After a relaxing day of hanging out with Jenny's dog Elvis, shopping at The Grove, and a delicious light lunch at Mani's, Jenny and I got all dressed up and headed out to Koi, renown Japanese-California fusion restaurant and celebrity hot-spot. After valet parking the car, we were blinded by the flashes of paparazzi. I guess they take pictures of everyone just in case? Or we just looked THAT GOOD. Probably the latter.
Anyhow, we were a bit early for our 8:30 reservation, but the friendly doorman and hostess were happy to accommodate us and promptly sat us at a table "outside." I say "outside" because, while the space was technically partially open to the outside, it was covered and enclosed on three sides. It was actually a nice compromise between being fully outdoors (which might have been chilly--even though it was 95 degrees and smoky during the day, it got pretty cool at night) and completely indoors. The only problem came towards the end of our meal, when the place was really filling up (apparently dining at 8:30 is unfashionably early in LA) and we realized that smoking is, amazingly, still permitted in the outdoor area. Of all the places I have traveled, I would have thought LA would have been the first to ban smoking in restaurants! Apparently not-- people were smoking a LOT. I was glad we were just paying the bill when the clouds of smoke began to drift our way, and not digging into our first course! But, I've gotten ahead of myself....
Smoking apparently permitted at Koi (yes I stole the matches)
After sitting down, we each ordered a glass of champagne (the waiter asked if we were 21, and I immediately fell in love with him. Then Jenny pointed out that only in LA would the under 21 crowd have the means to go to a REALLY expensive restaurant and try to sneak alcohol!) and some edamame, and took a look at the menu (which, of course, we had already studied in detail online earlier that day). We decided to order a variety of courses-- some sushi, some Koi signature dishes, and make sure we left room for dessert!
First came Yellowtail carpaccio with grape-seed oil and ponzu, wasabi, and tobiko. As soon as I tasted this I knew the rest of the meal was going to be great. The carpaccio, slices of raw fish with a little sauce to accentuate the flavors, was amazing. So fresh, so flavorful, and the texture was almost creamy, with a little bit of crunch from the tobiko and the micro-greens (um, those are SO two years ago!) on top. I would say, conservatively, that I could have eaten 5 plates of this, by myself. But, there were more courses to come...
Next the waiter arrived with a plate I was really looking forward to; Jenny had raved about the Crispy Rice topped with Spicy Tuna she'd had during a previous visit to Koi. Instead of serving the spicy tuna in traditional nigiri style (on top of finger-shaped pieces of sushi rice), the chef put a spin on it by crisping the rice. It's unclear how exactly they achieve this result (pan-frying each piece, top and bottom?) but it is delicious. The rice has a crunch and a toasted, nutty flavor from the crisp outside, but the inside of the rice remains soft and chewy. Perfect with the not-too-spicy tuna on top. Excellent balance of crunch, softness, flavor, and heat-- and, of course, the freshness of the ingredients was apparent.
Two courses down (and here I want to say that the pacing of the meal was great-- dishes were removed from our table and replaced with fresh ones promptly, but not so quickly that it seemed like we were being rushed through our meal), and next up was a Dragon Roll from their list of signature rolls. Their dragon roll (which contains tempura shrimp, eel, and various veggies) was topped with tons of tempura flakes, and drizzled with sri racha and a another, sweeter sauce. This came right up to my limit on non-traditional sushi (with mayonnaise and cream cheese being WAY over the line) but I have to admit, it was really tasty. We ate every last tempura flake!
For our last savory course, we had the Miso-Bronzed Black Cod Medley with medley of vegetables. This was a must-have for Jenny and I as we both remembered ordering Miso-glazed black cod when we ate at Nobu in New York City SIX YEARS AGO. This dish was a little more "cutting-edge" when we had it back in the day, but the Koi version was absolutely delicious. Rich by definition (fatty fish and sweet, sticky miso glaze), we were glad we were sharing one portion (and reaching the end of the meal), but every bite was supremely tasty. I also enjoyed the miniature (!!) carrots in the veggie medley.
Finally, dessert and coffee. Beautifully presented cheesecake and interesting little blobs of ice cream (perfectly shaped and seemed to have a somewhat gummy exterior-- unusual but not unpleasant). We were pretty full from all the fish but we definitely needed a little something sweet! (A little something, this time, not the multiple desserts we'd indulged in the day before!)
Blurry Ice cream blobs
After a quick trip to the ladies' room (really an excuse to walk through the restaurant and look for celebs-- alas, none to be found) we were headed home again. Another great meal with a great friend in LA. Thanks Jenny!