Can a glowing review on Chowhound and 20+ 5 star reviews on Yelp-hell be wrong? Hell yes. Call it irrational exuberance. Mr. Greenspan is no longer vogue, but his biography was a good read and by god, The Open Door’s food is just not that good.
Beyond the various chazuke, a dish which pre-dates sushi, from the Heian Period (794 to 1185), there is absolutely nothing of interest on the menu. Not the much loved (by truffle oil frauds) truffle butter edamame, not the miso cod, and DEFINITELY not the Bar Hayama’s tuna tartare on crispy rice cracker doppelganger. C’mon man. How long has Hayama, a mere 23 miles away, been open? Since July ’07. Tuna tartare over crispy rice? Wait for it… is so ’07.
pix of chazuke (hot tea soaked rice with various fixin’s):
After browsing the menu front to back 4 times, it was decided no crudo plate would be ordered. Want raw fish in Monterey Park? Go to Sorafune. Want Edo style nigiri near Monterey Park? Toshi in Little Tokyo. What remains? Not a whole lot. With no certainty of the origins of the unagi used over the don, no clue the pedigree of the kitchen (the rumors of the chef at a certain Las Vegas Hotel fusion/lounge establishment fails to inspire), fail safe items such as kurobota wieners (also available at the Yelp loved Ruby Table), soy braised pork belly, grilled prawns (3 for $4.50, holy shit !?!?) and chazuke were ordered. After the moderate bill came, a secondary stop at Old Country Cafe (to which a whole photojournal should be devoted) was deemed necessary to stomp the appetite.
Braised pork belly craze in LA Japanese restaurants can trace its origins to Katzuto Matsusaka’s Beacon, erected in 2004. Its braised pork belly dish made LA Mag’s top 25 of ’04 and the rest of the city rode the wagon. Now this once lowly fatty discarded chunk of porcine is touted by all Angelenos living in a country currently obsessed with bacon explosion. In this case, the dish isn’t lousy because it’s dated – pork will never be dated again. It’s lousy because I can braise a better chunk of pork loin. No shit. The fat globules dressed in over obtuse dark soy didn’t melt, the skin of the piggy recalls tough cheese rind. Salty chewy lard isn’t sexy. Nuclear failure.
And to the kitchen staff/owner/family member/operator: them 2 cute Korean girls you wanna hire? Whom you were trying so hard to impress with free food + booze? Quit trying so hard. They don’t know Bar Hayama, they don’t know Bincho, they don’t know Robata-ya; they, much like the lil girls on Yelp, think miso cod is sooooo good. Seriously? Miso cod? That whore of a pesces dish from Nobu’s book, circa 2001? Please. Regarding the uppity gent w/ the obnoxious DSLR in 1 hand, chopsticks in the other, silently dissecting your “specials” menu? You might want to send some of your house finest over yonder instead cuz albacore with gochuchang miso is about the most heavy-handed cop outs in crudo history.
Now someone on the Internet owes yours truly $25 for writing a buncha loquacious praises.
PS: The restaurant was doomed by the rudimentary “What is Izakaya” Q&A printed on front page of menu. No chance.
The Open Door
Monterey Park, CA
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