Location: 1320 E 7th St #126, Los Angeles, CA 90021. (213) 395-0607
Date: May 17, 2019
Cuisine: Japanese Kaiseki
It’s located in Downtown’s fancy new “ROW” complex — and quite hard to find (use the guide on the website).
It’s tiny, as I mentioned, only 7-8 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.
We brought loads of good wine as usual:
1985 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 94. I have had a number of bottles, even from the same cellar, that have been showing plenty of age and even occasionally flirting with oxidative hints yet this most recent bottle (from my cellar) was among the freshest I’ve had in a while with its intensely yeasty and toasty aromas of white orchard fruit, citrus peel, marmalade and orange peel. This is arguably the most complex vintage of the 1980s (though not necessarily the most vibrant or the most complete) and in particular I like the way that the mousse has managed to maintain most of its original vigor on the sweet yet ultimately dry finale that delivers very fine persistence. While this bottle was admirably fresh it’s clear that it’s time to drink up sooner than later unless your taste runs to post-mature characters.
Hokkaido Scallop with chrysanthemum greens and Tosa Zu Jelly.
The contrast between the rich scallop and tangy jelly was great. Interesting textures too, with the cool soft jelly and the slightly firm scallops. I’m an acid freak so I could have eaten a bowl of this jelly straight.
1996 Coche-Dury Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères. VM 92+. Fred says: Outstanding. Very light yellow in color. No signs of being advanced at all. Lots of ripping 96 acidity with elegant fruit and floral character. Starts out excellent and just keeps getting better all night. Seems ageless and could go another 20 years.
Hokkaido Kobashira and Tara No Me Tempura. Great tempura. Light fry. Reminded me of New England fried clam — elevated. And I mean no disrespect in that, as I happen to love good fried clams. I’ve always enjoyed something about the chewy texture.
1998 Coche-Dury Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères. BH 89. Fred says: Light yellow in color. Minimal Coche flint on the nose. The palate is softer and more gentle. Not hot per se but more rounded in texture. Wonderful ripe fruit and lemon. Very easy drinking and in a great spot.
Prep for the next dish. Notice the real wasabi root and hand grater.
Kasugo dai Bo-Zushi. I haven’t seen (or maybe don’t remember) this particular sushi prep where the shiso is mixed into the rice as opposed to layered between. In any case, like all of Brandon’s dishes, it was lovely.
From my cellar: 2004 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots. VC 93. The 2004 Meursault Les Rougeots is a vintage that I have not encountered previously and proves a very pleasant surprise considering the vintage. It is a little deeper in color than I was expecting however, the nose is immediately entrancing with wet stone mixed with orange blossom, quite astonishing delineation, later traces of yellow plum and jasmine emerging. Both nose and palate sport a very subtle reduction (less than other vintages in my experience). It retains wonderful tension and poise, perfect salinité with an understated and yet energetic finish that remains over the course of two hours in the glass. Tasted at Taillevent restaurant in Paris.
Lovely lacquer bowl.
Dungeness Crab Shinjo Owan. This class of dish was delightful both this time and last (when it was the lobster ball). It was great again this time, although not quite the highlight. Dashi was scrumptious. Crab had nice depth of flavor.
2004 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 95. This too is ultra pure and fine with its nose of wet stone, white flower, sea water and iodine that precedes delicious, full, detailed and impeccably well balanced flavors that are tight but long with a laser-like sense of focus and coherency. This too finishes with noticeable austerity yet there is real freshness and presence, indeed vibrancy here. The ’04 Le Clos will require at least 5 to 7 years to really begin to open up but once it does, it should drink well for 15. A stunner of a wine and one of the stars of the vintage that will be a long distance runner.
Tai and Live Spot Prawn Sashimi, hokkaido uni sashimi, fresh nori. Excellent. All incredibly fresh and toothsome. Well maybe not the uni, that was fresh but soft.
1997 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin. BH 91. Dense and richly fruited with copious black fruits trimmed in a deft touch of wood followed by round, intense, full-bodied flavors and fine persistence. This is not a great Chambertin by the lofty Rousseau standards but there is plenty of wine here, not to mention excellent richness and length. It is approaching peaking drinkability though it should hold here for at least a decade. Consistent notes.
