my dining experience at this new, hip, "vietnamese" restaurant in silverlake only confirmed what i've long suspected about the formula for success for new restaurants:

1) pick a key location in a hip neighborhood with a lot of white professionals.
2) choose a little known "foreign" cuisine (the more exotic, the better -- i.e. no chinese, mexican, italian).
3) decorate your restaurant in chic minimalism with little ethnic touches here and there to reinforce the exotic-ness.
4) serve less than half (but charge at least double) of what the little family-owned restaurant on the other side of the tracks does.
5) hire young, ethnically diverse wait staff and a young, attractive, white hostess with perfect diction.

because doing all of the above frees you up to cook whatever the hell you want and feed it to customers who've been waiting for over an hour out on the sidewalk (no waiting area because of the minimalist look) and they'll love it because they don't know a good pho from a bad pho(k) because they've never dared to venture outside of their little whitewashed world long enough to set foot inside a real vietnamese restaurant.

whew... don't get me started. i'm just starting to warm up.

suffice it to say, i was less than impressed by the quality of the food at gingergrass. this, despite the hostess being extremely pleasant and apologetic in her 3 half-hour updates to us as we waited for an hour and a half for a table for 4 that ended up being right in from the door and directly below the snow-blowing a/c vent. the chicken and ginger/garlic pho was utterly tasteless -- like noodles served in a bowl of lukewarm water with some white meat chicken thrown in. they sucked so much that i couldn't even choke down more than a few spoonfuls. i asked for some fish sauce, thinking that might help flavor the broth a bit more, but the stuff the waitress brought from the kitchen was like no fish sauce i've ever had before. it tasted like someone took a dash of fish sauce and poured in a cup of white vinegar. i put some in the pho, but i think it only made it worse.

my friend's chicken vermicelli bowl was also bland, as was the "spicy tiger shrimp." the only thing that was reasonably tasty were the salty spicy fried shrimp, which was just like any other salty spicy shrimp you can get at any decent chinese restaurant. our appetizers (fried imperial rolls and fresh spring rolls) were also fair, but nothing special. for dessert (because we were still hungry after having such unsatisfying meals), we tried the fried banana rolls drizzled with chocolate sauce and the coconut bread pudding. the fried banana rolls were good (because, really, how could you screw up rolling up a banana in an egg roll wrapper and deep frying the thing?). but the bread pudding... again, like no bread pudding i've ever seen before -- it looked like a plate of sauce with large crouton-size chunks of baguette thrown on top of the sauce. it was like someone took a french baguette, chopped it up into large pieces, and poured some sweet sauce over it and threw it in the microwave to warm it up. the sauce was tasty, but there wasn't enough of it on the bread chunks to adequately flavor them, and there wasn't enough of it on the bottom of the plate to dip the bread chunks into it. it wasn't bad (like my pho). but it was a far cry from good. kind of like my assessment of my first (and undoubtedly last) gingergrass experience.


Blogger VdV said...

Gena hit it right on the nose. We waited so long for a table for mediocre food. Luckily I ordered the spicy salt shrimp, which was good, but as she said, you can get this (tastes better and usually cheaper) at other traditional Asian restaurants.

Silverlake has tons of other great restaurants with better food, better service and more value for the money. Skip Gingergrass and head over to the wine store across the street!

9/21/2004 11:50 PM  

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