Sunday, I had nothing on my schedule until the Angels-Yankees game at 5. Elizabeth said she needed to buy some new socks, so, it being a gorgeous 85 degree day, I suggested we go for a drive, eventually ending up at the Target in Burbank. We took surface streets the whole way, listening to Lucinda Williams and the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack.
We decided to walk around Burbank Village a bit and eat somewhere. I saw that Buffalo Wild Wings is open; I haven't eaten at one in years and some spicy garlic boneless wings sounded really good to me. Of course, the fact that it was an October Sunday slipped my mind until we walked inside: the place was packed with people in football jerseys, watching NFL games that blasted on all the TVs, drinking beer and cheering loudly. I have no problem with any of this. I love football and God knows I have spent countless Sundays over the last decade in places similar to this. But I was enjoying the relaxing vibe of our day and I had a bit of a cold; the idea of eating here was no longer appealing.
We walked down the street a little bit and came across a Fuddruckers. I hadn't thought about that place in years. When I was a kid there was one a few blocks from my parents house and - although I didn't love it - I certainly ate there quite a few times. It closed about 5 years ago and was torn down. I guess I assumed they'd all closed in the area, but here was one open and, judging from the people walking in, doing well.
"I wouldn't mind one last meal at Fuddruckers," I said.
"Sure," Elizabeth said.
We walked in. It was packed. There were maybe 35 people in line waiting to place their order and one flustered girl taking the orders. We stood in line for a few minutes, didn't move at all, and I suggested we go somewhere else.
Just down the street we came to Kabuki. Elizabeth said sushi sounded good to her and I agreed. I don't remember the last time I ate at Kabuki. There was also one of those close to my parents' when I was young and my brother loved it, but back then I was a completely picky eater and the only thing I would eat at a Japanese place was chicken teriyaki. There has been a Kabuki in Old Town Pasadena for years but I have never eaten there.
We walked in and the place was nowhere near as busy as the previous two. Still, the hostess, who did not greet us nor even smile at us, said it would be "two minutes." We sat down and waited about ten minutes before she showed us to our table. Our waitress, however, was the opposite of the hostess: she was very friendly, helpful, and just in general did not seem like a miserable human being.
We ordered four things: gyoza dumplings and spicy tuna on crispy rice as an appetizer, and a cucumber roll and an "Aladdin Roll" as the entrees. Elizabeth snacked on edmame while we waited for the first dish to arrive. Despite my love for almost all Asian cuisines, I don't like edamame one bit. It tastes like cardboard to me. I ate a couple pieces of ginger. It was fantastic: fresh and spicy. Sometimes you can tell that the ginger they give you has been sitting in the fridge for a while. This was fresh.
First up were the appetizers, obviously. The gyoza are the same fried gyoza you get at 99% of Asian restaurants from the beach to the desert: quite good as long as they are cooked well. The only real difference is the sauce you are served. Sometimes it's just soy sauce, sometimes it's a little bit more. This was the latter, a sweet and spicy sauce that, after the gyoza was done, I ate with the greens and shredded carrots that had been perched atop the gyoza.
The spicy tuna on crispy rice was one of the best appetizers I have ever had at an Asian restaurant. I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night remembering the puteri rolls at Kuala Lumpur in Old Town (actually, that's a lie, but they were damn good) but these were better. The spicy tuna was about as spicy as I have ever had - even without the jalapeno or hot sauce on top - and the crispy rice was the perfect platform for it.
We got our entrees after a brief wait. The cucumber roll was good but no different than most I have had. The only way this can be screwed up is with stale rice or cucumber (I have had both) and this was neither. The Aladdin Roll consisted of "spicy albacore and lightly battered shrimp tempura." It was good - just not as good as I was hoping for. There wasn't much tempura, and the albacore didn't really seem spicy compared to the spicy tuna I had just eaten.
On the way out I looked at the hostess. She did not say anything and looked down at the cell phone in her hand. I was not surprised.
I will certainly go to Kabuki again, especially for happy hour, but I will try different entrees. I'm sure everyone has had a meal where the appetizers were spectacular and then when the food came it was just... average. It doesn't spoil the meal but it makes you wish you had only ordered lots of appetizers. (Now that I think about it, this describes every meal I have ever had at McCormick & Schmick's, Bar Celona, Cameron's Seafood, and a handful of other places around town.)