The City Observed: Katsuya

Katsuya is a trendy Japanese restaurant on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.  It is often the backdrop of paparazzi photos and videos featuring the likes of Mark Wahlberg or Charlie Sheen exiting its large glass doors and gliding into their fancy cars at the valet.  There is a lot of Hollywood hype about Katsuya, but I’d also heard that the food is good.  When Dine LA Restaurant Week rolled around, I convinced my non-seafood-loving husband to choose this as our semi-annual dining splurge.
Katsuya’s decor is within a color palate – deep reds, pinks, and blacks – that one might find described as ‘sexy’ in the local glossies.  The clientele is largely made up of the kind of people I’d expect to see standing behind the red velvet rope of Hyde Lounge or Teddy’s, or on the rooftop of The Standard Hotel – that is, trendy – hoping that their shiny lip gloss or fleur-de-lis-emblazoned blazers will help them get discovered.  Joseph and I sat at a corner table at the back of the restaurant, and my unobstructed view of everyone kept me quite entertained. 
My amusement over the atmosphere of the place didn’t, thankfully, inhibit my ability to take the quality of the food seriously.  I really enjoyed it.  The Albacore Crispy Onion was so tender and intriguing in its flavor and texture, with its marriage of soft and crispy, marinated and grilled, that even my non-seafood-loving husband ate a full portion.  The Baked Miso Marinated Black Cod was decadent and reminded me of dusk, if dusk had a flavor.  As enamored as I was by my cod, I was less impressed by Joseph’s dish, the Beef and Mushroom Toban Yaki.  Although the beef did meet all expectations for medium-rare Kobe, the mushrooms didn’t add much of the earthy flavor that I generally expect from them.  Joseph was pleased, though, nodding his head enthusiastically and widening his eyes for emphasis when I asked, “How do you like it?”
Katsuya is known for its cocktails almost more so than its food, therefore, despite the exorbitant price of $14 dollars per, I ordered the Eastern Raspberry Sidecar: “hand pressed fresh raspberries intertwined w/ Hennessy VS Cognac & Nigori Sake, rounded out w/ Cointreau and freshly squeezed lemon”.  I love sidecars as well as every single ingredient on this list, thus I assumed this cocktail would suit my taste.  It did not.  It was watery and monotonous in flavor, like a frappe with too much ice that’s begun to melt. 
Overall, my experience in Hollywood and Vine’s trendy restaurant with trendy cocktails and trendy food was, maybe not top-notch, but upper-middle-notch. I’m glad I went and that I’ve got Katsuya under my belt now (being able to say I’ve been there might help me get discovered).  I will say, though, that I was somewhat disappointed that not a single paparazzo showed up to snap my picture when I exited the glass doors and glided home, along the Walk of Fame that had been wetted by rain (those charcoal tiles are slippery!).