Tasting the Seasons of Japan - The Exquisite, Austere, Pure Kaiseki Cuisine of Hayato [Thoughts + Pics]


(Sorry for the late report, catching up on a meal from last week.)

If there is one sub-cuisine of Japan that is misunderstood more than any other, it might very well be Kaiseki Ryori. A loose translation of Kaiseki cuisine in English might be “a seasonal tasting menu,” but it is so much more than this. There is a specific order and meaning to each dish that is presented to the diner during a Kaiseki experience. It reflects not only what is in season, but also showcases multiple cooking techniques.

Kaiseki cuisine can be seen as austere at times: In this modern age of faster, wilder, bigger, bolder, this ancient Japanese cuisine might just seem like “simple, basic cooking.” I recall one of our friends who came back from a vacation in Japan with her husband, talking about a Kaiseki meal she had at a ryokan: They both thought it was “bland.” :sweat_smile: (To be fair it was the first time they ever tried Kaiseki cuisine.)

But Kaiseki is something to be celebrated: If you want to experience the pure essence of certain seasonal ingredients, cooked to support and elevate their inherent taste, then Kaiseki might be for you.

So it was with great excitement when I heard the news of Hayato, a Kaiseki specialist devoted to delivering a true, pure Kaiseki experience in L.A.! Reading @PorkyBelly and @J_L’s excellent early reviews only made us want to go even more. :slight_smile:

Opened at the new ROW DTLA complex (where Smorgasburg happens every Sunday), Hayato might be hard to find at first. A quick visual guide:

From the massive Parking Garage, walk past the large center tree, and make a LEFT at the next intersection of shops:

Hayato will be on your RIGHT hand side. Look for the Noren (Japanese curtain dividers):

Hayato marks the solo debut of Chef Brandon Go, a quiet, thoughtful individual who gladly shared nuggets of culinary information throughout the evening. As @attran99 pointed out, Chef Go’s father runs Koi Japanese Cuisine in Seal Beach, and having grown up helping out his father and making Sushi, he eventually traveled to Japan, where he discovered an entire world of Japanese food beyond Sushi.

Chef Go eventually apprenticed under two respected, talented Japanese Kaiseki masters: Chef Hideki Ishikawa of Michelin 3 Starred Ishikawa in Tokyo, and Chef Takeshi Kubo of Michelin 2 Starred Goryu Kubo. As Chef Go mentions on his website, this restaurant is not only a tribute to his mentors, but showcasing the food he loves in Japan.

Walking in, there are eight seats, although he’s only serving six at a time currently. There is only 1 seating, so once you make the reservation, you have that seat for the entire night. Wonderful. :slight_smile: (Note: Since there are only six seats, it’s pretty easy to “buy out” the restaurant: Just gather 5 of your loved ones / friends and enjoy an evening together. That’s what we did.)

Chef Go greets all of us as we enter, bowing and inviting us to take a seat.

He then shares a very rare Sake that he just got from one of his mentors, Chef Ishikawa:

Juyondai - Chou Tokusen (Ultra Premium) - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Yamagata, Japan):

Holy cow! @beefnoguy @J_L correct me if I’m wrong, but this is normally not found in the U.S. right? (There is no English / import label on this bottle.) This was one of the most exquisite Sake I’ve ever had. There’s an immediate light floral quality, but nothing overpowering, a touch of sweetness, a very round, smooth mouthfeel and the finish is so clean and dry! It is one of the 5 best Sake I’ve ever had (and the bottle was not for sale). :cry: :sweat_smile: :heart:

(Note: Our dishes pretty much mirrored @J_L @PorkyBelly @attran99’s various visits, which makes sense since Kaiseki cuisine is reflective of a current season, and we haven’t transitioned to Autumn yet.)

The first course begins, and you can see Chef Go preparing and plating the dishes in front of you; he mentions Sashimi, Grilling, Steaming, Frying and Simmering, true to traditional Kaiseki cuisine.

Sakizuke Course - Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, Okra, Fava Beans, Tosazu Jelly:

Light, delicate, tart from the Tosazu Jelly and then inherent sweetness from the Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. Outstanding! :heart:

Born - Yume wa Masayume (Dreams Come True) - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Fukui, Japan):

Chef Go smiles when we order this for everyone, saying it’s one of his most popular ordered by many for those that know Sake. We broke down and ordered this, but then again, split by all of us, it wasn’t so bad. :wink: I blame @J_L @beefnoguy for tempting us with this “Holy Grail” Sake for so long. :grin: The Yume wa Masayume was really unique: There were multiple layers that hit the palate: The immediate taste, then as you were swallowing, another flavor profile that was distinct, with an easy finish. Delicious. :slight_smile:

I would say that the Juyondai Chou Tokusen that he shared with us as the opening taste kind of set a high bar, and we all preferred the Juyondai Chou Tokusen Junmai Daiginjo. :sweat_smile:

Farmers Market Corn, Hokkaido Scallop, Mitsuba Kakiage:

Beautiful natural sweetness from the Farmers Market Corn, the Hokkaido Scallop was so bright and provided a bit of beautiful brininess and the frying technique was so on point, it’d make our resident Inaba #1 fan @bulavinaka happy. :heart:

Chef Go starts preparing the next course in front of us…

Saba Zushi - Pressed Mackerel Sushi (Nagasaki, Japan):


The Nori (Seaweed) was crisp, the Saba, inherently, wonderfully oily. Delicious! :blush:

Owan Course - Live Dungeness Crab, Junsai (Water Shield), Baby Turnip Soup:

Taking a sip…

Seriously, SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! :grin: Imagine the most clear, delicate Dashi Broth you’ve ever had, giving way to the gorgeous oceanic sweetness of Live Dungeness Crab meat (mixed with Kanimiso (Dungeness Crab Brains and Guts)).

