Location: 1320 E 7th St #126, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 395-0607
Date: October 23, 2018
Cuisine: Japanese Kaiseki
It’s tiny, only 8 seats, and helmed entirely by chef Brandon Go. As he says, Hayato is the culmination of a twenty year journey he has taken as an American-born chef learning about Japanese cuisine.
Brandon says himself:
My Japanese father owns a sushi restaurant in the Los Angeles area, and I began working in his restaurant when I was fifteen years old. As with most Americans, sushi was the gateway through which I became seriously interested in Japanese food. During my teenage years, I made sushi. Throughout college, I made more sushi. After graduating from college, I went to live in Tokyo for a short time, I got a job in an izakaya, and I started to realize that sushi is a very tiny part of Japanese culinary tradition. I have spent rest of my life trying to learn the rest of it.
I dreamt of having my own restaurant since I began making sushi. But the type of restaurant I wanted to open has evolved since then. For my entire life, I have heard Japanese chefs talk of how good the cooking is in Japan, but how it would be impossible to garner support for truly authentic Japanese cooking in the U.S. because of how different American tastes are. I heard this constantly from chefs both in Japan and at home. I have even read it in cookbooks. Because of this, I always envisioned my restaurant being mostly authentic but having to play to the American tastes in order to ensure survival.
Like at many good Japanese places, the service is very elegant.
Look at these cute gold sake bowls with a complementary shot of sake.
Here is the chef, Brandon Go.
Fred brought: some older NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 94. The NV Brut Rosé is brilliant and finely-sculpted in the glass, with floral aromatics, pulsating minerality and chiseled fruit. Less austere than it can be, the Rosé impresses for its combination of tension and textured, phenolic weight. There is so much to like. This release (ID 213027) is based on the 2006 vintage. The blend is 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier.
Abalone with okra, fava beans and broth made from simmered fish bone. This had that dashi taste and slightly goopy “slimy” Japanese texture. Delicious!
More prep right in front of you.
Paul brought: 2007 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 95. A huge, almost overpowering Burgundy, the 2007 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet possesses towering structure and imposing depth, with seemingly endless layers of texture that fill out its broad, ample frame. The flavors are naturally unevolved at this stage; instead what stands out is the wine’s explosive personality and overall intensity. This is a very strong showing from a wine that sometimes gets lost in the Leflaive range.
Tempura anago with Oregon chestnut. The anago is larger so the bones are bigger. He cut he anago honekiri style which is the same technique used for hamo (conger eel). It is the very fine slicing of the eel and bones to make the bones edible, leaving the skin portion intact. The chestnuts had a lovely chewy texture.
Marinated Japanese mackerel with sushi rice, sesame, and seaweed. Mackerel is medium fatty. Very very old fashioned sushi! Delicious.
Elegant lacquer bowls.
Boston lobster dumpling with Oregon matsutake broth. The broth had this amazing dashi/mushroom flavor and the dumpling was a burst of lobster-ness. Stunning.
From my cellar: 2002 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet. BH 94. Beautifully elegant and spicy aromas of obvious class introduce massive, sappy and notably concentrated flavors that are sweet and pure with buckets of dry extract that cause the palate impression to seem quite texturally dense, even chewy. This is an opulent wine of immense potential with plenty of muscle, weight and power. Extremely impressive.
Tai sashimi with spot prawns. Delicious fresh sashimi.
More gorgeous prep.
Katsuo grilled over bincho charcoal and topped with grated ginger, daikon radish, and ginger flower. Some amazing fish.
Fred brought: 2001 Coche-Dury Meursault. VM 91. Pure, discreet aromas of candied fruits and minerals. Juicy, taut and minerally, with terrific precision and grip. Long and stony on the back end. Serious juice, and precise for the vintage.
Seared wild Hokkaido scallop (sweeter and more firm) and topped with fried seaweed.
The crab prep.
Grilled eggplant topped with Dungeness crab. This dashi was super thick and goopy with lots of starch. The crabbiness was absolutely amazing too.
Grilled blackthroat sea bream (nodogoro) and grilled lotus root. Nodogoro is very expensive, more than toro. Usually $12-$20 a slice for sushi. He served us a huge piece so we could taste the oil and texture on the fish. Wouldn’t have thought I’d enjoy a piece of whitefish this much. The lotus was also fabulous.
Erick brought: 1999 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 94. Three wines from Domaine Leflaive are all in terrific shape. The 1999 Chevalier-Montrachet has an almost phenolic intensity to it, with plenty of almond and honey notes woven throughout. This is an especially powerful Chevalier, but I also get an impression that the freshness is starting to fade, so the 1999 is probably best enjoyed sooner rather than later.
More cooking in front of us.
Grilled snapper in dashi broth with mushrooms and greens. (Only dish I’m not 100% sure on fish). More good whitefish.
Grilled kinmedai rice. Kinmedai is also a highly prized sushi ingredient. Expensive and really delicious.
Special roasted tea.
Prepping pickles to go with the rice.
The rice with tea, pickles, and some miso soup. Classic rice and pickles.
A close up of this stunning rice. We got 2-3 helpings to to “fill us up.”
Special miso soup — really nice.
A second kind of tea.
Nice little dessert fork.
Jelly of plums and other fruit. Nice and light.
Salted Caramel Hazelnut Gelato – the unholy love child of my Salted Caramel and Nocciola flavors, literally the recipe is an on paper merger of both base flavors. The salted caramel was made in house and the hazelnuts are from Torino (best in the world) — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #SaltedCaramel #Caramel #Hazelnut #Nocciola #nuts
The room — lived in.
And our wine line up.
Overall, stunning evening.
Hayato was some of the best food I had in 2018 and really reminded me why classic Japanese cooking can be so fabulous. It focuses on the ingredients and bringing forth this very natural expression of nature’s bounty. Every dish just tasted great.
Plus there was the intimacy of being right there with the chef — and our great crew — and our great wines.