DineLA 2009: Thousand Cranes
Nostalgia brought us to the door of Thousand Cranes in Little Tokyo. There was a time in the 80s when nightfall turned downtown LA into a wasteland dotted with random nightclubs and loft parties, It was a punk rock playground, inhabited by night owls, homeless people and junkies. One oasis in the sea of cement and alleyways was the New Otani Hotel. It never ceased to amaze us that a well-tended Japanese garden even existed on a rooftop in the center of vast nothingness.
Although we couldn't afford to eat in the restaurant we loved showing people the garden, so the New Otani will always hold a special place in my heart right beside Al's Bar, Chinese Friends and the Atomic Cafe. Most of the old places are long gone, and the New Otani is now The Kyoto Grand Hotel. There is also a Teppan Grill and Genji Bar now. The room is still lined with old-fashioned screened tatami rooms, but the main dining room is more cafe-like and less intimidating these days.
The DineLA menu was presented with the standard menu. The dishes are hit and miss, and there is a vague sense that things are going downhill for Thousand Cranes. Service is satisfactory. In fact it is the bare minimum, exactly enough to be satisfactory - no more, no less. Although the waiter was extremely obsequious when the first bottle of beer was "off". Unless you are tempted to try 150 dollar wagyu steak shabu shabu, The Garden Grill teppan may be the better bet. Even the plants in the once enchanting garden seemed to be neglected.