And with only one or two exceptions, no place has revolved the way the space has that is currently occupied by Musha Pasadena. (This was another one of those restaurant names where I am deferring to the California ABC: I have seen the name referred to as Musha, Musha Izakaya, and Musha Tokyo Cuisine, but the license query reveals their DBA as "Musha Pasadena," so that's what I'm using.)
A decade ago this was The Rack Shack, a pretty average barbecue joint, but one where my friends and I could split two sandwiches, an order or spicy fries and a pitcher of beer for twenty bucks. Then it became Ari-Ya, the place where I first started to love sushi and had some of the most fun meals of my life, whether it was a birthday dinner one year or party for my friend the day she found out she passed the bar exam. Even friends of mine who dislike sushi would go to Ari-Ya and find things on the menu to eat. But the place went downhill after about a year, and when the end finally came it surprised no one.
Two of the five funniest things I have ever heard a server say to me occurred within the last two months of Ari-Ya: 1) After complaining about a dish I had received that was prepared in a completely different manner than the menu promised, the waitress explained "Oh, we have a new chef - we try to tell him to follow the menu, but he just makes things however he feels like." A week later was 2) After inquiring about a dish that I had ordered an hour earlier, the waitress said with a straight face "Oh, that was yours? We couldn't remember who ordered it so I threw it in the trash."
(My brother and I then asked for the check, which she presented to us, including the item that she had thrown in the trash and another item we had ordered that she had neglected to mention they were out of. We started to object but that got nowhere - she really believed she had no choice but to charge us for items we had not received - so we paid the full amount sans tip, then went next door for fish & chips at Lucky Baldwin's. But not before taking every bottle of soy sauce off the tables on Ari-Ya's back patio and adding them to the tables at the pub. "When the fuck did we start putting soy sauce on the tables here?" a confused Lucky's waiter asked.)
After Ari-Ya, they spent more than half a year "remodeling" the place, only to open Tani and have it look substantially the same. There were whispers along the alley that the extended remodeling job was a front for something else, but those may have just been the exaggerations of barflies with too much time on their hands. At any rate, I loved Tani, as did Elizabeth. (Even my parents liked the place, my dad being the person who just the other day claimed Zankou Chicken was "too exotic" for him.)
Tani closed and Blue Fish opened, and it was fine, but not nearly as good as Tani, and the quality of the food varied tremendously depending on who was making the sushi that day. I drove Murph to the airport one day and he repaid me a couple of weeks later with a long lunch at Blue Fish on a Friday afternoon, where we consumed large bottles of beer and plenty of food, but that may have been the only enjoyable meal I had there.
When I returned to Pasadena this month I noticed it was Musha, with a sign advertising "No Sushi!" and promising "Tokyo City Cuisine." I'd love to BS you and pretend to be hip enough to know what that meant, but I did not. Apparently it's synonymous with izakaya, which I usually enjoy. (The lettering in the window reading "Japanese Tapas" gave me some clue... I was hoping it would resemble that bar Anthony Bourdain visited in an episode of No Reservations where a whole bunch of crazy drunken Japanese guys watched baseball.)
The other night I was out having a few beers with Bryce when our talk turned to dinner. I asked if he'd tried Musha yet and he said no, so our plan was made.