Location: 11925 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. (424) 535-3041
Date: October 1, 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.
Given what was in the fall of 2021 an imminent move much further, Erick and I went twice to collect the tasty memory data from the late period at this westside location. This is the final report (before heading downtown to try the new spot).
The menu tonight.
2002 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. VM 96. The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart is outrageously beautiful. The ripeness of the Chardonnay is front and center in a Champagne that delivers the goods, big-time. An infusion of apricot, orange peel, crème brûlée, chamomile, hazelnut and honey give the 2002 its racy, exotic personality. I enjoy it most with bottle age, but the 2002 is undeniably beautiful right now. The 2002 is a stunning NFB. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne and 40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, done partially in oak (20%). Dosage is 4 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2030)
From my cellar: 2002 Bruno Paillard Champagne Nec Plus Ultra. JG 97. The newest vintage of Bruno Paillard’s N.P.U. is utterly brilliant and a glorious example of the magical vintage of 2002. The bouquet soars from the glass in a very refined blend of apple, white peach, stony minerality, hazelnut, fresh-baked bread and a lovely touch of orange peel in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and displays marvelous mid-palate depth, with racy acids, very elegant mousse, laser-like focus and a very, very long, complex and simply stunning finish. This wine is young, precise and so beautifully balanced that it is already a joy to dink, though it is clearly built for the long haul and its true apogee is at least a decade down the road! Stunning wine. (Drink between 2017-2075)
2010 Domaine Leflaive Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Âne. VM 92. Bright yellow with a green tinge. Very ripe aromas of yellow fruits and nut oils. Broad, sweet and fruity, offering lovely volume without excess weight. Silky-smooth and rich but kept fresh by harmonious acidity (4.6 grams per liter, according to winemaker Remy). Long on the aftertaste. A very good vintage for this bottling.
2010 Jean-Marc Roulot Meursault 1er Cru. Very rare bottle.
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.
Tuna, 3 cup. 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. This version is with pacific big eye tuna that’s lightly cooked so it kind of looks like the chicken in 3 cup chicken.
Kanpachi, cucumber. This is one of the first dishes we were really known for. We wanted to revisit it with our new pantry and style of cooking. We smoke pacific amberjack and serve it with a vinaigrette of charred negi and a cucumber relish as well as a bonito 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.
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.
A spread (for the bread).
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.
But it was a bit different with some rice.
Yogurt, plum. The only dessert I’ll ever go out specifically for is frozen yogurt. This version is served with a shaved ice made from tisane of lemon verbena that Girl and Dug is growing and emerald plums since it’s stonefruit season.
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.
A bigger group this time.
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!
Tonight’s (final) meal was pretty similar to the August one.
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.” But this time we went down the street to Sasaya, a local Izakaya.