Saturday, August 25, 2007

roll up your sidewalks!


We've done it a million times since we moved to California 12 years ago: Go see a 7pm flick and then wander around town looking for somewhere, anywhere, to eat. When we came west, we thought we were moving to the promised land, and in many ways we were, but what is it about Califas that shuts down the eateries at 9pm?

It happened again last night, but we stumbled on somewhere different: Sakura Ichi (beware -- tons of Flash, embedded sound, and "lorum ipsit" gibberish) in the Mission Promenade complex across the street from city hall. Verdict: Snazzy decor, mediocre food.

I spent a good chunk of my 20s living in Japan, and Sakura Ichi ("Cherry Blossom One" -- sounds like a spaceship name) reminds me of Asian nightclubs. Everything is black and white and red all over, and there's even a wall of vertical red neon rods behind the bar. The light fixture is the size of a spaceship (perhaps Cherry Blossom One?). All in all, it's like walking into a very swanky cosmopolitan bordello, except that bordellos don't usually have black-laquer booths that seat six. They do have tatami rooms (at least in Japan), but I didn't see any futons in the ones at S1 (which is how they style themselves -- à la spacecraft).

Before I let the bordello theme go, I have to mention the "gum-cracking hostess," as K. called her. On first glance, everything seems completely kosher: You walk in, and a tiny Asian woman in kimono calls out the usual Japanese restaurant greeting. But she says "irasshai," not "irasshaimase" (too casual for the hostess), and her kimono, as I saw later, was entirely appropriate for a bordello: It was a snap-off fake, and underneath she had a giant t-shirt and knee-length leggings (paging Cindy Lauper...). I will say, it was a good fake -- it fooled me, at least in that light.

The last thing about the hostess was that she wasn't Japanese, nor were any of the other employees. And that foreshadows the menu, which is Japanese in nomenclature and ambition, but mainland Asian in general tenor and flavor profile. I'm not sure where on the mainland (Taiwan, perhaps?), but definitely not Japanese. The miso soup had too many different ingredients in it (and not enough miso); the chicken donburi was just boiled chicken on rice; the pickles were definitely Chinese (too much sugar, not enough salt).

K. had the chicken donburi and was deeply disappointed, which was partly his own fault: He was expecting oyako ("parent & child" -- ie, chicken and egg) donburi, whereas the menu just mentioned chicken. But it certainly looked like a dog's dinner.

I was luckier: Because my spidey-sense was tingling, I steered toward something that was more about construction than cooking -- and even then I was worried. In the event, I ordered chirashi ("scattered") sushi, which in this country is basically a bowl of sushi rice with some pieces of fish on top. The rice was pretty good, which assuaged my biggest fear; treatment of rice is a big differentiating feature between Japan and China. The fish (salmon, yellowtail, salmon roe, tuna, shrimp, octopus, and something bland I didn't recognize) was all perfectly good, so I was satisfied, if not ecstatic.

All in all, it's a workable option for late-night dining, although it definitely has a party vibe and seems geared toward young Asian hipsters ($1 sake bombs, anyone?). And you'd have to choose your meal rrrrrreally carefully. But it'll do when you're not in the mood for an all-night taco at Alberto's.

12 comments:

K said...

Eh, it sure looked cool, at least -- far fancier than any of the places we've been frequenting in Little Tokyo or down on Sawtelle. The menu, though, left a bit to be desired -- it seemed like they were trying to cover about every bit of Japanese (and, via a two-sided single-page insert, Chinese, as well) cuisine. It may well be that there are some real winners hidden somewhere in that huge omnibus, but it'll probably take you awhile to find.

I'm happy to find an alternative late-night place, though, and they were certainly nice to us, even though we had a few years on the rest of the twenty-something clientele.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right, "it seemed like they were trying to cover about every bit of Japanese (and, via a two-sided single-page insert, Chinese, as well) cuisine." says it all =)

They really have some good food there and just you have to discover. If you love tuna and rolls, try the aloha albocor.....is one of the best. Even chef from Matsuhisa tried to taste and learn that.
Like you said, their fish is really fresh, don't forget to try out the blue fin and live shrimp if you are big fan of sushi/sashimi.

