Round Two of the Dine Out LA event.
MLS and I decided to check out Tengu, a trendy Asian fusion restaurant with "an air of mischief" in Westwood by UCLA. We were sold on the sashimi appetizers, chilean sea bass entree, and dessert choices listed on the $35 prix fixe menu. So I made a reservation for two using the online OpenTable.com system, and we were on our way when the clock struck five and work was out. LA traffic wasn't so bad going on the 10 West to Westwood that day, and we were there in about 15 minutes. Too bad it took us another 15 to circle around to try to find street parking...and we still ended up valeting it for three bucks and some change...(give or take a buck with tip).
The restaurant was located in a little complex but stood apart with its Asian influenced decor of bamboo, bronze colored Buddhist sculptures, and shoji screens. As we walked into the restaurant, we were quickly seated and I noticed a crowd of "young business professionals" around the bar area and a few mixed parties throughout the dining room area. Seemed like a very hip place to be to sip a martini with a side of sushi rolls. Very trendy, indeed. MLS and I followed suit with two cocktail drinks - after a long day, I had the Sanguria on the left [red wine, plum wine, sake, fruit] while she had the Zen on the right [plum sake, vodka, cranberry, orange].
As I sipped the strong beverage, I scanned the room as I always do when I go to an Asian style restaurant - looking for signs of people from Asian descent. I figure, if the food is authentic or somewhat impressive, I'll find other Asian folks who look like me (although I'd be one of the first to argue that not all Asians look alike. Look right, look left. The wait staff is not Asian. The busboys are not Asian. The people at the different tables and sushi bars were not Asian. A-ha! The sushi chefs behind the bar - they were undoubtably of Asian descent. OK, so now I'm a bit skeptical of this foo-foo trendy restaurant. After all, it's very "in" to eat sushi and drink sake, right? But how good is it here?
We started with the Asian Tartare - diced tuna sashimi with an avocado sauce and soy-lime dressing on top of a crispy fried wonton skin. Four little pieces came out on the dish, and we shared it. Each of us getting two small bites worth. Apparently, if you order this yummy dish off the regular menu, you'd get a decent portion. But we opted for the Pellegrino dinner and got teased with this savory mouthful.
In addition to the tuna tartare, we also ordered the Tuna Carpaccio with scallions in a wasabi cream sauce. The razor thin slices of sashimi were artfully placed on the black platter, but lacked in overall flavor when compared to the first tuna dish.
Two appetizers that left me wanting more. I was looking forward to the main entree all night.
Chilean Sea Bass - one of my favorite white fish.
The Miromi-miso Chilean Sea Bass was cooked to perfection, roasted with grilled baby bok choy in a basil ponzu sauce. After eyeing my entree and sizing it up, I quickly asked for a bowl of white gohan (sticky rice) to eat with the fish. Thank goodness I did too because:
1) the portions were quite slim,
2) I love eating fish with rice and
3) the ponzu sauce was a bit too saucy for me.
We ended the meal with the Creme Brulee Coconut Custard with a crusted sugar top and a couple of Mochi Ice Creams – Mango and Lychee. All of which satisfied the sweet tooth, but nothing spectacular or unique.
In all, I enjoyed the tuna tartare with a light wonton crunch as well as the chilean sea bass, and will try my hand at making these dishes myself! I'd also probably ask for the regular menu choices for larger portions if I happen to be back at this restaurant, and may check out their happy "mischief" hours for a better deal on drinks and good eats.
Street: 10853 Lindbrook Avenue in Westwood