LA Local Gem: Gonpachi on La Cienega

One word. “Naga.”

Short for Katsuo Nagasawa, originally from the Fukushima region of Japan. “Naga” (as he’s better known) is applauded in restaurant circles for his 20+ years in Pacific Rim cuisine. Recently appointed new Executive Chef of the year-old Gonpachi, Beverly Hills on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row, he joins Masa Yamamoto, the Executive Sushi Chef (and six-year veteran of Gonpachi Tokyo), and Yasu Kusano, Executive Chef of Soba and Sumi-Yaki, where they can be found grilling robata, dicing sashimi, and pounding buckwheat noodles by hand nightly, a highlight Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbilia deemed “worth a trip just to see, and taste.”

Under different management when it first opened, the word has been slow to get out, but JAUNT says, ‘Great place, solid cuisine.’ Weekends draw more of a crowd, while during the week it’s a bit quiet, so spread the word… we don’t want to see it go away. Located across the street from Matsuhisa and down the way from Benihana has kept it under wraps, but the prices are a little less painful and the food on par with the likes of Koi and Kantana.

The atmosphere?
Well, it happens to be a world apart.

Imagine a two-story 11,000-square-foot Japanese spectacle steeped in Japanese carpentry, cherry blossoms, lighting fixtures imported from Japan, Zen gardens, and intricately-designed roof tiles. The dining area consists of a large sushi bar, open seating in the center, booths lining the perimeter, and private rooms where you can sit with a group on the floor, straight up Japanese style. We here at JAUNT love to sit on the floor and it’s tough to find that in this part of town.

Pst. the only other Gonpachi’s are in Japan.

Chef Naga’s inventive new menu consists of an array of traditional and fusion Japanese items like the always tasty Yellowtail Carpaccio with enoki mushroom in a warm ginger jalapeno dressing and traditional hot robata plates.

They also present several interesting sobas, both hot and cold, and add unique touches to dishes like their baked dynamite by resting it on eggplant and topping with corn and the occasional spicy crunch of red peppercorns, a welcome revision from the sometimes deliciously mundane. Try the Yuba Roll with accents of madras curry and wasabi aioli wrapped in soy paper or the Flaming Grady, a mix of spicy lobster, albacore and jalapeno. With the introduction of new flavors to the already popular, standard sushi dishes around Los Angeles, Naga’s competing with the best.

“A restaurant of Gonpachi’s magnitude needs standout cuisine to rival its visual excellence,” reveals Naga amid his lavish new surroundings. “My goal is to help make an already-impressive experience…unforgettable.”

Gonpachi is open for dinner, sushi and cocktails seven nights a week, so let’s keep it in business. We could use somewhere good, cozy, close, and NEW to go.

134 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA
(310) 659-8887

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