Second Chance for a First Impression – Orris

orris restaurant, sawtelle blvd

Orris Restaurant
2006 Sawtelle Boulevard (@ La Grange)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.268.2212
www.orrisrestaurant.com

There’s so much to be said about a first impression, what you can guess in the blink of an eye. From a distance you see…What he’s wearing? Flash-ion forward. Hollywood hipster. Perfectly preppie. What he’s drinking? Gentleman’s gin and tonic. Billionaire boys’ club bourbon/rocks. Death-grip double-fisting MGD. To whom is he talking? Big hair bimbo, eyes locked on big chest. Laughing with the boyz.

Your eyes meet, you turn your head away, but only ever so slightly so he can catch that shy, mysterious smile. Then he’s made his way over to you and you exchange words. There’s an air of confidence, but not cocky. He makes you laugh because he’s funny. Not only is he witty-funny, but he’s witty-smart because he’s educated. First impression: a good one, so you exchange numbers.

But what if he snorts when he laughs at his own un-funny inappropriate jokes? And little droplets of his drink end up in a light spray on your face when he talks only about himself? And you can tell, he’s arrogant, but only because he’s covering up very low self-esteem. First impression: very very bad, and you give him your email address, but misspell it, on purpose. (I swear, I have never done that. Recently. LOL! )

So it goes with the guys at the club. Or bar. A raging party. A wedding reception. A good first impression and you make plans for step two. A bad first impression and it’s D. U. N. Done. There’s no such thing as second chances out in that world.

My first impression of Orris was miserable. The restaurant was too cold, too crowded and too cramped. Normally, these kinds of inconveniences can slip into the background if the food is outstanding, but the food was mediocre at best. The one thing that actually did stand out was the grilled romaine that was recommended by the couple at the next table over, “next” being quite an overstatement since our tables were so close together I could have played footsie with both of them, and I’m under 5’5”. I was afraid the grilled romaine, though, was only “good” by comparison to everything else that was so *ew*.

And absolutely horrible service made Orris’s food taste even worse. Our server was impatient, misinformed, and worst of all, condescending. She had trouble telling us about a few of the specials, and didn’t know the answers to any of the questions I asked about the menu. One of the small plates she brought out was the wrong order, and when I mentioned it to her, she made it sound like it was my fault, and finally in an extremely exasperated tone, “do you want me to take it back?” Good gracious, I certainly didn’t want to trouble her *roll eyes* so I said it was okay, never mind. An incorrect order that actually tasted good would have made up for it, but it was so bad that I left almost all of it untouched after only two bites. Very very very bad first impression. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

But Orris is a restaurant, not a guy, so even though my gut reaction was to spin on my heel and sashay off swearing “I’m never going back there again!” I knew I’d have to give it another chance. Clean slate.

Orris is chef/owner Hideo Yamashiro’s second restaurant – Asian-inspired small plates. Chef Yamashiro’s first restaurant in Pasadena is called Shiro, so it makes sense that this smaller, second restaurant is called Orris, essentially chef-owner Shiro’s name backward. Yes, technically, it would be “Orihs,” but then no one would know how to pronounce it, though I don’t think anyone actually knows on which syl-LA-ble to put the em-PHA-sis on Orris, either. Does Orris rhyme with Morris, or Maurice? LOL!

The restaurant is located in a space on Sawtelle that has gone through a few iterations of identity changes, but always maintaining the same architecture inside. The narrow room has a long, low bar that seat people in front of an open semi-kitchen, that was, at one point the holding pen for a stock of sushi chefs, and perhaps before that, short order pancake flippers. Most of the tables were already taken by fairly refined, conservative looking middle-aged couples. Good thing I had come straight from work, still dressed in my semi-business cazh, though had I shown up in tattered jeans and a saucy tank top, I would have been okay. We took up two seats smack in the middle of the bar.

Our server is a clean-cut, more innocent-looking version of Russell Wong. *cute* New first impression so far – not bad ;) He offered us water, highlighted a few things on the menu, and mentioned specials. I looked over my shoulder, and the server-ess from my first experience was nowhere to be seen. *phew* We each asked for a glass of wine to start. Nothing worth remembering – just wine to drink while examining the menu. One side of hot and cold small plates, and a list of seasonal specials on the other side.

Dungeness crab salad was first, which was a bit of an awkward start. It looked somewhat disheveled, almost messy, and the dressing was just a tiny bit too sweet to start a meal. Not poorly done, just not quite my taste.

The ravioli filled with shrimp mousse and mushrooms was not something I would have ordered on my own accord, because “mousse” never sounds appetizing to me. I rarely, if ever, choose a mousse for dessert, and a mousse made with seafood? Never! However, the ravioli were surprisingly good. Just a few somewhat chubby yet wrinkled pillows with a filling that had a texture less like a mousse and more like…just finely chopped shrimp. A light colored creamy sauce with sliced shiitake mushrooms was flavorful, and maybe too aggressively salted for some with high blood pressure, but perfect for this saltaholic. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to eat an entire bowl of the ravioli, but that’s why the small plate was perfect.

I also would not have ordered scallops on my own. I don’t love scallops; I don’t know why, but can anyone really have a logical explanation for strange aversions? It was a long rectangular dish with five fat scallops (was it six?) perfectly positioned with the exact maximum spacing from each other and the edge of the plate like five people waiting in an apartment elevator. They’re pristine white on the perimeter, perfectly seared to toasty brown on their flat tops, so they give an ever so slight *crisp* when bitten through.

