For the past two years running, we've celebrated a friend's birthday at Goten on West End. This effervescent lady has close friends coming out of the woodwork--childhood friends, college friends, graduate school friends, work friends and friends of friends--so the place does make sense for a big group. Last year I remember it being a relatively pleasant experience where good times were had by all. This year, I had fun, but left kind of sad and frustrated in the food department.
Now, I know people don't eat hibachi for the complex flavors--they go for the razzle-dazzle of flipping knives, flying shrimp and whimsical steam volcanoes made from onions--but this was something else. There was a level of laziness to the proceedings that was borderline offensive. The "soup" was a weak consomme--think salted pasta water--with a couple raw button mushroom slices bobbing sadly on top. We were served small dishes of soy sauce and "Japanese ketchup"--shit tasted like Heinz and I wouldn't have put it anywhere near my "fish or vegetables" as the waitress suggested. And our chef barely interacted, cooking the food in a workmanlike manner while spraying steam in a bunch of people's faces.
I ordered tofu, and the curd itself was quite nice, but the sauce was a sticky, sweet afterthought. The fried rice was bland and overpriced. And, after the meal came the coup de grâce: "dessert"--a sad little scoop of store-bought orange sherbet.
(In Goten's defense, the one person at the table who ordered sushi thoroughly enjoyed their meal.)
OK, OK. I realize how I must sound. And I know, again, that people don't really go to this place for the food, but when the final indecency--the check!--came, I couldn't stifle a groan. For one drink and enough sodium to replenish the Dead Sea, my tab came to almost $30 (and I ordered one of the cheapest things on the menu). A companion whispered to me: "We could have gone to City House for this price. And drunk a bunch of wine!"
Maybe the funniest part is that I'm sure I'll be back next year.