Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mia Sushi in Eagle Rock

I think it's fair to say that Eagle Rock is on the Eastside of L.A., insofar as it's on the east side of the L.A. River. I agree that it's probably inaccurate to refer to Los Feliz or Echo Park as Eastside.

But that's neither here nor there. Whatever Eagle Rock is, it's definitely not Westside. What is Westside? It's an Audi convertible, a $125 haircut, a perfect tan, a small dog, an $80 t-shirt, a fixed nose, a botulized forehead, a waxed back, and non-ironic sunglasses.

Someone at Mia Sushi (Eagle Rock Blvd. & Las Colinas) must have misheard the numbers on the zip code when they were shopping for their location over the phone, because Mia Sushi is a 90049 or 90401 place plopped down in our very un-Westside 90041.

It’s telling that Mia Sushi is one of the few places in Eagle Rock that offers valet service. The presence of the valet booth in front of the restaurant is a bit ludicrous, given the restaurant’s location on a ramshackle, utterly inglorious stretch of Eagle Rock Boulevard, stuffed between apartment buildings, near the bowling alley and Señor Fish. It’s as if the owners ripped off the standard template for a swanky Westside place (dim lighting, water feature, anonymous Eurotrash music, pebbles in the bathroom sink, valet parking, etc.) and just slavishly followed that template on a grungy block on Eagle Rock Boulevard. (I will note that the décor is dumb (and borderline offensive), with the Buddha heads throughout the restaurant inscribed with the Katakana (the Japanese syllabary used for loanwords) characters for “Mia” on their foreheads – but I’m probably overreacting to that.)

Perhaps Mia Sushi is a self-conscious and farsighted anachronism, a visitor from what its owners see as Eagle Rock’s possible future: where smartly dressed valet attendants are instructed to keep the BMWs, Porsches, and Lexus convertibles prominently parked right in front of Casa Bianca, where the Ultimate Fighting Club has been replaced by an Equinox, a plastic surgery center, or a colonics clinic, and where all of the car repair shops have been taken over by Persian rug shops, antiques dealers, and a Design Within Reach. (Indeed, Mia Sushi’s site announces that it “is the new restaurant reinventing the Eagle Rock community with stunning art décor, an intimate patio setting, and serving [sic] the freshest ocean fare.” Or perhaps it’s just one of those things that’s not like the other, the way The Bucket would stick out in Beverly Hills. (Perhaps, if The Bucket did move to Beverly Hills, some Bizarro Grigori Octopus would be writing a review bemoaning how bizarre it was that a place like The Bucket would open shop in the 90210 – although, these kinds of things don’t work on a perfect parallel. The Bucket might in fact work in Beverly Hills: it would just be six times more expensive (“authenticity” and “back to basics” don’t come cheap) and a lot cleaner looking.)

The food at Mia Sushi is fine, not great. I’m not a huge fan of sushi to begin with, but even an amateur like myself can tell that it’s basically sushi-by-the-numbers here, with a set of “creative” special rolls, which mostly involve filling things with cream cheese, flavored mayonnaise (“special sauce”), or fried bits and naming the rolls after things around the neighborhood (e.g., “Colorado Roll,” “Occidental Roll,” “Highland Park Roll,” etc.). They also have a set of “Special Salads,” which are basically your standard Asian-fusiony salads with pieces of chicken, fried noodles, and red cabbage mixed together under an “Asian” dressing. The service is usually fine, if a little more self-consciously fancy (and coolly distant) than at other Eagle Rock establishments. The prices are a bit more Westside than at other Eagle Rock places as well. It is sushi, after all, I guess – though Nobu, it isn’t.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I think it’s probably a good thing to have a place like Mia Sushi in the neighborhood. It’s surprising to come across, not what you’d expect to find – like Seafood City in the mall. I highly doubt that Eagle Rock Boulevard will ever become the Westside-style stretch of high-end furniture and clothing boutiques and pricey restaurants that Mia Sushi apparently foresees in its on-going project to “reinvent” Eagle Rock (and I sincerely hope this never happens), but, still, Mia Sushi’s somewhat absurd ambitions and pretensions are kind of cute, if silly.

Not open for lunch.


chanchow said...

It depends on whether you mean the east side of LA the city (which Echo Park and Los Feliz definitely are part of) or of LA County.

zeuqram said...

your last two have been the best. i hate mediocre sushi. (not as much as i hate mediocre tacos, though.)

the closing line was the best.

you're running out of places. Owl Talk? lol.

Darren Schmidt said...

good god, man. Maybe the "westside" net of aspersions is cast too wide? I live here and drive a 1990 Honda Accord and haven't had botox in at LEAST 3 months. I think you're talking about Brentwood/Beverly Hills. 'Westside' is a very big place -- there are rich and non-rich here, as well as plenty of restaurants not pretty enough to have a valet.

David said...

I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you contending that ironic sunglasses are somehow superior to non-ironic shades?

Octopus Grigori said...

Darren: Point taken. I'm drawing cartoons with a very dull crayon.

David: The list in which "non-ironic sunglasses" appears does read like a litany of bad things, and that's just my standard bad and careless writing. There's nothing wrong with "non-ironic sunglasses" -- my own presciption sunglasses from LensCrafters are pretty non-ironic.

I do think it is true that you're more likely to see purposefully goofy plastic sunglasses on some scruffy guy in Echo Park than on the guy in the convertible in Brentwood. Anyway, over-generalizing again.

David said...

Understood. Ron, you live in pretty much the ironic sunglasses capital of the universe. You should just be glad there is anywhere you can go to avoid them.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Mia's owner lives in the neighborhood (almost certainly longer than you have) so I doubt he failed in his "phone research". His name is Marty, he's a likable neighborhood playa, he also runs the eponymous bar on York, and a few minutes' chat with him will confirm the origin of the trying-too-hard decor.

And of course the valet is there to get around parking regulations, not out of Westside envy. I'm sure it operates at a loss.

I think you should give credit where credit is due for opening a totally reasonable restaurant (which is clearly *not* trying to be authentically Japanese) in a difficult space. Talk to (for instance) Mike at Blue Dot, or the guy at CaCao Deli, for some perspective.

And another editorial comment -- you have an eye, but I think holding back on the sweeping judgements would yield stronger posts. At least until you know enough to back them up. This lack of depth, and indeed authorial viewpoint, shows in the Swork post as well, where you set up some fantasy of what the place stands for, then knock it down contemptuously, and finally say "don't get me wrong, I love it"...?

Anonymous said...

So much consternation...A funny post that hits the Marty's empire on the head. Marty's the Bar is working on a similar motif and while I won't hate a guy for investing in a neighborhood, it also doesn't mean he should be immune from criticism. That and the guy has been a dick to two separate people I'm close to (a friend who had issues with their valet and my can fill in the blanks there.) Blogs should have a strong editorial voice and if you want to have fun with westside/eastside stereotypes, do it. In short, I enjoyed the review.