If you put your lips in front of mine, they are going to get kissed.
Every sonnet and ounce of poetry about the rouge of her lips transcended before my eyes as I walked into Katsuya at LA Live. For every wall, every menu, and every blink sent a sensational shudder of lip-biting anxiety pulsating through my face, itching to kiss. This is what happens when a fashion editor cum food critic walked into Chef Katsuya Uechi‘s modern take on Japanese food, designed by the sleek and sultry likes of Philippe Starck.
It’s no wonder that there were now so many of these crowd pleasing, fashion magnets that trendsetters and hoity city gentry flocked into, robed in glittering ensembles. I chose one of its former locations in the magnetic city of Los Angeles, a home of sorts for this luxury nomad. Katsu meant victory, a testament to the winning combination of Californian cuisine fused with Japanese sensibilities, placed in an extravagant Hollywood setting.
I started with a mixed green salad, fairly ordinary with fresh greens but with a nutty and fresh vinaigrette maid of ponzu and miso. With a salty, almost peanutty and simultaneously bitter and sweet flavor, it came in a petite bowl which guaranteed a quick finish up. It was paired with a warm and slightly salty miso soup, with a few shards of shiitake mushroom muddled into the steaming stock. So far, things were kept fairly traditional.
Owing to the clubby vibe, the server insisted we try some cocktails, and feeling spicy and mildly adventurous, I stepped out of my bourbon mode and ordered a vodka cocktail with crushed Serrano chilis, jalapeño slices, cranberry juice and a sugar rim. With visible specks of spice and sugar staring back in galactic fusion, it made for a sweet and spicy collision that was more on the LA juice side than New York cocktail extreme. Which, however, I did not mind owing to the scintillating heat and the necessity to drive after the meal.
My main course was a vegetarian Bento Box, comprising of three compartments. The first was vegetable tempuras namely asparagus and carrots. While not wildly inventive, these were not greasy and fairly crunchy, both working in my favor. Next was a set of vegetarian California rolls with carrots and avocado. Not my favorite of dishes, these were nonetheless fresh tasting, missing the metallic undertones that college days had bestowed on me.
The final and most hearty course was a shiitake mushroom dish with asparagus, maitake mushrooms cooked in a soy pepper sauce, cooled by strips of avocado. The pairing was not the most inventive, but gave a nod to one of the reasons I loved California – the abundance of avocado in every dish.
My favorite part was the marigold atop the mushrooms, paying homage to my Indian roots where eating marigolds was a languishing ritual of sorts. I paired its bite with a signature pout, thus marrying the sexy vibe of the place with my whimsical ways.