Restaurant and Bar in DTLA
Parking Garage Digs
Walked into a quiet, somewhat dark, and minimal looking spot that has come a long way (a year-long build) from its beginnings as a vacant spot next to a parking garage entrance. Btw, you’ll want to take note that this is the entry for a $5 parking garage versus the $8 lot I had parked at across the street.
Once inside you’ll immediately see the long counter spanning a good length of the restaurant which is very reminiscent of a lot of places in Japan. The only thing missing was the welcoming “irasshaimase!” (maybe I missed it because I ran off to the bathroom, or they whispered it?) which is so common at almost all Japanese businesses. Instead silence, and I would have even settled for a “Noooorm!” An old Cheers reference, yea I know “what’s Cheers you say?“
Being met by the dude who was wearing his shirt vato style with only the top two buttons of his shirt buttoned up with his flat brimmed hat made for a more casual feel. That might throw off expectations for some, but I find it a whole lot better than the cliche black pants and shirted staff at all the generic joints around town….cool bro.
I liked how they placed the tiny little tables throughout the right-side of the restaurant that “flowed” at a slight angle vs. geometrically placing them, but after seeing the counter, how could you not want to sit at the counter made up from a 400-year old slab of cypress.
Sitting down at the counter, it felt just like a bar because it took a while for somebody to come on over to take our order. It wasn’t extremely busy on a Sunday at 6:30, so that was off-putting. Whereas, a little later, the couple who sat down next to us ended up getting served more formally. Their bartender had bothered to ask if they had been there before which it turns out that it was also their first time. Since it was, they were fortunate enough to get the rundown on the menu, and I just had to listen in like a deprived chump.
There are only about 17 items in total which consist of eight chilled / namamono items, five hot / atsumono items, one omusubi, and three sweets / kanmi.
Claim to Fame
What they do have is a very decent selection of, are drinks. Yes, they have Japanese whisky such as the Nikka Coffey Malt, a Hakushu 18, Yamazaki 12, 18’s, Hibiki 12’s and 21’s (no NAS like the Harmony which is not so harmonious), and my favorite Taketsuru.
I love whisky, but I wanted to try things that I haven’t had which is why my choice of drink was their eclectic stash of Japanese beers, along with a more standard $7 draft of Asahi.
Silly Rabbit, Trix Are For Kids
There’s that scene in Kill Bill 1 where O-Ren Ishii, the Chinese American (played by Lucy Liu) belittles the “silly Caucasian girl who likes to play with samurai swords”. The next scene, O-Ren comes to regret it because she pays with her skull-cap. That sort of ridicule I could see happening here due to the way LA is because you’re not going to see any Japanese staff here, and instead you’ll see David Schlosser wielding his knife behind the helm of this kappo-style counter. To most, most will base their opinions on the superficial things like the staff, or what they think the acceptable perceived perception is. As for myself, I’ll try not to lose my scalp by focusing in on the overall experience especially since he can skillfully wield a kitchen knife.
As for how the food is, I think many of the dishes embody the spirit of washoku or kappo cuisine. It also exemplifies Shibumi or “creative restraint” which is also what I think is at the heart of so many things Japanese, and I only wish others would do this versus trying to make a name for themselves by always trying to inflict their own personal steez.
Chilled corn soup, yuba, puffed rice, $8. Silky egg tofu, uni, fresh nori, and wasabi, $18. Crispy monkfish “kara-age”, citrus, kelp salt, $15. Grilled heritage pork in koji rice, pickled daikon, leek, $24. Total order for four items, three beers, and a mandatory 18% tip was $119.
Kappo cuisine has been around SoCal, but you’ll typically only find Japanese patrons dining at them. Traditional washoku is like trying to get most Americans from not ordering sweet’n’sour pork or kung pao at a Chinese restaurant. It also goes the same with Kappo food which isn’t strictly teriyaki, sushi, or food drenched in “spicy mayo” sauces like most fusion sushi spots. So for Schlosser’san to fight the good fight, I give him a ton of credit for taking it on.
After Shibumi, I went to Izakaya Hachi in Torrance which was packed at 9 pm even though they close at 10 pm. I was barely able to get seated, but luckily Tomo was able to get me in. I’m glad he was able to do that because this place is one of, if not my favorite Izakaya in LA. The motsunabe (intestines) and gyu-tan (beef tongue) rounded out my dinner.