Location: 11925 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. (424) 535-3041
Date: August 31, 2021
Cuisine: Omakase Asian
Rating: Really interesting and different
It’s hard to describe Kato. Located in one of the ubiquitous Santa Monica Blvd mini-malls it serves a sort of modern Asian omakase/kaiseki. It won a Michelin star recently and at the 2021-22 junction moved downtown. Now this last bit I’m bummed about as I loved having it on the westside. But their audience is predominantly young hip Asian couples who mostly live in the SGV. Sigh.
The descriptive but cryptic menu.
From my cellar: NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé Edition 21eme. JG95+. The Krug Brut Rosé “21ème Édition” is from the beautiful base year of 2008, with the oldest reserve wine in the blend going back to 2000. The wine was disgorged in the spring of 2015 and is a blend of fifty-one percent pinot noir, forty-one percent chardonnay and eight percent pinot meunier. Ten percent of the pinot noir in the blend is still red wine from Krug’s own parcels of vines in the village of Aÿ. The blend is a slight departure from many releases of Krug Rosé, as hail in the village of Ste. Ghemme in 2008 dramatically cut back the quality of pinot meunier from this vintage, so that Chef de Caves Eric Lebel opted to use all reserve wines for the pinot meunier portion of the blend. The very complex wine offers up the characteristically refined and gently exotic bouquet that this cuvée is cherished for, wafting from the glass in a blend of cherries, a touch of pomegranate, orange peel, beautiful, savory spice elements, rye bread, a complex base of soil tones , dried rose petals and incipient smokiness. On the palate the wine is full, complex and still quite youthful in terms of structure, with vibrant acids, a lovely core, elegant mousse and a very long, perfectly balanced and seamless finish. This is already beautifully complex, but I would love to revisit it five to ten years down the road and see what the passage of time does to this beautiful constellation of aromas and flavors. (Drink between 2018-2050)
Erick brought: 1976 Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel. Amazing! We bought multiple bottles of this at a fantastic Loosen dinner.
NOTE: I’ve used the restaurant’s notes, so they are in written from the chef’s point of view.
The rectangular one was: Tapioca, brown butter, uni. This dish started out with us wanting to do something with milk and tapioca and eventually led to a savory dish. We also try not to have dairy in the majority of the menu so when we do we get to use it, it’s a treat. We think the uni pairs well with the different textures, temperatures and forms of dairy.
The rounder one is: Tuna, cilantro. I’ve been trying to make our cold dishes feel like the cold side dishes you would get whenever you eat at casual Chinese noodle houses. The dish is based on a smashed cucumber salad. It’s an onion croustade with roasted chili jam, cilantro condiment and minced bluefin tuna.
3 cup abalone. The flavors of Thai basil, sweetened soy and sesame oil are so emblematic of Taiwanese cuisine so I can see why 3 cup chicken is so beloved. My mom used to stir fry sea snails or clams in the same sauce. We decided to recreate that by reducing 3 cup sauce into a syrup and marinating California abalone in it. The dish is dotted with an abalone and sesame oil emulsion so there’s extra notes of sesame.
Tomato. Aaron from Girl and Dug Farms has a huge selection of tomatoes right now. They all taste different so we wanted to do a dish that showcases all of them. It’s a salad of all of Aaron’s tomatoes, tomato consommé, semi dried sungold tomatoes and a vinegar gelee.
Caviar, geoduck, koji butter. We source caviar through Astrea (our friends Eve and Reisa), their Kaluga hybrid is one of my favorites that I’ve ever tasted. The only inspiration for this dish is the quality of the caviar and the rest of the ingredients serve to highlight it.
Shrimp Toast. We’ve been serving a bread course for a long time now because we really like the milk bread recipe that we developed. We’re starting to realize that a bread course doesn’t make sense in the course of our menu but we still wanted to use our milk bread. So we decided to use it as the base of a shrimp toast done in the style of honey walnut shrimp to pair with the custard course.
Egg custard. Whenever I was sick as a child my mom would steam egg custard with black vinegar. It’s still one of my favorite dishes to this day. This dish is our egg custard, a sauce of kelp and black vinegar, a few different shellfish, Brentwood corn and Aaron’s negi.
Chinese style steamed fish. Every regional cuisine of China and every home has a version of this dish. The most recognizable would be the Cantonese version where a fish is steamed whole and dressed with soy, ginger and scallion to which scalding oil is poured over the top. Our version has loup de mer and we cook each element separately and assemble it to service. The soy is traditionally unadorned but mixes with the fish jus in the steaming vessel. We take sea bream bones and make a tisane and season it with different rice wines and soy sauces to emulate the traditional technique.
Short rib, pear. We’re working on doing a throwback menu to our favorite dishes from 5 years. This dish isn’t Taiwanese or Chinese but it reminds us of eating in Los Angeles and our first year of opening. It’s a dish of short rib cooked with pear then grilled. We serve it with matsutake and some of the pear cooking liquid.
Rice dishes are traditional finishers in Asia.
Yogurt, melon. Frozen yogurt is hands down my favorite dessert to eat. I’m not a sweets person but I’ll always make room if there’s frozen yogurt promised. Dessert doesn’t play a huge part in a coursed Taiwanese meal but tea and fruits always cap a meal. Weiser farm melons right now are at their peak so we wanted to incorporate that so we made the juice of 3 different melons into a granita and there are also pieces of mush melon as well. We think it tastes like a melona bar, a staff favorite.
Boniato yam tapioca, fresh cheese, sable. Here’s our other longest standing dish, our ode to arguably the most popular thing to ever come out of Taiwan, boba milk tea. We make tapioca balls out of an Asian roasting yam, similar to the sweet potato or taro ones you’d have in Taiwan. We make a fresh cheese and foam it and we shave frozen brown butter sable so it gives the feeling of eating shaved ice. We think that the flavors range from milk tea shops to shaved ice stands.
Overall, a very interesting and different meal. Very light, bright flavors and the whole thing tasted great but left one feeling not in the least “bombed out” which is actually kinda nice. Extremely modern too and straight up ready for instagram!
Service is great, if a bit fast! Like just over an hour! It’s also, for gluttons like Erick and I, not nearly enough food, so despite ordering all the supplements we have always gone for “second dinner.” In this case right outside to Monte Alban (a Oaxacan Mexican place).
Chips and salsa.
Chilaquiles. Crispy corn tortillas pieces in spicy tomato sauce, sprinkled with cheese, onion, sour cream, and green salsa, with your choice of protein.
Tacos Enchilados, mole negro. Three soft tacos rolled with chicken or cheese covered with red or black mole and sprinkled with fresh cheese, onion, and parsley. Served with rice.