Restaurant Review: Katsuya Hollywood
My best friend M and I decided to hit the new Katsuya Hollywood this past Saturday for a little girls' night sushi. Wait, not little girls night but a little night of sushi for us girls. Ok, glad I cleared that up. Although I'm usually wary of flashy, over-hyped restaurants, I know that Katsuya has grown into an empire based on the popularity of his Studio City restaurant which J and I used to frequent years ago. We'd live for the famous baked crab roll wrapped on soy paper and would save up just to go. Of course, it's been a long time since those days and a visit to that original location a year ago should have given me a hint that things were on the decline: the waitress kept practically barking at us about what we wanted to order, people waiting for a seat were hovering so closely I could feel their body heat and the "crispy" rice cakes were hot and soggy. But hey- that is the Studio City location, not the big, huge, multimillion dollar Hollywood one! Despite that last awful visit to the other location, I decided to try the new one anyway.
Well, big mistake. I know, I know- it isn't right to write too many negative comments after only one visit to a restaurant and I'm sure I'll get reamed by some readers, but here goes. The place has been so hyped and the Katsuya name is so well known that I expected more than what I got for my money.
The restaurant is absolutely gorgeous- all shiny glass, muted candlelight, a gigantic centerpiece of sake tubs in the middle of the sushi bar- it's breathtaking. We were led past the bar which, at 7:00 PM, was already buzzing and into the main room where we were seated at the sushi bar, like we requested. There is about one sushi chef for every four sushi bar customers, we were pleased to see, so we checked out the menu as my tummy grumbled. Katusya offers a nice selection of sushi, sashimi, hot and cold appetizers and a several different set menus. M and I knew we wanted sushi to be the focus and would maybe order a couple of appetizers from the kitchen. Our waiter was nice and a bit overzealous in his effort to try and make recommendations, but when we asked him which of the seven or so sake options were the driest, he seemed puzzled and avoided the question with a nervous giggle. There aren't many lower priced sake options- with the house sake coming in at $24 for a 300ml bottle. I ordered one, M got her Asahi Super Dry and we hunkered down for what we hoped was some great sushi.
Our sushi chef, L, stood about 3 feet in front of us on the other side of the counter, but due to the music and overall noise in the place, we had to wave at him to get his attention. When we did, he seemed awfully nervous. When I said "Blue crab roll please" he turned for a minute and said "Oh sorry, we're out of that." Um, I'm sorry- at 7:00 PM on a Saturday night? So I ordered the aji (Spanish mackerel) and M started with the kanpachi (amberjack). When L opened his giant rice maker to scoop out some rice, I knew we had a problem. Big, billowing wafts of steam rose up beyond the stacked sake tubs, and the resulting sushi was warm and mushy. M looked at me and said "ok, we're not ordering any more of this" but we were freakin' starving and had already valet'd the car so we were determined to eat something else. I saw that the obviously-on-a-first-date-annoying-guy-and-ambivalent-girl next to us had a plate of rock shrimp tempura in a creamy sauce, so we ordered that from the kitchen. We had also ordered the spicy tuna on crispy rice which had just arrived- and same thing- the rice was bordering on hot and was definitely mushy.
Cold fish + hot rice = unhappy tastebuds
I decided to at least get my beloved baked crab roll- after all, I have such great memories of it. Same problem- that damned hot and sticky rice reared it's ugly head yet again, and a side of "spicy" mayo had barely enough heat to register on a baby's tongue. Yeah I know, I know- I'm getting too sarcastic but I feel myself getting annoyed just writing this. Luckily the rock shrimp tempura in creamy sauce was good- but not any better than my neighborhood sushi joint, Z Sushi, makes it. We slurped down our drinks and sat there, hungry.
M wanted dessert so we opted to share the vanilla tempura ice cream. Hey- who can screw up ICE CREAM, right? Well, the limp, soggy tempura "crust" that encapsulated the ball of ice cream was clearly made ahead of time and put back into the freezer. Isn't the entire point of tempura ice cream the contrast of hot and crunchy with cool and creamy? It's like that El Torito dessert where they deep fry ice cream in a tortilla shell and douse it with cinnamon sugar. But it wasn't. So we called over a manager and he just stared at me, took the dish in hand and said curtly, "Would you like something else?" I said no and asked for the check as M stared at me in disbelief. It isn't like I asked for his first born to sacrifice, but his icy cool demeanor was enough to keep that ice cream rock solid. He must have realized his error, however, because 5 minutes (and no check) later, he scampered back to us and said, "I guess our version of tempura ice cream is a bit, er, spongier than other restaurants" and smiled. Oh yeah- when one thinks of tempura, they think "spongy." "Just get me the check you clown," I said. Ok, well I didn't say that but lemme tell ya- I was THIS close.
Soggy, solid mass of icy cold tempura
As I waited for the check, I glanced around and realized that it was me who was at fault. I should have never gone to a restaurant whose demographic I just do not fit into. Sure, I'm in my early 30's, work in the entertainment business and like to get my drink on (which I'm guessing hits the Katsuya demo right on the head). The problem is, I actually LIKE TO EAT GOOD FOOD. Especially Japanese food, and even more so, SUSHI. I mean, I was literally surrounded by aging entertainment execs who were trying desperately to appear cool to their jailbait dates and young, spiky-haired dudes reeking of Axe body spray sporting awful dress shirts etched with dragon designs yapping on their Blackberry Pearls. To translate- I was in HELL. My hell, to be exact. At the end of the day, I would actually put up with some of this BS if it meant I'd get a chance to consume a fabulous meal, but I'm guessing one won't be found at Katsuya Hollywood.
Sorry for the lack of photos, but I was just too irked to snap any more!
Katsuya, 6300 Hollywood Blvd (at Vine), Hollywood, 323-871-8777