Walking into the bar area at Katana, one experiences an overwhelming sensation of Hollywood trendiness. The concrete walls with recesses for candles, the piles of bricks, the low lighting, the funky world music, the model gorgeous hostesses and bar tenders. It's just the sort of atmosphere in which you expect to find Lindsay Lohan dancing on tables as paparazzi jostle you in their quest for the money shot. However, the clientele at Katana is surprisingly low key. When the hubby and I went on a Sunday night, we found a lot of families and almost touristy looking couples. So while the hostess may be in stilettos, you can certainly come in your keds.
After waiting for about ten minutes (with a reservation) we were escorted back to the surprisingly empty dining area. What were we waiting for? The room is a study in what Americans think "Asian Decor" looks like: Lots of dark wood with embroidered silk cushions and small smooth pebbles where you can rest your chopsticks. A fun place for a date night.
We had come for their Appetite Stimulus Menu - Four courses for $35 dollars. I'll review them in the order they came (which was the opposite of what they were supposed to be, except for dessert). However, our very sweet waitress did warn us that the first course does take a while, and I had fun eating it all tapas style.
First came the sushi (you could also choose a chicken teriyaki entree). A confession: While I enjoy sushi, I don't feel overly qualified to review it. To me it either tastes fishy (which is a very bad thing) or it doesn't. This didn't. The fish tasted fresh and had a nice texture, but it was all pretty basic stuff. A nice simple plate of tuna, yellow tail, salmon, shrimp, spicy tuna, and a California roll.
Then came the Robata or skewers, which Katana is apparently known for. I can't tell you about the salmon with pesto as I hate cooked fish. (I did take one intrepid bite - just for you dear reader - before reassuring myself that I do indeed despise the stuff). The chicken meatballs with teriyaki sauce was steaming hot, moist and tender. However, the teriyaki was quite light and lacked the deep flavor I was expecting. Luckily, all robata are served with three dipping sauces: ponzu, spicy mustard, and ginger. These flavorful concoctions did wonders to elevate the chicken. Finally, we also had cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon. Now, there is a soft spot in my heart for all things encased in bacon, but these didn't blow me out of the water. The bacon was so thin it simply added a complex note to the steaming tomato juices bursting in your mouth. While I would have liked a little more meat, it did balance the acidity of the tomato beautifully and was quite a tasty morsel.
Finally, the supposed "first course" of Chicken Gyoza arrived (there were two other options offered which I don't recall). The wrapping was light and pliant, and the filling seemed to be made of the exact same ingredients as the chicken meatball robata. So, once again, this dish benefited greatly from the use of the dipping sauces.
We ended with the rich Chocolate Volcano. This tiny cake packed a deep chocolate flavor. Served piping hot with vanilla ice cream, the molten center was divine when used to smother the accompanying berries. Definitely my favorite course of the night!
While the food at Katana was good, it certainly wasn't anything special. If you're looking for a trendy atmosphere, this might be the place to go. Personally, I think you'd do better to spend your $35 on the Farmer's Market Menu at Josie. I give this two and a half belt notches.
Katana's Appetite Stimulus Menu is available all night Sunday-Thursday. 8439 W. Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 323-650-8585 www.katanarobata.com/katana