Fat Chance, Fat Fish

We just noticed a new “Japanese” restaurant a ten-minute walk from our house, at Robertson and Melrose: Fat Fish. We checked it out on the web and it sounded great: an upscale-istic fusion-ocious Asian French sushi bar with exotic green-tea margaritas, or something like that.

It could have been a bad sign that the place was completely empty at 6pm but then again that’s early for West Hollywood. No-one was at the entrance or noticed us so we walked in. We started off with some sweet and sour shrimp which any Chinese-American restaurant in the 1950s would have done a better job of. Service was perfunctory. The asparagus tempura was a soggy mess; perhaps they thought the elegant “presentation” (stacking them up like Lincoln logs) would make up for that. The “Tuna Trio”, a combination of tuna tartare, tuna sashimi, and seared albacore, looked and tasted like it had been put together by a guest worker hired the day before, which it probably had been. The “Ichi Roll” was some dry salmon meat and yellowtail wrapped up in some kind of unidentified covering and perhaps deep-fried? It seems unlikely it had been made that same day. We passed on the proffered dessert of tempura ice cream. After we gave them our credit card they took ten minutes to bring back the receipt to sign, then acted put out when we asked why it was taking so long.

We had a weird sense as we made our painful way through this meal that this was not a real Japanese restaurant. By Japanese, I mean menus designed and dishes cooked by people that trained in Japan and with Japanese chefs. Frankly, a Japanese restaurant would not dare to serve the crap that Fat Fish does. Later we found out—Fat Fish is run by some non-Japanese restaurateurs who are moving upscale from the low-ball sushi takeout business. Suddenly it all makes sense. Samurai on La Cienega is another sorry example of a non-Japanese Japanese restaurant. The kim-chi on the menu is a dead giveaway.

Next Fat Fish says they are opening another location in Westwood. It’s really too bad that there are so few enough people who actually know what Japanese food is supposed to taste like that establishments like this manage to stay open.

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