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White Lotus - New Restaurant

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White Lotus - New Restaurant

lil mikey | Feb 8, 2003 11:36 AM

Pretentious.

We got there at about 6:30 pm on a Friday night, and parked around the corner. We walked through the wide front doors to the hostess area. “Do you have reservations?” she asked. We responded no, hoping we could get in. The two hostesses spent considerable time discussing among themselves the implications of not having reservations. Then they asked if we wanted sushi bar, inside table or outside table. Upon our responding “inside table,” there was further consternation and looking at the list and the map of tables. Then one hostess informed us that they have a “really big reservation thing” but that this time it would be okay. “You’ll finish by 8, right?” she asked. “I guess” I replied.

Then one of the two led us to our table, and here’s the rub: They had a total of about 30 names on the reservation list for the whole night. We were the second party in the restaurant. As we ate, and even when we left, we were one of only two parties in the restaurant. The place probably has about 50 tables. They just opened a new restaurant. They have 30 reservations spread through the night, and 50 tables to fill, and they’re hassling us about reservations for an early dinner. “Chowhound” doesn’t come to mind.

And so the tone of the evening was set.

The patio seemed pleasant, nothing special. The inside dining room has a slate floor, a high ceiling, and an imposing sushi bar on one side. There were 5 sushi chefs manning the bar, and easily 8 servers and busboys milling about, noticeably hovering and clearly outgunning the guests.

The menus are presented on a thin wood plank with the effect of rubber bands holding the paper menu in place. I say in effect because the menu is in fact glued to the wood. There is an entrée menu, a sushi menu and a sake menu, which is very difficult to read in the low light because it’s on dark red paper with black print. As we looked at the menus, bottled water was pushed on us.

As I read here on Chowhound, the menu is diverse, if not eclectic. There is dim sum, salad, appetizers like edamame, noodles, and entrees ranging from New York steak to chicken to a Thai bouillabaisse and some fish dishes.

We ordered yellowtail sushi, and the White Lotus cut roll for appetizers. For the main course, my wife ordered the striped bass, and I asked the waiter about the Ahi tuna. The menu said it was wrapped in nori and served with a lobster sauce. He was lukewarm, bordering on cold with his response to this choice, so I asked him for a recommendation. He said he didn’t really like all that Japanese stuff, so how about the New York steak, or the chicken. It struck me as odd that he didn’t like the food the restaurant is obviously trying to push, so I continued probing. Finally I settled on a dish that he didn’t actively try to steer me away from: the halibut. We also ordered a small bottle of cold sake.

The sake came in a bamboo carafe, with a bamboo cup. Interesting presentation.

Now here’s the second rub of the evening: Despite an army of preparers and servers, and a lack of guests, service was painfully slow. Somehow the team of 5 sushi chefs managed to take about 15 minutes to prepare a simple sushi order, and what turned out to be a relatively simple-to-prepare roll. I was facing them the entire evening, and they were just kind of hanging around over there.

The yellowtail sushi was very good. Fresh and tender, not too big, not too small, and the rice was perfectly sticky. The White Lotus roll is a cut roll with halibut and salmon and some roe. It too was fresh and good.

After these appetizers, we were totally starving. And we waited another half hour before the main course was brought out. I was just about to suggest to my wife that we get up and walk over to the sushi bar, when we were informed by the waiter that our food would be out shortly. He was right; it was about 2-3 minutes later that another fellow from the back brought out our food.

My wife’s bass was pretty good; a little on the salty side, but not overwhelmingly so. It was served with a nice ponzu sauce and some bok choy. The halibut was good, but far from original. It was the usual: sesame-coated, served on rice with a sweet ginger sauce and some bok choy. I actually like this dish, but at $28 I wish I would have liked it more.

The portions are on the small side. Not over-the-top small, but smaller than most restaurants. So we still had room for dessert. My wife ordered the chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. It was really good. The cake had a runny center of Valhrona chocolate which was not overly sweet. It was like a soufflé… hot and soft on the inside, and just firm on the outside.

I ordered the special, which was described as a banana spring roll: banana wrapped in filo dough, served with a side of two dipping sauces. When delivered, it was not quite as described. It was battered in a croquette batter, and the sauces were combined on the plate with the dessert cut like a sushi roll and resting on top. Disappointingly, it was room temperature. It would have been much better if it was hot.

The total bill was $115 before tip. I think a little high for what we got.

As we left we *gasp* had to walk through a red-roped area, complete with doorman. Still nobody there, but it looked like they were expecting a very large crowd. They're obviously trying to make this a trendy place to go for the scene. It's not a place to go for the food. If they’re open for lunch, I may go for sushi as there are no good sushi places in the neighborhood; but there’s no need for me to go back for dinner.

It's on Cahuenga north of Hollywood Boulvard.

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