, like Hungry Cat. It doesn't compare to many of the seafood houses I've been to in Europe. For ex., in Barcelona there is a place that brings in most of the seafood from Galicia, a hike away. But everything is immaculate and unbelievable. An experience is offered that is royal.
                                        In NYC there are pretty good places as well, the most famous being the way overpriced Milos but there are a whole bunch more like it across the east river that are moderately priced.

                                        I can't say the same for here in S. California. True, here and there near Santa Barbara, which can be wonderful.

                                        As for 99 ranch, I agree that it has much to offer. But it happens to not really cover my favorite range of fish, the smaller whole fish (sardines, red mullet, porgy, etc.).

                                        1. re: epop
                                          Ernie Feb 28, 2010 04:33 PM

                                          Of course red mullet and porgy are not covered at 99 Ranch. Those are uniquely East Coast or Mediterranean species. You are not going to find these species readily available anywhere west of the Rockies

                                          My family has a nice restaurant in Catalunya. While they make a good calamares en su tinta, llenguado, and paella, why would I bemoan their lack of L. tenuis (local grunion), Pacific halibut, Santa Barbara spot prawns, or C. sordidus (CA sand dabs)?

                                          For a fraction of euro cost for a seafood dinner on the Costa Brava, you could eat like a Chinese emperor at a seafood house in the San Gabriel Valley. You just won't find your red mullet or Mediterranean preparations. Instead of focusing on what is not easily available in Southern California, take advantage of the affordable Asian and Latino abundance of what we do have. It is far from "dismal"

                                          1. re: Ernie
                                            epop Mar 1, 2010 10:44 AM

                                            Sorry, didn't mean to leave the impression that I thought it dismal. Living west of the 405 the seafood offerings (beside the sushi) are rather meek. I go into SM seafood dying for seafood and I leave empty-handed, totally uninspired.

                                            That's what irks me most. Plus the fact that places like this (and Gladstone's and Hungry Cat) are put forth as the gold standard.

                                            1. re: epop
                                              joshekg Mar 1, 2010 11:17 AM

                                              I would suggest you shop for fish at Safe and Save on Sawtelle. Or check out Pearson's Port if you find yourself down in Newport.

                                              1. re: joshekg
                                                epop Mar 1, 2010 01:39 PM

                                                thank you but I've never seen anything but fillets at safe and save. I go to Nijiya but their selection is limited.

                                                1. re: epop
                                                  Servorg Mar 1, 2010 02:19 PM

                                                  On Sawtelle, when you are looking for the best fish, I think Granada Market is the place to go.

                                                  Granada Market
                                                  1820 Sawtelle Blvd
                                                  Los Angeles, CA 90025
                                                  (310) 479-0931

                                                  1. re: epop
                                                    joshekg Mar 1, 2010 02:20 PM

                                                    Last time I was there they had the following whole; salmon, red snapper, mackerel, and sardines. In addition they had two very large tuna loins, one of which was labeled as locally caught ($10.99/lb) and also some black cod.

                                                    1. re: joshekg
                                                      epop Mar 1, 2010 05:47 PM

                                                      Seriously? Where did they have that, Joshekg? I'm stunned.

                                                      1. re: joshekg
                                                        wilafur Mar 12, 2010 03:54 PM

                                                        once in a blue moon safe and ave will sell locally caught tuna for $7.99/lb. when i chance on that i buy a bunch and make lots and lots of poke!

                                                        1. re: joshekg
                                                          joshekg Mar 12, 2010 09:46 PM

                                                          That was at Safe & Save, not Pearson's Port.

                                                      2. re: joshekg
                                                        lil mikey Mar 1, 2010 05:08 PM

                                                        I second Pearson's Port.

                                                      3. re: epop
                                                        budlit Mar 1, 2010 12:33 PM

                                                        try shopping for fish at the farmer's markets. not always a huge selection, but so much fresher than sm seafood or whole foods.

                                                        1. re: epop
                                                          mc michael Mar 1, 2010 01:50 PM

                                                          Well, not many LA places have lobster rolls, good fresh shell fish, fresh fruit cocktails, and the Pug Burger. In fact, this is it.

                                                          1. re: mc michael
                                                            epop Mar 1, 2010 05:49 PM

                                                            their lobster roll isn't anything to write home about, unfortunately.It is downright greasy.

                                                            1. re: epop
                                                              mc michael Mar 1, 2010 06:31 PM

                                                              I think that's mayo you speak of.

                                                              1. re: mc michael
                                                                epop Mar 1, 2010 09:51 PM

                                                                the bread was greasy, not just the mayo. It is butter toasted. That's not how I want it.

                                                                1. re: epop
                                                                  Mattapoisett in LA Mar 1, 2010 09:58 PM

                                                                  But you know that is a very traditional preparation.

                                                                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA
                                                                    epop Mar 1, 2010 11:55 PM

                                                                    In Maine and along the Atlantic coast I've usually had it without much, if any, butter.

                                                                    I never had one that tasted like their version, which reminded me of buttered brioche.

                                                                    I've been dying for a lobster roll but their version isn't quite what I have in mind. Am I mistaken?

                                                                    1. re: epop
                                                                      maudies5 Mar 12, 2010 07:38 PM

                                                                      Please describe the perfect lobster roll

                                                                      1. re: maudies5
                                                                        MissCast Mar 12, 2010 10:17 PM

                                                                        Good-sized chunks of meat fresh enough to taste sweet/briny, lightly dressed in mayo, salt, pepper and a little celery, heaped in a hot dog roll.

                                                                        Hey, you don't find great mexican in every little town in New England so we have to let them have their superior lobster rolls.

                                                                        1. re: MissCast
                                                                          epop Mar 13, 2010 10:03 AM

                                                                          In Maine the celery is less common than in Long Island. Good description.

                                                                        2. re: maudies5
                                                                          lizziee Mar 13, 2010 06:58 AM

                                                                          Boston's Neptune Oyster's real lobster roll -

                                                            2. re: epop
                                                              Akitist Mar 1, 2010 02:57 PM

                                                              Gladstone's the gold standard? I beg to differ. On their better days they rise to mediocre.

                                                              There's a big world east of the 405, BTW.

                                                              1. re: Akitist
                                                                mc michael Mar 1, 2010 03:09 PM

                                                                More like the pyrite standard.

                                                        2. re: lil mikey
                                                          epop Feb 28, 2010 10:43 AM

                                                          thanks, btw, for the El Katracho recommendation.

                                                2. re: lil mikey
                                                  westsidegal Feb 25, 2010 09:30 PM

                                                  or mariscos chente.

                                                  1. re: lil mikey
                                                    epop Feb 26, 2010 04:02 PM

                                                    Agreed. But okay is only OK.

                                                  2. re: epop
                                                    budlit Feb 26, 2010 10:06 AM

                                                    water grill serves excellent fish, don't really dig the corporate ambiance though

                                                  3. BunnieBear Feb 27, 2010 04:13 PM

                                                    I've been to HC 6-7 times over the past three years. there has been a marked decrease in quality of the food. last time i was there, we got that huge seafood tower (what I usually get) and we seriously could not eat it. the shrimp were still frozen, the clams were at least three inches in diameter and very tough, the caviar was lackluster and seemed stale (no fantastically popping eggs). Very disappointing. In the past, i've ordered the cooked dishes a few times, the lobster roll, the pug burger. For mid-priced seafood, it's just meh for me.

                                                    That being said--for real excellence, Providence and Water Grill (less so recently) are unparalleled in fine dining in LA.

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