Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grown-up happy hour at Gonpachi

I'm too old for the college-2-for-1 margaritas-and-potato skins happy hours. I don't want to be at a bar where the lines are out the door and there are coeds spilling out of the patio. But that doesn't mean I'm not on the lookout for a great happy hour deal. When I saw this post for Gonpachi on Vixen's LA Happy Hour , I just had to check it out. It's a grown up, upscale happy hour (wine/beer/sake, sashimi, skirt steak sliders) but at college prices (1/2 off).

Gonpachi is located on restaurant row on La Cienega, and like every restaurant on the strip (including Lawry's, Fogo de Chao), Gonpachi is massive. It looks like a rustic Japanese-style country inn, with a beautiful landscaped garden and koi ponds.

We grabbed seats at their front bar where happy hour is served.

On a sunnier day, the outside patio seats overlooking the garden is the place to be.

Happy Hour is from 5-7pm and 10-close and features half price off the bar menu and listed drinks. Yes, I said this was an upscale joint but don't worry, the prices on the menu above are before the 50% happy hour discount.

A glass of white wine to start, per usual.

Albacore Sashimi with daikon and yuzu ponzu
The albacore was fresh and supple, and was laced with the citrus sauce. The flavors were light and simple. This is the perfect bar snack for me as it's healthy but yet substantial to coat the stomach for the three glasses of wine to follow.

Tuna crispy rice with avocado and wasabi aioli
I always have to get this when I see it on any menu. I liked the crispy rice at Gonpachi because it wasn't greasy. In fact, it seemed to be lightly oiled and then grilled. I could be wrong, but it definitely didn't taste deep fried. If it was, then it was done with minimal oil. That's great for us grownups who have a slow metabolism and can no longer scarf down a greasy bowl of fried food without consequences.

Mix seaweed salad with sesame ponzu
I liked this healthy dish, and the selection of three types of kelp. I love the texture of fresh seaweed. Unfortunately, it seemed to be lacking in flavor. Perhaps a bit more sesame oil and some sugar would have brought out better flavors.

Popcorn shrimp with crispy soba and ichimi mayo
This was very tasty and I appreciated the small pieces of shrimp (some places serve the whole shrimp which can be cumbersome to eat). There was also a heaping pile of shrimp, priced normally at $12 ($6 at HH!) which I thought was much more affordable than the pricey, smaller serving at Katsuya. The shrimp was fried to a perfect crispiness and didn't get soggy from the sauce.

Crispy chicken karaage with ginger pesto
I love fried chicken and I especially love Japanese karaage. I know... grownups shouldn't eat too much fried food but once in a while, we have to make an exception for fried chicken. Similar to the popcorn shrimp, this dish wasn't oily. Honestly, you didn't feel like a layer of oil was coating your stomach after consuming this. The chicken meat itself was tender and well seasoned.

Vixen really got it right. Gonpachi's happy hour is really a great deal. I liked that they offered so many food choices, spanning from a few obligatory fried bar grub to typical Japanese sashimi and sushi fare. Even though we had ordered five dishes among two people, we had hardly made a dent in the menu. In fact, I already know what I'm getting next (pork ribs, calamari and agedashi). The service was also excellent. Our bartender was such a sweetheart and even let us know when happy hour was about to end so that we could get more orders in. Unfortunately, if you're looking for a hip happening bar scene to scope out the singles, this might not be the place for you. It was pretty dead on a Wednesday. But if you're looking for a mellow, relatively quiet grownup joint offering a good meal at a great price, Gonpachi is the place to be.

Hits: happy hour prices, menu options
Misses: seaweed salad, not much of a scene
Rating: ***1/2

134 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 659-8887


Diana said...

What was the scene like there? I've heard they've been struggling for a while. Were there people around?

Food looks really tasty. I'm a whore for spicy tuna on crispy rice too! ;)

Banana Wonder said...

This is really making me hungry! I am an albacore whore, not to mention a seaweed salad slut! Cheap date? Only if those 3 glasses of wine come before all those goodies :)

yutjangsah said...

I've always wanted to try Gonpachi. Maybe now I will.

stuffycheaks said...

Diana - haha yeah.. unfort it was kindda dead.. So not a great place to "meet pple" but great to fill up on food/drinks before heading to a read bad :)

Anna - haha at those prices, you cold def load up and whore it up!

Yutjangsah - yeah you should try to make it, esp for HH. Dunno if its worth it regularly but def for HH