Walking into Aja, Tom Catherall's newest restaurant in his Here To Serve restaurant group, I felt a little like the main character in the ABC series, "Life on Mars". Except in my version of the show I'm a restaurant critic who gets bonked on the head and when I come to it's 1989.
Walking into Aja, Tom Catheralls newest restaurant in his Here To Serve restaurant group, I felt a little like the main character in the ABC series, “Life on Mars." In case youve missed it, the premise is that this cop falls down or something and when he gets up its 1973. Except in my version of the show, Im a restaurant critic who gets bonked on the head and when I come to its 1989.
I uneasily take in my surroundings, looking for clues as to where and when I might be. Paula Abdul is blasting overhead. I make a mental checklist of everything needed for a late 80s culinary hotspot. Red and black décor? Check. Attractive Asian hostess? Check. Lychee-tinis? Check. Menu of sushi/Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Indian/American/pan-Asian flavors? Check. Wasabi mashed potatoes? Well, no, theres none of those — but there is a wasabi-crusted steak! Close enough.
The 10-foot golden Buddha in the center of the dining room — flown in by Catherall from Thailand — has nothing particularly 80s about it, but it fits with the era's disconcerting ostentation.
I would expect all this from Catherall. But I was also expecting exciting food from chef William Sigley (who previously blindsided me at Aquaknox, where I'd expected mediocre food and was happily surprised by his “global water cuisine,” whatever that means).
But Sigley seems to be flexing far less culinary muscle here. Offerings are broken up into sushi, dim sum, and the standard poultry/seafood/meat entrees. Very little jumps out as unexpected.