Also their beef teriyaki is very nice, indeed the quality of that beef is more like a steak.

If you love fried rice, try the curry sausage shrimp fried rice. You won't be disappointed.

You are right, you need to discover the tresaure from the menu =)

Anonymous said...

I think the best part of that restaurant if the sushi part. They have the best sushi in town. If you are really a sushi eater you should sit at the sushi bar instead sitting at the table ordering chicken donburi and chirashi.
They have a lot of specials I love so much and you won't find it anywhere else.
You need to go there couple more times to discover the wonderful sushi they have. As the chef for some speciality they make you will be surprise.

Anonymous said...

When you have a baby, or a pet, you create some names that you like or feel comfortable, or there's must be some reasons, all others should pay at least some respect. I think this is the first lesson when you go to an elementary school. Therefor, the original post person must hadn't finished his/her first lesson yet, if you need a teacher, post another blog, I believe there will be lot of feedbacks.

If you lived in Japan for a long time, then you must hadn't learn their cardinal point - respect, see, now it comes again. Don't you think you were just wasting your time in Japan since you didn't even learn the basics? How many Asian nightclubs have you been to? How many bordellos have you been to? Or you just don't know anything about those places? Or you just go to a nightclubs or bordellos trying to get the excellent service with your little money? If you wanna use futon at your home, I'd say perfect, if you think tatami rooms need futon, then I'd say are you sure you lived in Japan. Please do some research, as do so, your lies will be more trustful. By the way, why it's called tatami rooms, because of the tatami, people sit or sleep there is a traditional Japanese style. To save your time to do the research, now you just learned a new lesson.

Kimono is also a traditional Japanese style cloth, all Japanese feel that's the badge of Japan, you'd be careful with your words of saying "kimono on a gum-cracking bordellos".

If you don't know anything about the interior design, or the materials, please don't show others your foolishness.

You have the right to complain the food taste and the food menu, I believe Sakura Ichi will try their best to get improve. But at lease you should pay some respects, otherwise this kind of blog is just a cock-and-bull story.

Anonymous said...

First of all, SakuraIchi is a beautiful place in Kochi(Japan), second, In USA I really appreciate hostess still wearing Kimono to welcome me to dine at their restaurant, and i really respect that. Third you can critcise their food or menu or even decoration, but I have never see any tatami room with futon! Ha ha ha that was funny. by the way fusion of cuisine is a trend in USA, however in sapporo,and tokyo there are some japan-chinese food fusion restaurants as well. so go do your research. however i think Sakura Ichi is pretty nice,i have been there alot since their grand opening and i've always recommend my friends to go there instead of driving to La or Pasadena.

meg said...

To the employee of Sakura Ichi posting from 66.215.66.177: I'll leave these comments up, but any others will be deleted. Feel free to keep visiting our blog a hundred times a day, though -- you're raising our Technorati authority with every click!

Ed said...

Wow, I'm sensing a little hostility. Frankly, I found the initial food critique had sparked my interest...now I'm not so sure.

Please keep the restaurant reviews coming!!

meg said...

Thanks, Ed!

calwatch said...

It is good for this area, but I think there are a lot better places in Upland, which has many Japanese restaurants for some reason. Osaka Restaurant, in the Big 5 shopping center on Mountain, is quite good and is my Inland Empire standard.

meg said...

We'll give Osaka a try -- thanks for the rec.

Although we mostly hold off on the Japanese unless we're in Little Tokyo (where we are well past halfway to trying every restaurant), it's nice to be able to scratch the Japanese itch out here in the IE. I'll report back!

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, the reason i write this post is to say thanks to the host of the site, because I am the owner for the Restaurant "Sakura Ichi Japanese Cuisine" in Pomona. As the owner of the restaurant, my goal is to listen and improve my restaurant to meet customers' expectation. I want to apologize for my employee's action of saying things that might offend the host and the readers for this post. And I will make sure that my restaurant will improve our food and our service to win everyone's business and support.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

How can you be on "East Coast Time" after all these years? The reason the eateries close up at 9 PM here is because on the West Coast you're supposed to eat dinner first and *then* go to the 9 or 10 pm show!