Food isn't simply nourishment any more. Gone are the days where a good cut of meat on a white plate can be considered acceptable. Food has transcended past a meal and into an exhibition. We are visual creatures and nothing creates as much anticipation as a hungry stomach and open eyes. If looks could kill, then this small cube of a restaurant found near Cerritos Mall could be considered the chic boutique for sushi; but, does the taste match the beauty found inside at Ajito Japanese Grill & Yakitori?
When driving into the newly remodeled shopping center, it becomes surprising how the exterior already matches modern art designing. Discarding the conventions of old, these buildings are small, sleek cubes topped with shiny steel lining and bold, strong lines. It is playful and invites people into the many restaurants making up the center. Ajito is no exception, as the large glass entrance presents you with the dimly lit, black interior. Although small, the space feels large as you step in. The high ceiling and abundance of flat screen TVs help in presenting an inviting dining room. An open bar with a view to the yakitori grill also entertains with crackling meats over an open flame. As far as entertainment goes, there is plenty to see in this open spaced restaurant.
The wait staff here is made up of young servers, around college age. They bring an air of youth and excitement to the restaurant. They are friendly and smiling and look eager to please. However, when closings hours draw near, the staff starts the hustle of cleaning, which often leaves the dining floor empty. This is problematic when trying to order that extra bite or needing more ginger for that tasty morsel you saved for last. Though it isn't arduous to simply stand and grab some attention, it shouldn't have to be an option.
Looks are great but as the old proverb goes, it's not what's on the outside, but inside, that counts. In this case, the inside would be the food. The artistic flare for each creation is on display, whether it is the beautifully arranged garlic blossoms for the Stinking Rose roll (a roll inspired by garlic) or the flames surrounding the Ring Of Fire roll. The attention to detail is immaculate; sadly, the same type of innovation cannot be said when touching the palate. Many of the rolls, though unique in design, fall very closely to the same tastes. Often times, unless there is a distinct difference to the roll you've eaten, you'll end up wondering which rolls you just ordered. This ambiguity is never a good trait for food. As filling as some of the rolls might be, often times you'll be left wanting more because something was lacking.
On the other side, the food which comes from the yakitori is a bit more memorable. When items such as bacon wrapped quail eggs or kurobuta pork sausages come from an open flame, it is difficult not to salivate. Still, although the appetizers and small dishes are fine, the main entrees, which are the rolls, are lacking.
Happy Hour might be one of the best things invented by humankind. It allows people to truly taste sample the many offerings at a restaurant without breaking the bank. Ajito has two of them: one in the afternoon from 3 PM - 6 PM and the second from 9 PM - closing. During this time, all rolls are half off as well as most drinks.
Ajito Japanese Grill & Yakitori falls into the trap most new restaurants fall into these days. They try so hard to bring in a crowd with their facade, but the food falls short comparatively to their looks. Although the food by no means is horrible, it is hard to truly enjoy it at full price. So, if it's later in the evening, you haven't eaten yet, and you're looking for a nice place to enjoy some atmosphere and food, come to Ajito Japanese Grill & Yakitori.