Sunday, July 28, 2013

Katana: Haute Summer Grilling Over Sunset Blvd

As a kid - even up through college - summer seemed to last forever.  Two months felt like an eternity to do with as you please - and by the time September rolled around, you were for the most part ready to head back to school, to see your friends, to tackle the excitement of a new year and what it might bring. 

Now, with a full-time job and year round responsibilities -  summer seems to pass with the blink of an eye.  We are blessed in Southern California that the Fall and Winter don't really get that bad...(another reason I will probably never leave) - the weather is pretty much great all the time (relatively to say, Toronto) with the exception of February and June. But those summer months, where the sun seems to shine even brighter, and the air seems to be denser with promise of carefree adventure - are still incredibly precious.  It's the time of year where you want to be outdoors, as much as you can - for me, that does NOT mean roughing it on bare bones campgrounds, but more like grabbing good food, with great company, al fresco.

So I was excited when I was invited to check out Katana, a robatayaki/sushi hotspot featuring outdoor dining on its patio overlooking Sunset Blvd. 

The place feels like a hidden gem, located on the second floor with a barely visible sign that's easy to miss while driving down Sunset - the biggest landmark being its neighbor, The Comedy Store.  You pull into the narrow entrance of the garage and take a questionably vintage elevator ride - that opens up to a serene, chic space that feels like a different world from the stereotypical Hollywood vibe on the street below.

The interiors are modern Asian fusion, lush, dark, cavernous, ornate - with two large, open kitchens - one for robata service, the other for sushi - side by side.  But we were there for the patio - a gorgeous space with dark, long rattan couches and a flowering fountain.

Mims and I kicked off the sultry summer evening with a round of cocktails: Ginger Lychee Mojito ($14) Barcardi Rum, Fresh Mint, Lychee, Ginger, and fresh lime juice. Kimono Dragon ($14) Oxley Gin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, fresh lemon sour, muddled lemon, and basil

Before our food arrived, we were treated to a tour of the kitchens and got to meet the chefs - checking out the open-flame, charcoal-fired grills and impressive glass case of skewers of every kind of meat imaginable.  They use a special kind of charcoal here called binchotan, imported from Japan. It's a white charcoal that does not release smoke or unpleasant odors as it burns, letting the flavors of the ingredients shine through instead.

Back on the patio, we started with the sushi side of the house - a beautiful presentation of sashimi that made us feel like we were on vacation. 
Flowers make everything better: edible gorgeousness.

I usually don't love tuna tartare, but this one was super fresh and I loved the addition of briny caviar, and the counterbalancing crunch of wonton 'scoopers', with mayonnaise and sesame oil as well as soy sauce.

One of the first skewers to arrive was also one of our favorites: Chilean Sea Bass ($5.25): super tender, juicy with a lovely sweetness balanced by a delicious robata char. Skewers are served with three dipping sauces: soy mustard, ginger and ponzu.

Then, because I have a penchant for the unusual, there were Quail Eggs ($3), Chicken Liver ($3) and Chicken Cartilage ($2.75).  The quail eggs got a little too rubbery on the outside, and the chicken cartilage was as to be expected tough and chewy - not ones I might get again - but I enjoyed the rich, flavorful chicken liver skewers.

The more classic Wagyu beef ($20) skewers were tender, juicy, flavor-packed and another favorite.  We also tried the Chicken Meatballs ($3.75) - a nice price point for those who just want small bites to go with their drinks, Izakaya style.

The showstopper though was hands-down the Wagyu beef + lobster skewers with UNI TRUFFLE BUTTER ($26).  During the kitchen tour the chef seemed especially proud of this one, and I was sold as soon as I heard the magic words Uni and Truffle.

Here's a shot of the grilled skewer.  SO delicious. Definitely the one to order if you're at a client dinner powered by an expense account.

Those on a budget should not miss the Lamb Chop Marinated in Soy Garlic ($6) this might have been one of the best bites of lamb I'd had in the city this year.  Sorry for the dark pic as we were having such a great time eating and catching up, that we didn't notice that our meal was heading into like the third hour until the light started changing on us.

All in all, a fantastic time and great spot to 'choose your own adventure' especially during summer - whether it's after work drink and small bites, or for a splurgey client meal over an iconic stretch of Hollywood literally and figuratively elevated above the fray.

Note: On the weeknight that we went, it had a very relaxed, serene vibe until closer to 10pm when the patio got more crowded, and noticeably louder.  We heard on Saturdays the patio gets more packed, with more of the Hollywood crowd, so plan your visit according to whatever you're more into.
*Disclaimer: This meal was hosted.


8439 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Parking: Valet in structure below restaurant (entry on Sunset)


Katana on Urbanspoon

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