Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Random Bits: Two Asian Mysteries

The faithful were in panic mode last week. Each time I drove by, it appeared that long-time 4th Street greasery Chinese Gardens had gone the way of Chico the monkey: dead. Windows were dark, neon signs were silent, dark clouds hovered. I popped into Mik-n-Mac's to spread the word and see if anyone had the scoop. Jaws around the place dropped to the floor and eyes began to well with salty tears. I've found their food to be extremely challenging in the last few years, but apparently it's still beloved by many,and the bar crowd at least were devastated with the notion of it possibly being gone."I dunno, it probably was the health department" speculated John the bouncer, and I couldn't really disagree. The bartender called down there to see if she could get the true blue story from the mouth of owner E-chen Chane himself, but the phone just rang and rang ominously like a bad David Lynch outtake. Despite plenty of red beers, we were haunted by the mystery for the rest of the night.

The next afternoon, I was headed up 4th again and this time I noticed a scrawly sign on the door "Closed for Remodeling." Ahhhh-ha. It's about time, too. The place was run down and approaching museum status - badly in need of some rejuvenation. I'm hoping the food gets a rethink as well - I just wasn't too impressed with it the last few visits, in fact I was straight-up grossed out. However, I'll be checking out their grand reopening curiously, chopsticks in hand.

The Japan House on Appleway has been open for maybe around a year now, and I've yet to run into anyone who has actually dined there. They appear to be open strange hours and if they are open, the place is totally empty. I was shocked one evening when I drove by a few nights ago and saw two people sitting up at the sushi bar. I couldn't tell if they were actually diners if they were merely reflections from Arby's, a trick of the light. How does this place remain open? Is the food any good? Is Coeur d'Alene just not ready for the Japanese-French fusion they touted when opening.? What the heck?

I've wanted to review the place, but I'm a little spooked out by it and don't really want to give heavy coverage to someplace that's going to go under in a week, which seems like the fate of Japan House. Yet...somehow it remains in business. Two words: mafia front. I hope I don't get the works from Big Mario for suggesting it, but it's the only logical explanation. Seriously, if you've ever tried the place out, please fill me in.


Phil said...

Funny, I think the same thing every time I drive past Japan House. I think it's just a bad location. Nobody expects a good restaurant to be there among the fast food and buffet places.

Speaking of Asian food, we tried out Thai Bamboo last week. Good food, not great, although we definitely need to go back to sample a few more items. The dining room is horribly noisy with that domed ceiling bouncing the sound around. We had to literally shout to each other across the table.

Plus, dinner for four there was $60 with the tip. I can get just as good or better at Panda Express with the $25 Panda Feast. HUGE consideration!

Kerri Thoreson said...

The good Lord helps those who help themselves or advertising works. Japan House ownership evidently relied solely on the business section stories when they first opened to promote their restaurant. In order to enjoy a word of mouth strategy, you need mouths to have actually visited your establishment.
These people need to advertise. Simple as that.
And Phil, you should to take the family to the King Buffet in the little strip mall by Walmart. Excellent selection for the family and reasonable prices.

Gary said...

You may want to pop in and check out the food at Chinese Gardens, Not only did the remodel come out looking fantastic—but the menu is completely refurbished too. I ate there and I have to tell you, I was very impressed with the entire experience. And today I see they just posted their very own website as well. Pretty snazzy site. www.ChineseGardensCDA.com
Looks like they're making some great changes there!