Okay, I’ll preface this review with the disclaimer that I was taken out to eat at Geisha House by a visiting European travel/food writer and so, mercifully, I did not pay for this meal.
A free meal at an overrated, passe sushi spot – how bad could it suck?!
Well, it didn’t completely suck, but it certainly was a mediocre experience that is worth deconstructing.
Geisha House opened in 2003 and is reportedly co-owned (still?) by Ashton Kutcher. A key scene from Knocked Up was filmed there, as well as scenes for the TV show Nip/Tuck, Entourage, the reality show Tori & Dean and, I think, also The Hills.
Firstly, the resto is a lot smaller than you’d think. On a Thursday night at 8.30pm, it wasn’t even half full. It’s also absurdly dark. You can barely read the menu and once I spotted a few things I wanted to sample, I stopped trying to decipher it in the gloom.
On the mezzanine balcony a female DJ was spinning. The music selection was embarrassingly dated, full of the cheesiest 80s songs. Okay, not “˜Kenny Loggins Footloose”™ bad, but close. Lesser Madonna tunes, M.A.A.R.S. “˜Pump Up The Volume” – tracks like that. Not retro-cool or ironic, just really unfashionable.
Our four-person booth’s table was extra tiny. They also serve the food on that oversized, cheap thick china (I pity the waitstaff who have to lug that stuff around), so when they brought out four miso soups in big square soup bowls on their own saucers, we had to stack and stow the little plates we were going to be dining on later.
A large platter of rolls and long plate of garlic edamame (delicious!) arrived when we were still finishing our soup and the guy just stood there while we stopped eating, shuffled everything around and somehow found room on the tiny table. Really? I almost asked for a side table but knew that’d be a waste of time.
Also, I had recommended Katsuya Hollywood over Geisha House (for a good example of “Cali-American sushi” for her European-based readers) but my rec was overruled. Too bad. I would describe this food as being a desperately pale imitation of Katsuya’s fare.
The Miso soup came in three varieties; crab, mushroom and tofu. I got the crab and it was standard, if a little flavorless, miso – no crab flavor whatsoever in the soup – with a long crab leg sticking out of it, sliced open. It was a little fiddly to get the crab out of its shell, but not impossible. Underwhelming.
The garlic edamame ($6 ? — not sure…) comes heaped on a long platter smothered in sauce and sesame seeds. It was good and garlicky, but the dark, sticky sauce was messy and sweet. Too sweet.
The Baked Crab hand roll ($10) came out as a fat log, not a hand roll.Â And so why does a kitchen send out two fat rolls to a table of four without cutting them in half?!Â Hearty, delicious, if a little under-seasoned, and made with real crab. My SO reckons the Baked Crab hand roll at Katsuya (which tastes baked and is rich with mayonnaise) is fake crab. I refute this allegation. Does anyone know?
Miso Cod ($19): easily the weakest version of this simple dish I have eaten. The fish was very tender and nicely cooked, but it lacked that grilled, lightly charred effect on the miso glaze because the fish served was more tinted than glazed with miso marinade. It was also way too sweet and kind of “blah”.
One roll I quite liked was the Geisha Lips ($15 ), which is a multi-fish roll that uses thinly sliced cucumber in lieu of rice, jazzed up with pea sprouts. I opined that it was a low-carb roll for starlets, which prompted my European colleague to quip, “Geisha Lips are good for the hips.” Witty!
I am not sure what other rolls were ordered, but one had jalapeno and spicy tuna, and another had a sauce that tasted like ketchup that no one was impressed by.
I ate a lot of those garlic edamame and got to take half the platter home.
I requested a dry cold sake and the one recommended was good. It arrived in a glass carafe with its own reservoir of ice that kept the sake cold but not diluted. Genius!
So, all in all this dining experience was not a major disappointment, just utterly forgettable. I am glad I finally tried Geisha House to see if it was truly overrated and passe (it was) and I’m relieved I didn’t have to pay a dime.
6633 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Open: Mon-Sun 6 pm – 2 am
Review by Pauline Adamek