Restaurant Row’s best bang for your buck: Gonpachi Beverly Hills

Gonpachi's courtyard

Gonpachi's courtyard

Restaurant Row on La Cienega Boulevard has been long known for its large, overly expensive eateries — Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Benihana, Woo Lae Oak, The Stinking Rose. But the Row’s Gonpachi Beverly Hills, though large, is one of the best values on that strip with its incredibly fresh-tasting sushi-grade fish and satisfying hot dishes, including robata.

I was recently invited to dinner at Gonpachi to try out its new menu. I hadn’t been to the restaurant for years, and only for happy hour, so I was excited to go back. The courtyard is lush with foliage and a koi pond, and the interior is reminiscent of the film Kill Bill (which was filmed at the Tokyo location of Gonpachi). All this really sets the scene for the fine meals served here.

Gonpachi Beverly Hills

Gonpachi Beverly Hills

I took Rory along as my dining companion (naturally), and we started our meal with the garlic soy edamame, which was a tasty twist on the usual edamame appetizer.

Garlic soy edamame at Gonpachi

Garlic soy edamame at Gonpachi

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Smoky Yellowtail Jalapeno crudo, which came with a dome of apple wood smoke over the yellowtail sashimi, avocado, jalapeno and citrus soy vinaigrette. A little flashy, yes, but oh-so tasty. The dish was creamy, spicy, smoky and citrusy — a great combination.

Smoky Yellowtail Jalapeno

Smoky Yellowtail Jalapeno

Smoky Yellowtail Jalapeno

Smoky Yellowtail Jalapeno

From the robata menu, we tried a bunch of items. I liked the scallops in soy butter, though it was rich! The presentation was nice, too.

Scallops in soy butter

Scallops in soy butter

My favorite robata item was the kakuni skewer made with braised Niman Ranch pork belly and karashi. The pork belly literally melted in my mouth — I was in heaven! The tsukune ground chicken skewer also had nice flavor, but the poached egg it came with was strange to me because it was cold. The negima crispy chicken skewer and the Brussels sprouts skewer weren’t stand outs.

(From left to right) tsukune, negima, kakuni and Brussels sprouts

(From left to right) tsukune, negima, kakuni and Brussels sprouts

The sushi roll we had, the Geisha made with a spicy tuna roll topped with assorted fish and avocado, was also a good choice. The fish was nice and fresh, though there was a lot of mayonnaise-based sauce going on.

Geisha roll

Geisha roll

For dessert, we had the Pumpkin Zensai with sweet azuki beans, mochi balls and vanilla ice cream in a pumpkin soup topped with almonds. I liked this a lot because it was creamy but not too sweet, and I always like those red azuki beans and mochi.

Pumpkin Zenzai

Pumpkin Zenzai

All in all, Gonpachi offers great value — quality food in a pretty setting. Prices are moderate, especially for the type of cuisine. The most expensive item on the menu is the chef’s sushi omakase at $70, but most items fall under the $20 mark. It’s the best deal on the block.

Note: This meal was hosted.

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Maya Meinert

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09 2011

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