Although Koi opened back in 2002, and almost immediately gained a celebrity following, it didn't really register with the general public (beyond L.A.) until March of 2003, when Sharon Osbourne had a loud row with ICM agent Renee Tab at the restaurant.
Sharon claimed Tab punched her in the face; Tab claimed Sharon spit in her face and kicked her in the knee. No arrests were made, but the wild story made the media and suddenly Koi was up there with Spago and The Ivy as well-known celeb hang-outs. (And another mild incident, in 2004, when Lindsay Lohan supposedly threw a hissy fit when they wouldn't serve the underage star alcohol, only helped cement the name in the public mind.)
All of this is rather out of character for Koi, a tranquil, almost Zen-like spot (in the old L'Ermitage & Drai's spot in La Cienega Blvd).
Stepping through its rugged wooden gate, you find yourself on outside patio (with a retractable roof) surrounded by bamboo, flickering votive candles, a fireplace with Buddha's face above it, and the sound of running water.
Inside, besides the large sushi bar, several subtle rooms of red & gold await, with subdued lighting, candles, and more serene Asian ambiance that you can shake a bamboo stick at.
But despite its tranquil setting, Koi is a premiere celebrity hot spot - and it can get surprisingly loud and noisy. The regulars include George Clooney, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Simpson, Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher, Martin Lawrence and Liv Tyler. Other stars spotted here include John Travolta & Kelly Preston, Miley Cyrus, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Mariah Carey, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Ray Romano, Justin Timberlake, Heather Graham, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Jamie Foxx, Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, 'P Diddy' Combs, Madonna, Sidney Poitier, Mary Kate Olsen, Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, Kevin Costner, Scarlett Johansson, Wilmer Valderrama, Diana Ross, Chris Rock, Michael Caine, Paul Reiser, Marlon & Shawn Wayans, Nicollette Sheridan, Paul Walker, Alec Baldwin, Michael Vartan, Tommy Lee, Nick & Aaron Carter, J.C. Chasez, Fred Durst, David Boreanaz, Kylie Minogue, Carmen Electra, John Cougar Mellencamp, Hugh Hefner, Tara Reid, and the cast of "The O.C."
Not a bad list, right? Beautiful people is what Koi is all about. Like The Ivy, paparazzi long ago began staking out the place on weekends - if you're curious on your way in, ask the photogs which celebs are inside tonight.There's no question that it's a happening spot. But how is Koi as a restaurant?
It has received generally strong reviews for their Japanese food with California touches. Everyone loves the "tastefully restrained" atmosphere, and service is great.
The L.A. Times wasn't thrilled by their sushi bar (preferring Matsuhisa), but liked their hot dishes such as the "Roasted Duck Breast Roasted Shishito Peppers".
The Koi menu is filled with hot entrees such as "Miso Bronze Black Cod Medley of Vegetables" and "Grilled Tiger Prawns Pearl Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Kumquat Glaze" as well as cold dishes such as "Crispy Rice topped with Spicy Tuna", plus soups, salads, sushi & shashimi (of course) and a wide selection of sake.
Prices are high. For a less expensive glimpse of the interior, stick to the long sushi bar (with it's five chefs) where the tab should be lower. (But remember that the sake is pricey.)
By the way, the owners' trendy new Bridge restaurant, across the street, at 755 N. La Cienega, is also a hot spot in its own right - and equally gorgeous - with a Mediterranean/Italian flair.
open for dinner seven days a week; from
6 p.m. until 11 p.m. most days, and until 12 midnight on Fridays & Saturdays.
Valet parking. Reservations strongly recommended - and are virtually
mandatory on Saturdays.
there: Koi is located on the east side
of La Cienega Blvd., just north of Melrose, on the L.A./Beverly Hills border.
more info, you can visit their official website at http://www.koirestaurant.com.
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