Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recession-Proof Dining Deals: 50% Mondays at Geisha House

A long, long time ago in a land far far away, I used to love Geisha House's original LA outpost. It was that perfect combination of glamorous scene, beautiful people and tasty girl's-night-out libations and small plates. In short, it's where the single, young, LA-gal-I-used-to-be went for a big night of boozing and cruising with her gal pals.

Fast forward to today, and Atlanta's Geisha House hasn't hit the top of my go-to list until this week. Why did it take so long? It likely has something to do with my chain restaurant aversion. That and my conviction that what is at first a hip and exclusive scene, always manages to become a lame bridge and tunnel kind of place. Don't get me wrong, people who live in the suburbs are delightful. I myself grew up in Marietta. That said, sceney places by definition should be about cutting edge, city-living, beautiful people and the food often plays second-fiddle. In that case, why would I want to go to a sceney place without the scene?

50% of Mondays is why - Geisha House offers half off all food purchases on Mondays, which was enough to make me cast my snobbery aside and finally give Atlanta's version a try. The decor is similar to what I remember from LA. Dark lighting, big Asian art, sexy red banquettes. Granted it was a Monday, but there was certainly none of the "hot spot" atmosphere I recalled from my LA glory days. The restaurant was instead filled with couples, business associates and girlfriends, just your normal, everyday Atlanta dining crowd. To be fair, though, it was actually better than I expected. It wasn't nearly as lame as NY's Meatpacking mega-restaurants can be.

We probably should have taken the opportunity to actually eat an inexpensive meal, but gluttons that we are, we of course had to eat everything in sight - it was all half off, so why not, right? We started with Maguro Spicy Taru-Taru Crispy Rice, Kobe Iron Rolls (with Spicy Crab, Tempura Flake, Nori, Kobe Steak, Tobiko, Cucumber), and Baby Bay Scallops with a creamy spicy sauce.

I recall the spicy taru taru crispy rice as being a knock off of Katsu-ya's spicy tuna with crispy rice (which may be one of the most delicious things on earth), but this version was an odd combination of bland and overly crispy rice, a jalapeno, and fish with little discernible flavor. Fortunately the other dishes were hits - good enough that the boyfriend proclaimed that Monday nights at Geisha should be our new sushi spot. Great idea if we can ignore the fact that Monday is the least fresh sushi you're ever going to find. Details, details...

Next up was Sauteed Calamari, something the boyfriend can't resist ordering whenever he sees it on a menu. It came sizzling in a hot cast iron pan with shrimp. Fun presentation and no shortage of tasty little squid bites, and the unbilled shrimp was a nice surprise.

We also tried the Chilean Sea Bass with miso marinade, another knock off dish, this time of Nobu's famous and now ubiquitous miso black cod. It comes as just a piece of fish on a plate with no sides, so if you're paying the full $21 on another night, it's a pricey option. Sure it was tasty, but honestly my version is better. The Nobu version (and mine!) is marinated for 3 days, giving it a deeply sweet flavor. Geish'a version was a bit flatter, suggesting to me that perhaps they skimp on the marinating time.

Normally I wouldn't opt for dessert at a restaurant like this, but once again the bargain pricing sucked us in (very clever Geisha House!), and we tried a banana crepe fritter. I love banana desserts, so I did enjoy this, but in hindsight it was a bit more mindless eating than true enjoyment. Although still tasty, the fried outside overpowered the more subtle banana flavor.

Alas, not even the shikomi cocktail, a mix of sake, lemon, midori and cucumber, was quite as wonderful as I remembered it. Good, yes, but the midori was sweet enough that I couldn't have drank a second. I seem to remember drinking those all night long way back when, but then again I was five years younger, so maybe I'm just a lightweight nowadays!

Now that I think back dish by dish, the overall meal was fairly mediocre. That said, at such a discount, you can afford to experiment and try dishes that don't blow you away. I certainly think the sushi menu is worth going back for, but next time I'd skip the entree dishes in favor of small plates.

Time has a way of making things seem better than they were, and I did spend the last couple years eating in culinary utopia (read: NYC), so maybe my palette has just changed. Either way, I wouldn't recommend heading to Geisha House unless you're getting a good deal! Speaking of good deals, Wednesday night is half off of bottles of wine or sake, which are not included in Monday's deal. Dolce, owned by the same people (Ashton Kutcher, et al) offers the same deals.

Pros: Fun sushi options, stylish decor, ridiculous 50% off Mondays deal
Cons: Food on average is pretty mediocre, the crowd isn't as cool as the decor, prices every other day of the week are sky high considering the quality.

Geisha House
Atlantic Station
1380 Atlantic Dr NW
Atlanta, GA 30363

Geisha House on Urbanspoon



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