October 2, 2005
‘Twas an excellent birthday yesterday. In the morning, AEJ and I walked to the local coffee place for bagels. Not quite a NY bagel, but perfectly tasty — and they do this crazy thing where they spread the cream cheese while holding the bagel with tongs. Their hands never actually touch the bagel. Just tongs. You ever try to spread cream cheese on a bagel using only tongs and a butter knife? Looks unnecessarily awkward. Anyway — good place, good bagel.
We also hung my painting — the one that AEJ painted for me for my birthday last year.
After that, we headed to the “hot new mall” here in LA, The Grove. It’s one of the latest in the new trend of shopping complexes where everything is outside and it feels like a community/Disneyworld. There was even a trolley that shuttled people from one end of the complex to the other. We only spent an hour there because I had a hair appointment, but we’ll be back — and next time, I’ll take a few photos.
At 5:30, I had my first hair appointment with a new stylist. I wish I could have brought Glen, my hair guy from NY, here to LA, but sadly, he has a life there or something, and was unwilling to tag along just to cut my hair here. So, I found a new place called Sugar. The owner, Tommy, cut my hair. Nice guy, and he did a good job, but the experience wasn’t as fun as it was back at Dop Dop. The price, though, was less than half as much, so that helped to soften the blow.
Shortly after the haircut, we headed to our fancy-schmancy birthday dinner at Matsuhisa. Matsuhisa is the only sushi restaurant ranked in the Zagat guide’s Top 10 overall restaurants in LA, and I expected it to be… I don’t know… stuffier? It’s not that I wanted a stuffy meal. I just expected a little more formality. Instead, what we found (after leaving our car with the valet who was either bummed to be parking a car worth far less than $125,000 — or possibly considered it refreshing) was a restaurant with an almost neighborhood feel. Extremely warm and inviting. Small, with tables close together. The sushi chefs welcomed everybody as they came in. There were the initial stares from the other clientele as they tried to determine if we were celebrities as we sat down, but once they figured out that we weren’t (although AEJ looked like one — she’s a looker, that one), it was nothing but friendly, professional, prompt service and amazing food.
First up was Yellow Tail Jalapeno, and it was just what the name says — pieces of yellow tail sashimi, tasting as if they’d been prepared like ceviche, with thin slices of jalapeno on top. Wow. Delicious, with just the perfect amount of zing.
Next up, a traditional sushi plate — salmon, tuna, yellow tail, sea eel (a bit saltier than normal fresh water eel, it seemed to me), and a spicy tuna roll. The eel was amazing — the best I’ve ever had. AEJ loved the yellow tail, so I gave both pieces to her, as she doesn’t like rolls or salmon. The roll was good, but I prefer my rolls inside-out so that the first thing I bite isn’t seaweed.
Then there was this: New Style Sashimi. White fish with sesame seeds, olive oil, and scallions. Mmmm…
We had a few pieces of tempura — snow peas and scallops. I was so excited to try them that we ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture. Really, tempura isn’t terribly photogenic anyway.
This may have been the most fun course: Sashimi Chips with Spicy Miso Sauce. Two pieces of yellow tail and two pieces of tuna, miso sauce on top, all atop… well, a Japanese potato chip! Fun and delicious.
Then the dessert. They brought out the smallest utensils I’ve ever seen…
I opted for the Banana Spring Roll. I loves me some good banana, and this was an amazing, sweet banana, topped with chocolate, then rolled in a pastry and fried, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I could live off of this. The sugar crashes would be intense, but worth it. When our server brought it out, she came with the other servers, and everybody sang “Happy Birthday.” It was like Chi-Chi’s, only nicer.
It wasn’t until I was almost done with the dessert that I realized they had written “Happy Birthday” in chocolate sauce along the edge of my serving plate.
Our server also took our picture with the restaurant’s Polaroid camera. Nice touch. They asked me my name — “John,” I swear I said — and minutes later, they returned with this card. The front of the card read “A Special Moment.”
We had a perfect evening. Top-notch service and food, and a very pleasant atmosphere.
Oh — and Keenan Ivory Wayans was at the next table. He’s tall.