The grilled romaine was the have-to-order item, since I wanted to make sure that the first time, I wasn’t just relatively crediting it because my sta
ndards had been lowered by everything else we had ordered. This time, it was in a more absolute, objective setting. Romaine hearts had been quartered on the longitude, rubbed down with oil, and grilled to tender at the tips, charred in all the right places, expectedly bitter, but barely, at the core, and delicious with the shaved cheese. Grilled romaine was good the first time, great the second time.

Orris was much better on its second chance. Most of the food was good, the romaine was outstanding, and the service was simply in the background – neither overly obtrusive nor noticeably bad. Perhaps the first time they were still working out the kinks or maybe it was just an off-night, because sometimes you just can’t help it if you have a bad hair day. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way for it, but that’s why I probably won’t make it out to Shiro is in Pasadena; and Orris is here in West L.A. I may not give Orris my cell phone number, but sure, here’s my email address. ;)

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  • Rachael

    Sarah, you charmer you.
    Did you see this?

    Tee hee.

    http://vitalinformation.blogspot.com/

    (Find the entry about Harry)

  • sarah

    who are harry and ginny? do i need to crawl from beneath this saucepot i’ve been living under for the last five years and watch more tv, movies, or read more? LOL! ;)

  • LACheesemonger

    To avoid spam e-mails, and easily blowoff guys; use one of the free disposable e-mail services like spam gourmet

    Now if I could just get of my lazy arse, and use the service myself… register here so I could at least insert some hot links.

    DS said: “i need to crawl from beneath this saucepot i’ve been living under for the last five years and watch more tv, movies, or read more? LOL! ;) ”

    LACheesemongers says: Lol, hehe; DS’s most deliciously ‘ripe-for-picking’ entry yet. If I had(or was determined enough) the time, I could supply a dozen or so subtopic comments on this one alone! Where to start, with the on topic Orris items, or with comments on the OT ‘regular’ DS subjects of interest… guys or !guys. But then given that DS apparently, seemingly; spends 1/2 her ‘workday’ (j/k) on her blog, perhaps I shouldn’t get her going with so many comments that she might be induced to reply to :devil: .

    Where to find DS that unrealistically perfect husband? The independently wealthy guy (there are some, so I’ve read about) with the wife in hand, that hit the restaurants high and low, almost everyday of the week?

    Where to find DS’s “Harry foil, to her Sally” personality? Orders salads like Meg Ryan’s Sally, anal-retentive, manic-depressive, peripatetic foodie/restaurant/chef groupie. Talks and talks, in bed too; high-energy… the worst kind, she thinks she’s low maintenance, when in reality she’s high-maintenance ;). Yet she thinks she’ brainy, sort of like Annabella Sciorra’s character in the romantic comedy movie “The Night We Never Met”, thinks she’s got the Jones for the mysterious gourmet cook, part-time roommate. Gets mixed up with who’s who, and then is disappointed and hour after having had sex the 1st night they meet; with an obvious lout! Blinded by love(infatuation), it never dawns on her that there are too many, this can’t be the right person signals? Forget about 1st, 2nd, or 3rd impressions.

    Ah well, at least none of us have had to deal with the macro-biotic, vegan date-from-hell that Matthew Broderick’s Dean & Deluca character got stuck with… at least none would admit to such misery ;).

    The Night We Never Met

    Sometimes when I read these entries, I’m reminded of the ultra silly, but addictive to watch, Japanese food-game show TV program on LA 18. Leave it to the Japanese to have a show that is at least 10 times as silly about food as the Delicious Life! Record it, and watch during the week when you are seriously bored.

    UTB Saturday Night
    Saturday: 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM

    1)DOTCHI NO RYORI SHOW (COOKING SHOWDOWN)
    Saturday 8:00pm – 9:00pm
    Changing all the cooking rules ~ They are not kidding we say you’ll never look at another cooking show the same way again. It changes all the rules. Welcome to a survivalist cooking game show where only the winners get to eat. Supplemented by on-site preparation with professional chefs, 2 hosts pitch rival menus to a panel of celebrity guests. The side that wins over the most panelists eats!

    =====

    Now where to put my comments/zingers about Korean nighttime soap operas on LA 18, with respect to the hot and humid conditions of my 4 farmers mkt travails weekend 2wks ago, and tie it into this entry… or better the ‘4 Jenns’ entry, lol. Decisions, decisions. Speaking of Russell Wong (hapa, 1/2 Chinese, 1/2 Caucasian…born NY, with a brother that lives in HK as a model). Maybe DS, could help this nice American guy out (a little young, but he’s older than Ashton ;) ).

    Actor Daniel Henney

    [“A Korean phrase meaning, “Don’t take me for granted” which Henney’s character somewhat inarticulately yelled after learning it from Chung Ryeo-won’s character, has become something of a fad.”]

    LOL, I think this phrase (anyone know how to spell it in Korean-English?) must also apply to DS’s unlucky, unsatisfying dates ;)

  • Anonymous

    Your opening sentence made me think of the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Have you read it? It’s a fascinating book about how we form first impressions.

  • sarah

    i linked to the book in the first paragraph ;)

    but no, i have not yet read it. i read tipping point last year, and just haven’t gotten around to blink yet. i’ve still got tony bourdain among others in the queue ;)

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