Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Restaurant Review: Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas

Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas - lunch on October 4, 2013, 4-star rating on yelp
I had never heard of Gochi before but when a coworker suggested it as a place to meet for lunch, I was game, especially since it's within easy driving distance.  Not to mention it's got a 4-star rating on yelp from 1333 reviews so that made it worth checking out to see what the hype was about.
When you walk in, they ask you to remove your shoes before stepping into the seating area of the restaurant. You leave your shoes in one of their cupboards near the entrance and although you do "sit on the floor", there are sunken spaces underneath the tables with room for your legs and feet so you can sit as you would in a chair. I think it's a common misconception that at a "traditional" Japanese restaurant that the patrons sit on the floor.  Technically yes but it's an elevated floor and the floor is your chair so it's not that different than a non-Japanese restaurant.  You don't sit on the floor cross legged since there's space for your lower body in the sunken area underneath the table.
The special
My coworker ordered the special which came with a variety of dishes.  She had been here before and said "everything is good, I've never eaten anything bad here" so she didn't even care what came in the special; she knew it would be delicious.  Talk about faith. It came with miso soup, rice, some kind of chicken dish and some sort of fish.  She said it was all good so her faith was justified.
Chicken Katsu with a bowl of warm udon
I'm a bit more of a skeptic so I opted for something I did know: chicken katsu with a bowl of warm udon.  You can order a lunch entree and it comes with cold or warm udon, your choice. And I must say I made a good choice.  The katsu, breaded fried chicken atop a bowl of rice, mixed with caramelized onions, soft scrambled eggs and dried seaweed bits, was delicious.  I picked out the onions because, while I don't mind their taste, I don't like the texture.  But that was the only change I would've made to the katsu bowl.  The rice was amazing.  In general, Japanese restaurants serve some of the best rice I've ever had and Gochi held up that stereotype. It's hard to describe the difference between good rice and great rice but they had great rice. Moist but not overly wet, perfectly cooked and so good that although I'm usually indifferent to rice and don't eat it all that much (I know, it goes against my Asian roots - my cousins think I'm an alien every time I mention I don't eat rice that often), I ate every speck of rice from that bowl, even when I ran out of chicken katsu. Yup, it was that good.
The bowl of warm udon also held its own.  I liked the broth and the udon noodles.  Even more amazing, those two items combined were only $8.50.  Unheard of since most Japanese restaurants I've gone to are hardly ever that cheap.  Top it off with how good the food was and it explains that 4-star rating amongst so many reviewers.
Chicken Katsu
It might also explain why Gochi goes against traditional wisdom in terms of their hours.  They're closed on Sundays which is highly unusual for a restaurant to give up half of its weekend traffic.  According to my coworker, they also close for a couple of weeks during the holidays.  Good for them, I say, but again, unusual.  Beyond their business hours, they're also located in one of those non-destination strip malls.  If you come here, it's probably to go to Gochi and not that you're popping into the restaurant because you were already in the strip mall for something else or just wandering around. 

We came at noon and were fortunate enough to be seated right away but I've been told Gochi does get crowded and there's usually a wait, especially for dinner.  If your party isn't all there, they don't seat you until everyone is present. I liked the place but I don't know how long I'd be willing to wait for a table.  So I may just stick to lunch forays for now.

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