Orange Juice Night Out: Geisha House in Santa Ana

My wife Camille and I finally had a chance to visit the new Geisha House restaurant, over at the CityPlace center in north Santa Ana.  We invited our friends Rene and Jen to come along and they were not disappointed.

We stopped by the bar for a bit, and enjoyed a round of cocktails.  Jen ordered something odd that looked like melon liqueur but tasted like fennel.  I think it had absinthe in it.  I took it off Jen’s hands and bought her a new drink.  This time we ordered something called a Geisha’s Kiss for Jen and Camille.The drink involved champagne and had a lychee fruit floating in it.  Rene ordered a series of Captain Morgan Rum and Cokes.  I ordered a Japanese light beer and nursed it throughout the evening as I was the designated driver.

We started off with the Geisha House version of a Spider Roll.  Then we ordered a few more appetizers.  Geisha House offers a great variety of cold and hot appetizers.  We ordered a cold tuna dish that appeared to have bits of fried onion on it. It was hard to pick up with my chopsticks so I asked for a fork, which made me feel dorky but I didn’t want to miss out on any yummy bits.

Jen ordered a Spicy Roof roll, which featured shrimp.  Rene ordered the soft crab, which came fried of course and Camille ordered the Rock Shrimp, which turned out to be the hit of the evening.

The service was great.  I had read over at the OC Weekly that the service was slow, but we didn’t experience that.

We met all of the managers, including the fellow who spearheaded this new location, David Jarrett, and managing partner Adam Palmer and General Manager Kevin McVearry.  We also found out that the owners of the Geisha House own a whole bunch of different restaurants, including an American bistro called “Ketchup,” and Italian restaurants “Dolce” and “Bella.”

The Geisha House concept is unlike anything else I have seen in Orange County.  As you enter the dimly lit restaurant the first thing you see is the huge multi-level chimney, which is bright cherry red.  The walls are adorned with mini Japanese tapestries and the windows have been decorated with graphics depicting modern Japanese young ladies.

The tables feature red candles and little pitchers of soy sauce, which come in handy when the sushi and rolls come to the table.  There are booths and tables both on the bottom floor and upstairs.

Music is pumped throughout the restaurant, but it is not overly loud and I liked the mix.  I was told that the City of Santa Ana does not allow new businesses to have DJ’s for nine months, which I think is pretty stupid, but typical of Santa Ana.

Once we ate up the appetizers, our server, Danielle, showed up with two hot plates featuring Teriyaki Salmon and Black Cod, which was marinated overnight in a miso sauce.  They were both very flavorful, but the Cod had a chewier consistency, although it was fork tender.

We were all really impressed by the presentation.  The plates came complete with garnish, cups of spicy mustard, and extras that included, in one case, what looked and tasted like a tempura onion ring.  We really liked, in particular, the tempura asparagus!

We were pretty stuffed but opted to look over the dessert menu and that was fortunate as Camille and Rene ordered the molten chocolate cake, which featured a warm chocolate filling and a side of vanilla ice cream.  Jen ordered the fried Won Ton dessert which featured fruit and cream cheese and two dipping sauces.  She really liked the vanilla sauce.

The place was packed and I ran into my friend Irene Ibarra and her friend Mike.  Irene read about the Geisha House here on my blog and decided to check it out for herself.

The prices at the Geisha House aren’t bad.  Most of the items range from $5 to $20 and the fancy drinks are about $9 each.  Considering the ambiance this is a good deal.

The service was top-notch too.  I was particularly impressed by the bus boys, who were dressed all in black and were as quick and silent as ninjas.  One drink order did take a little long, when we ordered the gals a round of Geisha Cosmos.  But one of the managers came by, found out the drinks were lagging and got on it immediately.

Everyone was quite friendly and the servers really knew their stuff.  Danielle’s recommendations were all spot on!

As the OC Weekly mentioned, the Geisha House does offer valet parking, for $5.  We didn’t make use of it, but the parking lot was packed as the CityPlace promotes a “First Friday” event on the first Friday of the month, which is like an open house.  There were a lot of young people partying in the lofts that were open, and all the businesses appeared to be doing well.

The CityPlace is having a heck of a time selling their condos, but tonight their center was bustling and I’m sure the Geisha House owners were pleased to have a full house.

When we were in the restaurant we forgot we were in Santa Ana.  It felt like we were someplace upscale for a change.  As we walked to our cars I could not help but hope that Geisha House and the other businesses around it will survive.  If things stay busy as they were tonight, that hope is certainly warranted.

Geisha House is located at 2773 N. Main St., in Santa Ana.  Click here to make a reservation.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.