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March 11, 2004

Roppongi: Best of both worlds

Players: Michal and Viren

This plot unfolds in San Diego and as such may not be exactly convenient to those NoVa/DC residents wanting to follow the trail.

Chapter I: The Search

Having finally gotten inured to our exiled state in the other side of the continent in what a normal human being could safely call "Paradise" (with a capital P), we decided to stir out of our immediate prison (in the form of a Quality suites Hotel) to venture forth and experience the culinary delights of San Diego.

As usual, this turns out to be a harder task than initially supposed. Some days, I feel life would be more akin to the apt nautical analogy of "smooth sailing" if I had no choices. At least then, I could just spend my days whining and muttering disconsolately about the fascist restrictions imposed on me, rather than spending my life burdened with the Herculean task of deciding amongst a plethora of options (xxxxxDo you know what a plethora is?). It wasn't as bad this time around. Michal was set on going someplace in La Jolla, and so my online searches (Zagats, DigitalCity and miscellaneous other sites) were limited, focused and short.

My culinary predilections are pretty straightforward and anyone who's known me for a while (say, an hour or so) can soothsay my opinions. Given any cuisine that has the words nouveau, fusion, or contemporary attached to it, I sorta kinda tend to jump in that direction. Mainly, I think, due to the aura of excitement and uncertainty I feel it would impart to my other drab, humdrum existence. In this case, being the predictable creature of habit that I am, I, given a choice between exemplary restaurants that served Hearty Italian, Traditional Seafood, Steak, and Asian-European fusion, dove in headlong flight towards the latter. That being an establishment that went by the rather quaint name of Roppongi (The corollary to Clarke's Law [1] is that any sufficiently incomprehensible foreign language phrase is indistinguishable from quaintness.)

Chapter II: The Area

So after work, we venture to La Jolla, the land of beautiful people, fast cars and of course, Starbucks. And while I'm stating the obvious and duh'worthy, let me add that it's also the land of milk and honey, air and salty water, sun and rain. Leaving aside such minor details, La Jolla looked pretty much like any other "sunset walks by the beach next to million dollar beach-houses filled with 6-figure objets d'art" area. It was a little deserted owing to recent rains, slight windy conditions and it being a weekday. Roppongi is located in downtown La Jolla on a street lined with stores whose names I couldn't pronounce even while sleep-talking, and restaurants without menu items were cousins to the store names.

Chapter III: The Experience

Roppongi starts off with a good impression and somehow manages to better it. The decor is muted and subtle without being bland. Even the blazing fires on the outside seemed to blend in. Everything was in tones of brown with varying themes, all influenced by the far east. You enter through the bar area, narrow and busy, into the main restaurant section, which is open but busy. The restaurant was well laid out and, even with it being fairly busy, the ambient noise was minimal [2]. The serving staff were courteous, knowledgeable and good-looking.

The menu at Roppongi is sharply divided down the middle. The left page of the menu is devoted to Asian tapas and sashimi/sushi, while the right side is divided into the more traditional western courses of starters, salads, entrees and side dishes. While the food obviously had a heavy Asian flair, the ingredients also had connections more western cuisines. In addition, Roppongi also has a good wine list.

It didn't take us long to decide on what we wanted to eat and the ordering went smoothly except for a slight tussle with our waiter concerning what kind of water we wanted (we ended up with a cool-looking cylinder of Voss water when all we wanted was tap water.) Michal and I shared a Ahi Sashimi appetizer, but thence our choices differed. He went crazy over the tapas ordering Indonesian tiger shrimp skewers with tomato horseradish and mango salsa (looked scrumptious), Woked black mussels with leeks, lemongrass, coconut milk and green curry, and Grilled portobello mushroom with spinach and miso dressing. All of which met his Atkins requirements. I, on the other hand, went with Organic greens with a sesame soy vinaigrette, Hibachi grilled seabass with roasted vegetables and papaya ponzu, and a side of Hibachi grilled asparagus with seven spice hollandaise sauce. The salad dressing was great, tho overall the salad wasn't anything to rave about. The seabass was great and the papaya ponzu gave it an unique flavor that initially felt strange but I quickly grew to like it. The asparagus was really good with the sauce complementing it perfectly.

Having not punished my stomach enough, I decided to order dessert. The dessert menu had some interesting offerings as well as a nice list of dessert drinks. Being an in-your-face chocoholic, I of course went for the Warm melting chocolate decadence with vanilla gelato. This required (as was stated in the menu) 20 minutes of preparation time. However, it was worth it in the end. While very good, the dessert wasn't quite in keeping with Roppongi's unique offerings.

Ratings

Service Polite and knowledgeable
Decor Subtle and non-intrusive
Food Good east-west fusion

Footnotes

  1. Clarke's First Law is "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  2. One of my pet peeves with restaurants is that the growing trend is to design them so as to exacerbate the ambient noise in the restaurant, presumably to make it seem busier than it is. While this also serves to mask sounds from crying children and particularly loud diners, the cure seems to be worse than the poison.