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A Starck-styled seduction

July 13, 2006|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

NO problems finding the new Katsuya in Brentwood. Just look for the California blonds dangling thin-strapped sandals from perfectly manicured toes at the tables out front. If they're eating fat sushi rolls and sipping pretty cocktails, pull over and hand those car keys to the valet.

The new glam sushi restaurant designed by the prolific and quirky Philippe Starck (the Mondrian's decor is his work too) hits all the right notes with this crowd. At the front, demure white leather sofas offer a perch for desperate housewives and others looking to break out of suburbia. Dainty white chairs with agile feet stand ready to receive the latest arrival or a posse of this season's "It" bags.

The long space, with another part of the dining room a few steps down, is interrupted by a small robata bar, where chefs in black hats grill up skewers of shrimp, chicken meatballs, veggies and more. After that, it's a straight shot to the sushi bar, where a trio of chefs work frantically to keep up with the avid sushi-noshing crowd.

The most striking elements of the design are the giant illuminated photos -- here a pair of lips painted with a geisha's cupid bow, there a fluttering eyelid, and behind the sushi bar, a pair of flirtatious eyes. In the adjoining bar and lounge papered with practically as many mirrors as Versailles, the photo motif is the tattoo on the deconstructed Japanese woman's shoulder.

The menu from sushi chef Katsuya Uechi, known for Sushi Katsu-ya in Studio City and Encino, proposes plenty of hot and cold items, such as spicy tuna on crispy rice, spicy albacore sashimi covered with crispy onions, and sliced scallop on kiwi in a yuzu vinaigrette. Some of the sushi rolls are overwrought, like the spicy tuna roll with tempura shrimp slathered in mayonnaise sitting on top. And I don't know how Cajun-style halibut cheeks sneaked in, but someone should politely show these the door.

The menu is definitely tilted toward the American-style sushi experience, with the raw fish dressed up with sauces and the adjectives "spicy" or "crispy." Straightforward sushi shows the quality of the fish more, and that, at least based on one recent meal, will disappoint purists.

But that is, perhaps, not the point. Like Koi, Katsuya seduces with its high-spirited scene and surprising decor.

What are those oddly shaped gold things mounted on one wall, one of my guests asks our enthusiastic and endearing waiter. Water pistols dipped in gold. Oh, that Philippe. He's such a trickster.



Where: 11777 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood

When: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 5:30-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30 p.m.-

midnight Fridays, 5 p.m. -midnight Saturdays and 5-11 p.m. Sundays. Valet parking.

Price: Dinner, hot and cold dishes, $10-$23; main courses, $16-$38; robata, $3-$18; sashimi, $13-$19; desserts, $6-$8.

Info: (310) 207-8744;

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