(Remember when the words were new)
They don’t even have a visible sign out front, and with all the colorful, mostly college-aged chaos happening at the southern end of the plaza around Hurry Curry, Little Hong Kong Café, and Blue Marlin, you’d never even realize it’s there on the opposite end, hidden behind two muslin flaps over the doorway.
(They carried a meaning, a feeling so true)
We call it The Place, because for the longest time, we honestly believed that it did not have a name. At five o’clock, she’d call and only have to say “Meet me at the place” or “We’re going to the place” and I’d just spin my car around and head toward Sawtelle. Only recently did I discover that it is officially called Place Yuu, but everyone else just calls in the Place, too.
(I'm looking for a long romance)
The thing about the Place is that you can’t use words there, unless you speak Japanese. Now, I’m not saying that the staff doesn’t speak English, because they do, but the place is fully meant to serve a Japanese crowd. When we walk in, there is the standard greeting of “ira-shi-masse” but it’s a little more refined, a little more hushed than say, the exuberant welcome at Gyu-kaku. The hostess does a quick silent count of how many are in our party then raises three, four, five fingers with an expression on her face looking for verification. We confirm raising three, four, five fingers. It is the silent, unspoken sign lanuguage of the Place.
(Not a picture of passion or one time chance)
Like the stalagmite/stalagtite tour guide through the Carlsbad Caverns, she uses her menus like a flashlight, to point to an open table. There is a sushi bar in the center of the restaurant with bar seating on both sides. When we walk past, there is a busy nod-bow from each of the chefs. The regular dining tables on the right side of the sushi bar are pushed up against bench seating along the wall. I’ve only sat on that side once, always opting to sit at a table to the left of the sushi bar, facing an enormous tv embedded in the back wall. I have never seen anything on that screen other than baseball. Even in the dead of winter.
(Don't fool your self)
The menus, including the sake list, are in both English and Japanese. I always order ume-shu/ rocks to start (plum wine on the rocks) and a carafe of sake, brand always left up to whomever is playing ;). There are photos to make drink selection easier, but to be quite honest, a bottle of sake pretty much looks like a bottle of sake. LOL! Then again, I have been known to ask the server for a sake that “I think it came in a pinkish bottle with a round label that had...” They always seem to know what I’m talking about.
(Your empty passion won't satisfy me)
Although a sushi bar is the centerpiece, the Place feels much less like fine Japanese dining and much more like a casual pub. It is basically the Japanese equivalent of Cheers, with food. Okay, except there are no Norm and Cliff, and I’m quite certain that they don’t know my name there. The point is, it is a Place to come after a long day to sit back and relax. There is no need to put thought into deep conversation, sometimes there is no conversation at all if the World Series is glowing in full color rear-projection on the wall. Start with ume-shu, shoot sake, chase it all with Asahi, and maintain a decent level of sobriety with braised eggplant, marinated cod, and broiled anchovies. It is the equivalent of Miller, buffalo wings, and nachos at Hooters. Did I just type Hooters? I meant SF Saloon ;)
(I know, so don't pretend that you want me )
There is a page on the menu that is scrawled entirely in Japanese calligraphy. In the past, I ignored it, but with each return visit to my Place, I have become totally curious. Why is it in Japanese without an English translation? Are they embarassed by what “ah-merry-kahn pee-poe” might find too gross? Is it something too special to share with non-Japanese readers? What are they hiding from me?!? I was sort of obsessed, so though I cannot speak the language, although I have no idea what the words are on the page, I always order something from the secret (to me) menu. I don’t ask. I just point randomly, and hope that I haven’t just ordered deep-fried lobster livers. LOL! Deep-fried is okay. Organs are not.
(You don't want me, no!)
It looked like some futuristic uber high-tech version of salmon sushi. Each piece was a perfect rectangular box of rice topped with a layer of thinly sliced salmon, and on top, what looked like a glossy, semi-translucent sheet of paper-thin glass. I suspect that there was a wooden mold and some very sharp knives involved, but
we’re at the Place, so I didn’t ask. I just ate. It didn’t actually taste like sushi, because the rice, I think, was plain. I still have no idea what the shiny sheet on top was, but it sort of dissolved in my mouth the way the rice paper wrapper on Botan rice candies dissolve (the little red and green box with the Japanese cat on it). Too bad I had no idea what I had pointed to, otherwise I could have seen if they made it with other fish. Like hamachi. Or lobster livers. LOL!
No more words
You're telling me you love me while you're looking away
No more words, no more words
And no more promises of love
2101 Sawtelle Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025