Restaurant Review #28: Asuka, Westwood

Rainbow Roll

I needed sushi 'cause I had none

I haven't been doing a good job at all of rationing my money this month, except in the restaurant category, and a trip to a sushi restaurant was long overdue. Also, hot weather pretty much kills my appetite, so a light dinner of raw fish was the only food that sounded remotely appetizing.

I fought the law. . .

I followed my somewhat trusted Zagat guide here on its recommendation of inexpensive but high quality sushi. Sushi, I'm pretty thoroughly convinced, is definitely an area of life in which you get what you pay for. I probably should have trusted my gut when I walked in, because something about the atmosphere told me that this wasn't going to be the greatest sushi experience of my life. The restaurant is set up as one big room, with tables and booths in the center, and a sushi bar on each side. The overall color of the interior is orange, though one wall was painted bright green. The lighting was on the high side for a Japanese place, and it was fairly noisy.

...and the law won

The photos almost say it all, but I'll give you a thousand or so more words to complement them. Sure, some of the sushi is a little cheaper, maybe, but the portions are smaller (in the rolls, though not the nigiri), the atmosphere leaves something to be desired, and the presentation is sloppy. Granted, I have only experienced what one of their chefs had to offer, but a higher caliber place would never have hired this guy (or let him stay). I witnessed him crookedly hack through a roll with flimsy serrated knife. I was thoroughly confused. If I know better than to try to cut through seaweed neatly with a crappy knife (or to even use such a knife in the first place), surely a sushi chef should know this?

Toro (left) and young yellowtail (right)

Robbin' people with a six-gun

Rarely do I order anything that says M.P. next to it, but I decided to go for it, though in retrospect, I don't think anyone can justify charging $5 a bite for, well, anything. The toro was pretty melt in your mouth tasty, but it had a kind of funny aftertaste. I haven't had toro that many times. Perhaps it always has this taste and I've never noticed it before, but I definitely detected a bit of that. . . house taste. You know how some people's houses have this kind of musty smell that is so strong it permeates their entire life, including all the food they prepare? That was the aftertaste of this toro. Actually, it wasn't an aftertaste, so much as an end taste, if that makes sense. The aftertaste was still yummy. Odd, I know.

Young yellowtail was a special, and is supposed to be somewhat of a delicacy, I thought, but I really didn't think it tasted like much, and at only $5, it wasn't priced like it was anything special. Also, they were out of giant clam (the only non-shellfish sushi I have yet to try) (except blowfish, which I have no desire to try). It was about 10:00 on a Saturday, so I guess I can deal with the shortage, but I don't think a good restaurant should run out of stuff. Having worked in one though, I realize that kind of thing happens. However, I didn't work in a good restaurant, so....

Vegetable Tempura Roll

I lost my lunch and I lost my fun

My sushi chef's next faux pas was his inability to listen. I ordered a vegetable tempura roll, and got a shrimp tempura roll with some vegetables. I'm allergic to shellfish (this includes shrimp, sea urchin, lobster, crab, and most fake crab because it contains traces of crab), so I had to send it back. I'd like to get through a meal at a sushi restaurant without having to send back something because it has shellfish in it. Sigh. He apologized twice, but I was kind of bummed by the long wait time for the only roll I ordered. Also, the shrimp tempura roll had been this oversized creation, and the vegetables tempura roll that replaced it was about half the size--not much of an apology, even though I prefer rolls that actually fit in my mouth.

Yellowtail scallion roll

Not the best sushi that I've ever had

My friend had a yellowtail scallion roll and a rainbow roll. She liked them both, but is not as picky about food as I. The moral of this story is probably that if you are the average consumer of sushi, you will likely be perfectly happy at Asuka, and if you are more discriminating, you're better off sticking to higher caliber places.

Guess my tastebuds are done

We had to request the check, as no one bothered to ask us if we were finished. This is a common restaurant occurence, but that doesn't mean it doesn't get on my nerves. We had no problem splitting our bill between our two credit cards, however, our individual orders weren't listed, only a total, leaving us to go back to the menu and figure out how much we had each spent. Us po' folk only split bills when we've actually ordered about the same amount of food. The server who took our money asked if everything had been okay. He asked this in a way that indicated to me that he sensed my discontent, but I didn't see any point in saying, yeah, everything tasted fine, but maybe you could change your decor and get your sushi chef a new knife? so I just said that everything had been fine. We were thanked three times upon leaving, which my friend found excessive, but I didn't notice much. I don't think it's a bad policy.

Papa Papa Papa Papa-san, take me home. . .

So overall, I'd say:

Food-slightly above average
Atmosphere-Diner atmosphere is inconsistent with the sushi vibe; bad loud music
Parking-They have valet for $3, or you can fight for street parking
Service-Friendly but not sufficiently attentive
Price-a few pennies too high for the quality

Restaurant Asuka
1226 Westwood Blvd
West LA 90024
Lunch M-F 11:30-2:00
Dinner Sun-Th 5:30-10:00
Dinner Fri, Sat 5:30-11:00

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, i always enjoy your posts; just wanted to say if you find yourself in the Westwood area, to give Asuka another try -- i think management has changed, and with it the quality of sushi! apparently the sushi chef goes out to the fish market to personally pick out the freshest fish himself, i'm not a sushi specialist but i can definately tell there is a difference now.