by Jeff Hoyt
In Los Angeles, restaurants come and go. In fact, we have a list of more than 1,100 of them that we have reviewed that are no longer open for business. Restaurants that hope to capitalize on the feeding of celebrities seem to fail at a greater rate. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including:
• higher costs for design and decor, as celebs can’t be seen just anywhere;
• higher operating expenses, as extra staff are required to deal with publicists, paparazzi and the like;
• fickle trendsetters moving on to the latest and the greatest, as they abandon yesterday’s place for the next restaurant opening;
• freeloading stars who expect meals for their posses and themselves comped believing proprietors should be thrilled that they even showed up;
• the simple fact that celebs don’t eat that much or they’ll wind up starring in a Weight Watchers commercial instead of a TV series.
Consult our list of the Top 10 Star Spotting Restaurants in LA and you’ll see quality restaurants where you’ll find a good meal even if you don’t spot an Academy Award winner. On that list is Koi, which we have been enjoying for more than a decade.
Koi appears to have found a winning formula for good food as well as celeb-friendly dining. We went when it first appeared in West Hollywood in 2002 under chef Rodelio Aglibot who went on to open Yi Cuisine (which also holds a spot on our Closed L.A. Restaurant list). The Filipino-American chef’s frozen banana dessert is no longer on the menu, but there’s plenty old and new to keep both television actors and television watchers coming back.
On Grammy weekend, we spotted Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Reba McIntyre dining together, as well as fitness guru Richard Simmons at another table. But what really captured our attention was the food: top-quality sushi and other bold Asian cuisine served in an intriguing, sexy space. Chef Robb Lucas is planning to offer different kinds of the signature crispy rice, including crunchy yellow tail, a satisfying creamy truffle avocado, and a surprisingly good miso eggplant version. Alongside the ever popular miso braised black cod, he’s come up with a harmonious branzino in truffle cream habanero served over mashed potatoes. And there are plenty of meat dishes for carnivores, such as the elegant lamb chops, sexy signature drinks and, of course, sushi.
Not only has Koi thrived in the fickle L.A. market for over a decade, it has spawned sister restaurants in Las Vegas and New York which now sports two hotel locations: one in The Bryant Park Hotel and one just a few months old in Trump SoHo New York. There’s even a branch in Bangkok!
Staying trendy for more than ten years is a feat. Doing it in the restaurant business while expanding around the world in the process deserves even more acclaim.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.