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Delicious Spree LA to Z: Geisha House

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LAist is going on a delicious spree from A to Z. This week, in honor of the Golden Globes, we give you G, and in particular, star-studded Geisha House in Hollywood.

Celebrities got Geisha House's back, so yes, we know all about the star power, the ooh-la-la-ness of it all, but does anyone ever actually eat there? It appears that none of the waif-y eye candy, both male and female, do, so LAist went to actually eat. Yes, we actually ate there. The food, not just the olive in our martinis.

At the same time, Geisha House is both hard to find and hard to miss. With so many bright blinking lights along Hollywood Boulevard, another set of blinking lights does’t stand out much. Geisha House has no sign, and instead, identifies itself with a pink neon wall. The $8 valet and the entrance, too, are on the side street, Cherokee, so without knowing in advance what to look for, we drove by it. Twice. How annoying.

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You’d never guess how enormous the space is from the oustside. The entire place is like a chaotic little piece of Tokyo under one roof. The entrance leads down a narrow hallway with a low ceiling that opens up into a long alley of a bar that connects the dining rooms. on one end there is a small dining room with a few tables and booths, as well as the sushi bar. The other end of the bar spills out into the main dining room.

We waited in the low lounge seating, which is backed up against a photo montage mural of geishas painting their faces. The specialty cocktails are themed around geisha-dom, but sound way too sweet, so we wait for sake with dinner. The back wall of the actual bar, which we are facing, climbs past the ceiling to the second floor. The Dolce restaurant group must have a thing for visually stimulating bars, with fire behind the bar at Dolce Enoteca, and here at Geisha House, tiny tv screens flashing Japan-related movies. First, Lost in Translation and later, some sort of Japanese porn.

We have to pass through the main dining room to go upstairs; our table is on the circular balcony. An impressive red tower shoots up the center, with fireplaces at both the the bottom and top. it's not meant for warmth, just for ambience and some more visual stimulation. More evidence of the Dolce group's pyromania.

Most of our interaction with the staff is smile-and-nod on the outside, but gag-roll-eyes- oh-really?-hmm on the inside. Our server is dressed in what is supposedly traditional japanese fisherman's garb, but looks like a striped Benetton shirt from 1985. He lets us know that they "have a sommelier," and gently translates for us...it "means wine connoisseur." Oh really? We would never have known such a fancy word! Thank you so much for clarifying, Benetton boy. By the way, "clarify" means "make clear."

Our sommelier is a petite Guido in a pin striped suit and slicked back hair. Partly because the restaurant is extremely loud, and partly because of his thick Italian accent, we can't understand his explanations of how Geisha House's sake selection is the most extensive in the area. Again, oh really? Guido whips out a tiny photon light to point out this and that on the sake list to our host, then returns with Wakatake sake. For all that sticking with tradition and knowledge of Japanese sake, he pours the ladies first. Hmmm.

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The sake was crisp and, to our liking, rather sweet. Kanpai! and we were on were way.

Geisha House's menu, like its environment and decor, has a little bit of everything: hot and cold small plates, sushi, sashimi, robata-yaki, salads, oden, soup, rice, and tempura. We wanted to start with oysters. When we asked the waiter what kind they were, he said they were "from Maine." What kind, though? When he gave me a blank look, we just told him to bring a half dozen of their oysters "from Maine."

There's not much to say about the sushi, other than that it was far too expensive for it being just *eh*.

We didn't get to taste the Cowboy roll, made with beef filet, asparagus, red pepper and scallions. Heaven roll, with chopped toro, special tuna, and spicy tuna, was wrapped in soy paper and just too squishy, even with julienned cucumber.

Of course we had to order the Hollywood roll - crab tempura, avocado, and cucumber, were presented dramatically with drizzles of unagi kabayashi sauce. The last roll, which the waiter recommended, Over the Rainbow, was only okay. None of the sushi was outstanding.

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Robata-yaki and hot items were better. Three skewers of yakitori were supposedly sauced with teriyaki glaze, but one of them mysteriously had little green spots - wasabi? Rather thin slices of beef filet alternate with asparagus on the beef skewers.

Bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes were our favorite of the evening (except for the oysters "from Maine"). All the robata-yaki dishes come with dipping sauces. We can't accurately identify them, except for the spicy sauce - which seems to have been just a squirt out of the sriracha bottle.

From the fryer, there was chicken karaage and rock shrimp tempura. Both were presented on little red napkins that made it look like it had come straight from the Colonel's bucket. The shrimp, which looked like popcorn, was popular at the table. Although chicken karaage was cut large and fairly tender, the meat was bland, and it didn't seem to have been dipped in any sort of batter before being fried. it was also glazed with a sauce that was almost too sweet. We're accustomed to salty chicken, an obvious fry batter, and no glaze, just sauce for dipping.

For dessert, our host got a molten chocolate cake, properly presented in a square lacqered bento box, with vanilla ice cream. It's chocolate and ice cream, so we didn't complain. Ice cream nuggets were a fancy version of japanese tempura ice cream that we've had in local sushi bars.

Geisha House is aesthetically impressive, but the food was only so-so for how much it cost. Awwww, and we didn't even catch a glimpse of Mr. Demi Moore, or any other celeb for that matter. We can say now we've been to and tried Geisha House, and that's enough.

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Geisha House
6633 Hollywood Blvd. (at Cherokee)
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 460-6300
www.geishahousehollywood.com