Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
At a five course dinner, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Koi Los Angeles, Chef Robb Lucas proved that ‘balance’ is the key to sumptuous eating.
To understand the food, one has to begin with the man. Completely modern, personable, unpretentious and down to earth, he is as much an embodiment of Zen as is the menu, the drink, and the decor of the restaurant itself. And if Chef Lucas has proved to know one thing and one thing alone, it is exactly what his patrons want.
It should be no surprise to any of this hot spot’s regulars to hear from me that Koi Los Angeles on La Cienega is the best meal I’ve eaten since my breathless arrival to LA six years ago from the East Coast via New York City. Spoiled probably doesn’t even describe 17 years of dining in some the finest upper crusts in town and everywhere else. And in any case, I love to eat.
A favorite among celebrities here (I happened to be dining when Country Music superstar Reba McEntire was throwing an intimate dinner party right behind me) the atmosphere is comfortable and the fare describably perfect in so many ways.
The inspired Japanese fusion cuisine developed by Chef Rob Lucas was evenly attuned as a harmonic symphony of the senses, from start to finish. Impressively simple in presentation and intriguing in flavor, added were just the right perks to tempt tastebuds and satisfy the delicate sensibilities of any of its diners.
I was treated to a gorgeous, large banquette, under the natural radiance of a strategically placed skylight. With a view of the waterfalls and the bar, framed by the large entrance to the back dining room, daily used for special events and the most intimate of feasting savoir-fare, it was almost overwhelming to be engulfed in such peacefulness. Remarkable acoustics create a completely pleasurable ambiance that prevents the sound tone of the lively room from ever raising to an ugly decibel even at full house. Conversation is, in other words, easy.
I tweeted the entire time to fans and envious friends alike. What else was I to do before, after and in between every delicious and decadent course? But all mouth-watering aside, there is no getting around it, Chef Robb Lucas loves his peppers. Jalapenos to be exact. The menu is heartily complimented by them which made for a well-blended, aesthetic experience. Uniquely delicious all around, I picked a favorite from each course. You will have your own.
Assorted Koi Crispy Rice of Grilled Eggplant, Spicy Crunchy Yellowtail Tartare, Diced Avocado, Kobe Beef, Lobster Salad, Spicy Shrimp Salad – the latest delicacies and highlights of the anniversary additions, to be savored piece by piece.
Spicy Tuna rocked as it happens to be the most popular item on the menu! Kobe beef was lean and the Lobster, perky. The texture of each rice crisp was tender and sweet with an almost bready undertone. The truffle languorously stayed on my tongue.
Part of my own four-square plate was a single serving each of Hamachi Fusion Soy Yuzu with Truffle Essence, Koi (Rock) Shrimp Tostadas with Jalapeno Cream Sauce, Salmon Carpaccio with Black Truffles and Citrus Sauce and Kobe Style Potstickers. Skip to the end…mouth (pleasurably) on fire, my favorites were the Tostadas and the Salmon Carpaccio. This course was paired with the smoothest Koi Sake I have ever tasted. Most remarkable is how Chef Lucas manages to pull back any sort of ‘fishy-ness’ allowing for a subtly aromatic mingling of flavors.
The Rok N Roll Sushi course was definitely the more flavorful of two selections including the Red Rose Roll which was a bit overpowered by Jalepeno although exquisite in color and texture. Baked Crab topped with Toro and Gold Leaves had me at the glitter.
Here was paired a definitively refreshing and an absolute must taste for every Martini aficionado and non alike, Grey Goose Cucumber Martini with Rock Sake and lime. Fragrant and thirst-quenching down to the pulp.
My choice was the Pan Seared Bronzini for flavor and texture. Another plus with this Mediterranean staple is that the Natural Foods Expo West this year named Bronzino as one of the more sustainable wild caught fish on the market. Not as delicate as Sea Bass. But definitely can hold its own under the pressure of sauces and spices. “You can just cook it with salt, pepper and oil and it would be delicious.” Double plus for impact all around for Chef Lucas here.
I would be more than remiss if I did not give 4 stars to the Peppercorn Filet Mignons served with Shishito Mashed Potatoes. Not overly buttery yet tender and savory.
Paired with my entree was a Napa Paradigm, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. Light in the beginning with a peppery punch in the center and a smooth finish, it almost exactly mimicked the cuisine and offered no interference to the multitude of flavors presented here.
Encased in an edible dish or rather a shell made of sugar. Topped by a single blueberry sat a dolop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled delicately with a tiny sprig of mint and gold leaf. Looking very much like an undersized punch bowl the dish was entirely surrounded by blueberry sauce.
The outside of the cake was very dry and sweet but there was absolutely nothing overdone about the fruit. I dug in and scooped out the center. Everything worth eating is on the very moist inside of this dessert. Billed as a ‘crumble’, it was more traditional to a mini pie or small shortcake.
But according to Chef Lucas, “everyone is excited to have a blueberry pie on the menu in the first place.” So was I .