Thursday, February 13, 2014

Restaurant Review: Gombei

Gombei - dinner on January 26, 2014
I've eaten at Gombei multiple times so I was surprised to discover I hadn't done a review of it yet. My friend Cindy was the one who first introduced me to Gombei months ago and since then, I've returned with other friends but more often with my cousins. It's a convenient meeting place for my cousin Christine and me and this time around, our other cousin Ellen joined as well as my cousin Chris, Christine's brother, who was in town for the day. Christine's son, Vanilla King, was there as well but since I had literally just come back from driving half the day returning from Southern California where we visited two more cousins (yes, I have a lot of cousins, big extended family), I hadn't had time to bake so no snickerdoodles or vanilla cake for Vanilla King this time around - sorry, kid.
We were there early since Chris still had a 3-hour drive back home so the restaurant was pretty empty. Later on it would be more crowded and we would likely have had to wait for a table but since we were there at 5 pm, we were one of the first ones seated. At Gombei, you can sit at a table or at the sushi bar. We opted for a table.
When I first went to Gombei, I had ordered the beef teriyaki don - grilled beef in teriyaki sauce atop a bowl of moist rice. It was sublime. The rice isn't as good as at Gochi but still good nonetheless. I like this dish because it's simple and non-fussy. Meaning I don't have to pick out stuff I don't eat, like onions or mushrooms or bean sprouts. Yes, I'm one of those people who will painstakingly pick out whatever's in the dish that I don't like before I'll eat it. Remember Banana Leaf when they made a mistake and included bean sprouts in my pad thai? Yeah, I picked out every single bean sprout from that sucker. Fortunately, with the beef teriyaki don at Gombei, that's not a problem; it's just beef and rice. I've had the chicken katsu don as well and that's pretty good too with the soft-cooked scrambled egg on top but it comes with onions that I didn't want to take the time to pick out so I went back to my mainstay and got the teriyaki beef this time around.
Beef Teriyaki combination plate
There was a period of time when I went to Gombei that the quality of their entrees had gone down. The beef was tough and they included more fatty pieces in it. When I asked for the meat to be cooked to medium, it came out a combination of medium well and medium rare but not medium. So I haven't been back in awhile. Fortunately, this time around, they were back up to snuff as when I had first eaten there and everything was done well. Or at least medium.
Udon and tempura 
Besides or in addition to the entrees, you can also order various types of sushi which is what my cousins opted to do. As you know, I don't eat sushi so I didn't pay much attention to what they were checking off on the strip of paper that listed all the sushi choices which we turned into the waiter who came to take our orders. I don't know what any of it tastes like either but they are sushi aficianados so I assume it met their taste standards. All I did was take pictures :).

Gombei is reasonably priced for lunch with most entrees under the $10 price point. Dinner is a little more expensive for basically the same food and I haven't noticed a difference in their portion sizes between lunch and dinner. There are more menu options for dinner but if you're a basic chicken or beef teriyaki eater like me (for connoisseurs of Japanese food, insert eye roll here), you can get whatever you prefer at either meal. They do get crowded for both lunch and dinner though so I'd recommend getting there a little early if you want to avoid the rush. Service tends to suffer a bit when they're very busy but when they're not, they're pretty prompt.

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