Tokio – Like Geisha House’s Grungy, Grubby Little Sister

tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - bathroom
I can’t say a whole lot about Tokio that hasn’t already been said before…about Geisha House. Tokio and Geisha House do not have the same biological parents, but they definitely belong to the same tribe: two different versions of flossy interpretations of the Tokyo scene. Geisha House is the high-tech, high-design uptown version with lofty architecture, flickering tv screens of Asian almostporn, suggestive large-scale photographic images of geishas, neon lighting and pyromania, and if I can remember back that far, I believe whatever music I could hear above the hollow, echoing din was some strangely melodic euroelectronica.

tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - ceiling
low ceilings even lower
tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - red lanterns
raise the red lantern(s)

Tokio, on the other hand, is the low-tech downtown backalley dive grunge version with low ceilings, dark corners, spray-painted anime on the bathroom walls with graffiti that you can’t quite figure out whether it’s real graffiti or part of the artwork, cheap paper lanterns, and the music is way, way, waywayway too loud ‘80s rock trainwrecked with hiphop blasted from a sub-par soundsystem in a tiny corner that is supposed to be a dancefloor.

Both places are rife with painfullyhip-sters.

But I’ll ignore them. I always do.

I went to to Tokio for the first time several years ago back when it was Tokio v.1.0 – strictly a restaurant, not a b/c/l (that’s “bar/club/lounge” for the uninitiated) that offered a menu of sushi-esque foods. The main attraction, however, was song. Most nights, a tiny cherry blossom of an Asian woman dressed like a 1960s stewardess, including tiny white leather gloves and white platform pumps, fluttered about the back “stage” area batting impossibly long fake eyelashes and belting out her version of everything from Nat King Cole to Bon Jovi. She was, without a doubt, a precious spectacle. The other nights, song came from the crowd in the form of karaoke. Thank God I never experienced that. I did, however, experience what could go down in the Delicious history as the slowest, rudest, tackiest, and overall worst service I have ever received in a restaurant. Ever. And I have had my fair share of fairly bad service.

Since Tokio v 1.0 is long since gone, there’s no need to go into how our server, a Derek-ette version of Zoolander both in terms of ridiculously good-lookingness and ignorance, mixed up not one, not two, but every single order, food and drinks, that came to the table, all of which arrived at least 25 minutes later than they should have, but not all together. In the end she had the audacity to approach me at the table, in front of my guests and ask me about the 15% tip I left. She was lucky she got anything at all.

I did say there was no need to go into it, right? Dammit, there’s that “always forgives, never forgets” thing again.

Tokio v.2.0 is the more recent b/c/l incarnation (that’s b/c/l for bar/club/lounge for the short people in the back who didn’t catch it the first time) that is the description in the second paragraph. I went to v.2.0 twice in the span of about two months, and that was about two times too many.

It’s pretty obvious that Tokio is not considered a real restaurant, though they do have a menu. The place was deserted during dining prime time, and by “deserted,” I don’t mean my hyperbolic description for “a couple of other parties.” By “deserted,” I mean the place was entirely devoid of customer life until we arrived. That is scary. It did, however, give us the opportunity to sit anywhere we wanted, which didn’t make it any less scary.

tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - lobster and mango roll
mango salsa like apricot jam
tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - spicy tuna on crispy rice
spicy tuna pseu-shi

While I am sure that the executive chef made thoughtful, well-intended effort into the offerings on the menu, sloppy execution by the cooks in the kitchen can only be reasonably explained as thoughtless. Any other reason, and the cooks just seem inept. Lobster and Mango is a trendy combination, and putting them together in an Asian-inspired roll seems appropriate. However, each piece was anchored in place with a dollop of “salsa” that was supposedly mango, but tasted like apricot marmalade. The complete misintrepetation of sushi as tiny seared bricks of rice topped with spicy tuna didn’t bother me as much as the careless presentation. I am not a stickler for presentation in general, but when a cuisine is highly based on aesthetics (not all Japanese cuisine, but “sushi”), I am more attuned to it.

tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca - restrooms
“graffiti museum” if you speak engrish
tokio, hollywood, los angeles, ca – women’s restroom
that’s “sailor moon” if you speak engrish

The deserted space during dining prime time belies Tokio’s inner gremlin, which comes screeching out after about 10 pm. It
‘s a typical scene, with people, dressed in all manner of trends from the tail end of last season, draped all over the low seating, the dividers and each other like an H&M merchandising display. Two young ladies in obscenely short minidresses perched back to back on a low table flirting with opposing alpha males made me think about the food we had eaten off the same surface on which there half-bare butts were slowly creeping forward in the ritual. It was another precious spectacle.

*shudder*

Two too many times to Tokio.

Tokio
1640 N Cahuenga Blvd (just south of Hollywood Blvd)
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.464.2065

www.tokiola.com

** a year ago today, some of us gave into the asian persuasion **

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  • hermz

    The airbrushed art in the men’s room was the best thing about that place. Too bad most of it is gone now.

  • Chubbypanda

    Guwaaah! Butts on eating surfaces bad!

    I don’t really understand the LA hipster scene. I suppose I’m too “square” or something. I dunno. It just amazes me how many trendy restaurants or “b/c/l” places in LA and OC squeak by with mediocre food. Too many people willing to pay for style instead of substance.

    – Chubbypanda

  • sarah

    hermz: is it gone now? the ladies’ room was covered, ceiling included.

    chubbypanda: well, i don’t usually expect all that much from a b/c/l-only place anyway. but if the place is supposed to be a restaurant, they can’t be letting butts, no matter how small and cute they are, gloss the tables.

  • Adam

    Ever try the Tuna Burger at Tokio? It’s not really a burger…it’s raw tuna chopped up between two “patties” of sushi rice, possibly some cucumber or avocado on it, then the entire “burger” is wrapped in an edible rice paper, and it’s served with a mini-bucket of sweet potato fries. Delicious.

  • Martin

    Good Job! :)

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