1999 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques. VM 92+. Bright ruby-red. Sexy nose combines maraschino cherry, roast coffee, bitter chocolate and lively oak spices not apparent in the foregoing wines. Full, sweet and chewy in the mouth, with a silky, layered texture to buffer the wine sound acidity. Cherry and black raspberry flavors are nicely sweetened by the wine’s new oak. Features a long, gripping whiplash of a finish and fine tannins that coat the entire palate.
Nodoguro Shioyaki with Lotus Root. This was a very notable “grilled fish” the first time around and is again. It’s very oily, but not in an off putting way at all, more just rich. And the crunchy lotus adds some great textural balance.
Kisu with Fava Bean Ankake. The fish was extremely lightly fried and then covered in a very gooey (thickened) dashi which added its own complementary fish flavor. Light and extremely subtle in a very Japanese manner. Not everyone might be down for the unctuous texture either — but we enjoyed it.
A5 Omi Gyu Shabu Shabu, komatsuna, bamboo, shiitake. A sort of highly elevated shabu shabu bite crossed with an ultra elevated version of the toppings you get on a Japanese beef bowl. None of that description does it any justice, as there was this intensely rich and beefy + dashi thing going on.
Ko no ko (sea cucumber ovaries). It’s fairly similar to the Izakaya favorites like fermented squid guts. Slimey and briney. Without the off notes that a lessor prep might have had. I happen to like these fermented flavors and weird textures. Not everyone does. I’ve been really digging the seas cucumber this last year since my most recent trip to China.
1990 Domaine Leroy Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Narbantons. 94 points. Best Savigny I will ever taste, probably. Amazing nose of ripe fruit and mature whole-cluster notes (spices, soy, hoisin, stems), which, alone is worth the price of admission. The 1990 Leroy wines are showing more tannic structure than DRCs. The abundant fruit lets you get past the equally abundant tannins, but the overall persistent structure makes me wonder if this wine needs more time (after 25+ years?) or if this is how this wine will always be. A pleasure to drink, regardless.
Sawara Yuan Yaki Rice Pot. I forgot to photo this dish as a whole, as the various elements are presented on a tray together, but this is the fish ready to be prepped into the rice.
This is the miso soup with a spongy type of tofu or fish cake.
The pickles. They are traditional with rice at the end of a meal.
The fried rice itself. I had several helpings.
Brandon prepares the dessert.
Harry’s Berries with Kinako Infused Whipped Cream. I had these same strawberries the night before and they were amazing both times. Just a simple dish with two notes (strawberry and cream) but both where complex harmonic notes. The strawberries had a lot of zing, intense sweet and tangy berry flavor. Like a fresher (more acidic) but slightly less intense version of great French Strawberry puree or jam. The “cream” was nutty and served as a nice counterpoint to the acidity.
Almond Amaretto Truffle Gelato — Amaretto Zabaglione (egg yolk, amaretto, and sugar custard) Sicilian Almond gelato base with stacked layers of house-made Valrhona Almond Amaretti Ganache — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #Valrhona #almond #amaretto #amaretti #cookie #ganache #ChocolateTruffle
Sicilian Tiramisu Gelato — attempting to reinvent Tiramisu with Sicilian flavors: Pure DOGC “Bronte” pistachio paste gelato base with lady fingers soaked in house-made orange syrup and layered with house-made “cannoli filling” (sweetened fresh ricotta with cinnamon and mini dark chocolate chips) — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — this one will be a test of concept: too much? –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #pistachio #sicily #ricotta #chocolate #orange #ladyfingers #tiramisu
Nocciola Espresso Caramello Gelato — A classic nocciola base made with Pure PGI Piedmont hazelnut paste and then layered with a house-made Espresso Caramel Ganache then topped with fresh roasted hazelnuts — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #Valrhona #hazelnut #ganache #dulcy #ChocolateTruffle #nocciola #caramel #caramello
Overall, stunning evening.
Hayato was some of the best food I had in 2018 and remains so in 2019. He’s mixed things up a little bit, but it’s still the same very focused style. He intensifies ingredients and brings 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. Really great wines. Brandon told us they were the best he’s had at the restaurant and I believe it. We had some real stunners tonight, and on the heels of our crazy old White Burgundy dinner the night before!
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