8.11.2005

Restaurant Review #46: Place Yuu, Sawtelle, West LA

Update: Place Yuu has permanently closed.

Last night, since I did not realize that Hide Sushi closes at 9:00, I had to pick a different sushi restaurant. There are five sushi restaurants on Sawtelle, and through process of elimination (bar only, closed, closed, already tried it) I opted for the place with no name. I was certain I'd never read about this place, but it was on Sawtelle, so it couldn't be that bad, right? It would probably be a lovely hole in the wall place. No name equals mystery. An undiscovered gem, perhaps.

Wrong. Though you may not believe it from the lovely photos, this is a terrible, terrible restaurant. Please do not ever eat here.
I shall tell you why. And keep in mind that I don't get any joy out of bashing a restaurant. I want to like every place I try.

This was one of those places I had a bad feeling about as soon as I walked in. I need to learn to let that bad feeling process before I find myself sitting at a table, especially when something as expensive and sacred as sushi is involved. I'm thinking about implementing a new policy: walk into the restaurant. Feel the vibe. Walk out. Process vibe. Re-enter if desired. Why did I get a bad vibe? The interior looked more like the set of Cheers than a sushi bar, and there were very few customers. We weren't shown to our table, merely pointed in the general direction.

The waiter showed contempt for us from the start. When he came to ask for drink orders, one person said he wanted water, and the waiter left. He didn't ask the rest of us what we wanted, he just left. I was thoroughly confused. He would continue this odd behavior of trying to get away from our table as quickly as possible for the rest of the evening. He didn't seem like an inherently strange or antisocial guy, though--arrogant as hell was more like it.

The menu, interestingly, has several items (at least ten) that were written only in Japanese. I thought this was either a good sign (very authentic stuff available, right?) or a bad sign (how pretentious to assume that I wouldn't want to try something new? I don't read any Japanese). I wanted to ask for translations, or possibly just take a shot in the dark and order them without explanations, but the waiter wouldn't hang around the table long enough for me to even order my tuna sashimi, let alone translate parts of the menu.

I assumed that the sushi would be very good, so I ordered a lot. This marked the second instance of the complete absence of my usual logic. Normally I order just a couple of things at a new sushi restaurant to test out the quality. I forgot this time, though. Sigh. I also ordered a hot sake that was described as sweet, because, well, I have an indefatiguable sweet tooth (an entire mouthful of them, in fact). I always get the generic hot sake, but I decided to try to upgrade. Unfortunately, this sake was worse than the usual (and perfectly acceptable to my unknowing taste buds) Geikkikan. Yes, I've got to learn about sake one of these days. Anyway, this stuff was sickeningly sweet. Ugh. But I drank it anyway. The sake cups were interesting--they were about 50% larger than usual. A waitress brought sake glasses for the whole table, though I hadn't ordered sake for 4. The waiter who delivered my friend's cold sake only brought him one glass. What great service. Fortunately, my friends left my sake to me.

The meal that ensued made the consumption of copious amounts of sake quite necessary. Well not really copious, but I'm not much of a drinker.

The tuna sashimi was cold, like it had just come out of the fridge. Bad news. It tasted about right, and the texture was about right, though. The red snapper, flown in from Japan and normally one of my favorites, was just okay. The yellowtail was pretty good, but then, it's pretty hard to mess up yellowtail. The same garnish was used to supposedly enhance the flavor of both the red snapper and the flounder, but I find it hard to believe that the flavors of two different types of fish would be best complemented by the same thing. I realize that ketchup tastes good on both hotdogs and hamburgers, but I don't apply the same philosophy to sushi garnishes.

The rice was lacking something, though I'm not sure what. Interestingly, the rice had a dab of what appeared to be soy sauce on the bottom of each piece. Huh? While I was initially pleased that the soy sauce had been added for me, I later decided it was ridiculous because the soy sauce was on the rice, not the fish. Also, the table soy sauce was not reduced sodium and too strong. It interfered with even the strong flavor of my salmon skin roll, so I did not use it. The salmon skin roll was not bad, but I didn't love it.

The entire sushi menu was in English, and, oddly enough, this threw off my order. Do you know what smelt means? I did not. I thought it was an adjective, describing the way egg is prepared. However, smelt is a noun, describing a rich and oily, small, silvery, mild-flavored fish that migrates between salt and fresh water. So I orderd smelt egg, thinking I was ordering tamago, and instead ended up with halibut roe, which I am not a fan of, particularly if it is not fresh, which this was not. Why don't they call it smelt eggs?

I was excited to see flounder on the menu. Hey, something I haven't tried yet! Is this not often on menus or I have I just never noticed it? Flounder, also known as hirame, reminded me of baby yellowtail. It had the same disturbing short, dark grey, stringy flecks in its translucent white flesh. What the hell is that stuff? I didn't think the hirame tasted like much, but then, the sushi here was generally not impressive, so I'm sure I did not have a transcendent hirame experience, especially because it had way too much pre-applied wasabi (one of my pet peeves--I want to be able to taste my fish). And pink ginger? While I used to think it was normal (it is, back in the good ol' Midwest, home of America's finest sushi), I have, at this point, become completely disgusted by it and convinced that it does not taste as good as the natural colored stuff.

The sushi chefs all looked profoundly unhappy. If I worked here, I would be too. I wanted to photograph them--I could have gotten some great portrait shots. However, the lighting was not conducive to that, and I don't like to be intrusive. I probably would have been anyway, because their expressions were just so great, but like I said--the lighting.

Service was highly inattentive, though the restaurant was not busy. No one ever asked how our food was, if we wanted anything else, or brought us the bill. When the bill arrived at least 45 minutes after we were very clearly done eating, and after 10 minutes of trying to get someone's attention to bring it to us, I was quite upset to find that my tuna sashimi was 11.95. On the special list, I swear it had said $2.25. Obviously (not thinking straight again) $2.25 could not have been correct. Maybe it said $7.25. I am certain, however, that it did not say $11.95. I am certain that the waiter did not bring me the bluefin tuna sashimi special, but instead brought me whatever the regular tuna sashimi is. Of course, he had been running away from the table as I'd been trying to order it, so no wonder he got it wrong.

At that point in the evening, I had eaten average to bad sushi, imbibed bad sake, and suffered terrible service that had cut into my sleep time. I was incredibly pissed off, but thankfully, I'd had a lot of sake so I was not feeling outraged. I was, however, pissed off enough to leave a $1 tip. It is very important to note here that I am absolutely not one to stiff waiters. Having had many service jobs, I realize how much they suck, and how important tips are, so I generally tip 20%. I don't think I've ever stiffed a waiter before, in fact. That's how bad the service was.

Place Yuu
2101 Sawtelle Blvd
(Corner of Sawtelle and , in the same white shopping center as Hurry Curry and Volcano Tea)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-478-7450

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this post, but decided to go because I heard good things about it from friends. I found that my experience was completely different. The waiters were friendly, but slow at times due to the many people that were there (but what restaurants aren't slow when busy?). The prices were moderately high, which is not good if you plan on eating tons and tons of food. The food was real good though. I loved it and will go back again (even if the service was slow). The sushi was fresh and the rice was cooked well. The appetizers were yummy also. Many of my friends loved it. Mixed reviews so I guess it depends on your taste and whether you got a bad waiter/waitress or not.

hotel 05 said...

Yes I'm totally agree with you that this is a terrible, terrible restaurant..I have also an experience of this type..Services that provided was not so good..And of course the rate of the dishes are so high.. Asakuma Sushi - Marina