Thursday, April 16, 2009

Geisha Meh

So the three or four of you that follow this blog, you're probably wondering, where's the Geisha House review that was promised to us in your last post?

I have one word for you, Uninspired.

Since the dining experience, I really haven't been inspired enough to write about this restaurant until now. Perhaps it was the oversized Turkish coffee a neighbor so kindly shared with me this afternoon that's given me the extra juice to pump this one out after midnight (not to mention clean the house, do my laundry and organize my iTunes library). But I digress (though don't be surprised if I do it again).

Before heading out to Geisha House, I mentally outlined 4 categories I wanted to pay very close attention to for my amateur critique:

  1. Parking, decor, ambiance, the "poopers"

  2. Friendliness of the staff

  3. The quality of sashimi, specialty dishes and house rolls

  4. Value
Arriving just before eight o'clock, the wife and I were surprised to see the parking lot at City Place as full as it was on a Tuesday night. Nonetheless, we were still able to find parking without a problem, but like mi amigo Gustavo Arellano wrote, I don't think there will be a need for valet service anytime soon, but then again, we could be wrong. There's always a first time for everything.

The interior of the restaurant was quite hip–styled very similar to something you'd see in a restaurant in good 'ol downtown San Diego, San Francisco or Hollywood–dimly lit with a modern touch, but nothing any of you haven't seen before. Maybe it was the 3 horizontal ikea mirrors above the bar that in fact, lowered the bar.

The vibe was nice and everyone seemed happy to be there. I was surprised to see so many white and Asian folk in the mix–guess Newport Beach had already met their quota for the night so we got their overflow. I kid, I kid. Actually, I was very happy to see such a diverse crowd in Santa Ana.

We sat outside for dinner and it was quite nice–65 degrees it was, perfect for a dinner under the stars. But without any patio heaters, the scantily clad girls kept the ogling men inside with them. That is, with the exception of when they broke for a cigarette break near the entrance, unknowingly imposing their carcinogens into the patio area where we sat.

Smoking and sushi don't mix. Nuff said.

I can't really say much for the poopers being that there really wasn't much to them. Tiny white boxes with sinks and toilets, illuminated by overly bright lights that pierce your fully dilated pupils after you fumble your way down a dimly lit hallway is what they were.

It was like going to the bathroom in club sans the dude working for tips as he hands you a towel while you wash your hands and eye his vast collection of cologne and various mints.

Nice and somewhat knowledgeable of the menu. I really can't be too critical of the latter being that the place had just opened up a few days prior. But there's never an excuse to not be nice to a customer whom you have just met. Luckily, neither was an issue.

I believe this is everything we ordered that night:

Shishito Peppers
Tuna Tataki Sashimi with Ponzu
Albacore Carpaccio
Kanpachi Serrano

Geisha House Sushi Rolls
Frightened Geisha
Geisha’s Vice
Surf and Turf

Sushi & Sashimi
Hawaiian Amberjack
Spanish Mackerel

Of all the dishes we powered down that night, for me, the one that stood out the most was the Kanpachi Serrano. Hawaiian Amberjack fish with Yuzu-Lemon Ponzu Sauce, but then again, you really can't go wrong with Ponzu, can you?

Everything else we ate that night was generic, bland, and lacking inspiration–even at the grand opening price of 50% off prices, I still felt overcharged when the bill came.

As an avid sushi (wannabe) connoisseur, I'm used to paying for quality mercury poisoning. The sashimi served at Geisha House just wasn't anything worth writing home about, but if I did, it would go something like this:
Dear Mom, We went to the new sushi restaurant in Santa Ana the other night, but it was just meh. How's Dad doing? Is there a pile of mail for me to pick up? Did you watch Lost last night? I know you're not a fan of the sci-fi direction it's taken, but you have to admit it's one of the best shows on television. I really liked the Star Wars references. So what do you think "lies in the shadow of the statue"?
So how does one get sashimi wrong in the first place–it's raw fish and nothing else, right? My guess is that they have a really bad buyer, or their fish is delivered without being tasted by a qualified expert.

Probably the worst item of the night was the Surf and Turf Roll (Lobster, Filet Mignon, Green Scallion, and Sweet Sesame Miso Sauce). It sounds good, but it was dry and bland, and had it arrived earlier in the precession, it would have severely impacted my gorging rhythm.

The only value that night was the 50% off special, but like I said earlier, I still felt ripped off at those prices. It's definitely a cool place and a great fit for City Place, but Geisha House is as much of a sushi restaurant as P.F. Chang's is an authentic Chinese restaurant.

As bad as the food was, my biggest disappointment of the night was poorly designed menus. I mean seriously, who uses Arial Rounded on their menu and charges $15-$20 a dish?

Geisha House is great victory for businesses within the City Place lofts in that it will help draw in a new crowd, but as a quality sushi restaurant, there's much more room for improvement.

My recommendation, if you're planning on going big on sushi, check out Hamamori in the Crystal Court wing of South Coast Plaza (yes, mall sushi), or Sushi Murasaki on the south end of town.


zevlin said...

or you could try Masa (yes also a chain) in the Tustin Market place. was there last night and had a very nice casual experience without drama or crappy over priced sushi

Ben Dayhoe said...

Masa or Wasa?
Wasa isn't bad sushi either. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they are the owners of Hamamori in SCP.

zevlin said...

oops....Wasa is correct...sorry it was a longggggg day.

Unknown said...

You should try Toshi's in Fountain Valley and ask for the Asshole roll. Maybe for my birthday tomorrow.

Spencer Hoo said...

I guess you only have 3 readers. #3 here.

I cant really chime in any good advice as I cant do raw fish. Maki Maki in Irvine (which is actually owned by Korean owners), has alot of rolls made with cooked items and I have never had a complaint.


El Gallo Rojo said...

the whole time i was reading your review, i was thinking: "he needs to try sushi Murasaki" - then lo and behold you mentioned it!

Tomu and Dai run the best sushi joint in Orange County. imho

Robert said...

Everything taste better with a couple shots of sake!

Calendar Jason said...

I wouldn't go to Geisha house for a personal dinner based on your review. But in their defense, I DID go there for a business lunch. $12 for a very tasty Bento Box with lots of food ... a great deal, and there were at least a couple of young servers to ogle at, too. Thumbs up for lunches at Geisha House.

Anonymous said...

Yo Ben...have you been to Which Wich right next to Chipotle on 17th?!?! Holy crap! It is the best sandwich in town. You MUST check it out and do a blog post about it. It floored me the first time i enjoyed one of their amazing sandwiches. The lady that owns it is a super nice person as well.

It's just so horribly sad that Buffalo Wild Wings is no longer coming to town. way to go all of you morons who live behind that center. SHAME ON YOU!!