The Junsai (Water Shield) is slippery, silky and adds this wonderful textural contrast as well. I remember our Hounds on our old board loved talking about this ingredient.

It is the most GLORIOUS soup I’ve had this year! FLAWLESS. :heart: :heart: :heart:

Wild Tai (Sea Bream) + Katsuo (Bonito) Sashimi:

We were having so much fun, I forgot to take a picture of the final plate. :sweat_smile: Served with Myoga (Ginger), Shiso, freshly grated Wasabi.

This was very good. As @J_L also noted, Chef Go told us that Tai is so tied to Japanese culture and mindset, served at ceremonies and more, that he felt he had to serve it as well. If there’s one nitpick detail, it’s that Chef Go couldn’t tell us the provenance of the fish, something Sushi masters know and are ready to relay to the customer. But I’m sure this will improve over time.

Steamed Abalone, Abalone Kimo (Liver) Sauce, Abalone Broth Jelly:

A tender meatiness, perfectly cooked, and accentuated by the incredible Awabi Kimo (Abalone Liver) Sauce: This Liver had some of that distinctive metallic Liver taste, but it was purified, smoothed out with more of the Abalone essence itself, resulting in this glorious, potent “Abalone Punch” of flavor supporting the Steamed Abalone meat itself. The Abalone Jelly was beautifully bright as well. Outstanding. :heart:

Yakimono Course - Binchotan Grilled Nodoguro (Blackthroat Seaperch) + Gobo (Burdock Root):

Nodoguro (Blackthroat Seaperch) is a fish that is prized by many Japanese chefs. Chef Maru at Mori Sushi proudly served Nodoguro to us, waxing poetic about it last year, and here Chef Go talks about why he loves it for the Yakimono course: That even in grilling, this fish is the perfect balance of lean and fatty, and it is mouth-wateringly delicious! :blush:

Crisped outer skin, flaky, moist, meat within, even after grilling. :heart:

Hamo (Conger Eel) Tempura, Hamo Tamago Ankake Dashi:

The Hamo (Conger Eel) was beautifully fried, light, crisp, not oily, but it was the Hamo Tamago Ankake that was the brightest star here: Chef Go uses the Conger Eel’s Eggs in this thickened “soup / sauce” and it is so pure and clarified and singular in its glory. Add in some Ume and Shiso and you have another highlight of the evening! :heart:

Amadai (Tile Fish) Nabe, Chrysanthemum Greens, Shiitake Mushrooms, Bamboo:

This Soup was so light, delicate and pure. Chef Go commented “this is Nihon (Japan).”

Gohan Course - Kamasu (Barracuda) Kamameshi, Miso Soup, Housemade Pickles:

Chef Go sears the Barracuda first before putting it in the Kamameshi (Metal Pot RIce).

The specially made Metal Pot Rice uses Koshihikari Rice, and there’s even some “socarrat” (seared crispy Rice that’s at the bottom of Paella) found here as well. It is perfectly cooked, delicate and fragrant. :slight_smile:

The Miso Soup is also fantastic, complementing the Rice, without overpowering any aspect of it.

Green Tea served before the start of the Dessert course:

Chilled Farmers Market Peaches in Sake Gelee:

Aromatic, tender, lightly sweet, cool and refreshing. :slight_smile:

One of the most pleasurable and fascinating aspects of dinner at Hayato is being right in front of the main chef, and watching them cook, cut, and prepare and plate the dishes for each of the guests. It is labor intensive and yet it’s also a great view into the work that goes into each course you eat. Throughout that time, Chef Go remained open to chatting and questions, and was happy to share insight and stories about Japanese cuisine and his various dishes.

In the end, Hayato is a stunning tribute to pure Japanese Kaiseki cuisine. It is so unapologetic, so focused, so true to the goal of presenting this wonderful Japanese category of cooking to L.A. that it’s something worth celebrating. While it may sound like one might approach this restaurant and the food in hushed tones, Chef Go brings his upbringing in America to bear here as well: He is approachable, glad to talk about each dish and stories of training in Japan, and life in general, and as such he creates an inviting, gentle atmosphere to the dining experience.

Hayato is the Kaiseki experience that I had always hoped L.A. might have one day, and it has arrived in all of its delicious, fantastic glory. Do not miss this experience. :heart: (@bulavinaka @Bookwich @A5KOBE @TheCookie @BradFord @CiaoBob and all FTCers interested in this type of food.)

(inside ROW DTLA (enter from Bay Street (see this link))
1320 E 7th Street, Suite 126
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Tel: (213) 395-0607



@Chowseeker1999, your posts always makes me smile. I love the way you enjoy and describe food. So happy you had a wonderful evening! I think it’s cool that some of the dishes have changed since my visit…the presentation of the saba zushi is different from what we enjoyed. I am so excited to see how he evolves as he gets into the groove of things.


Wow! Great report.
I’m going this Wednesday.
Can’t wait.


Hi @attran99,

Thank you. :blush: I have to thank you and @J_L and @PorkyBelly for the great reports on your visits, and I’m glad I got to try pretty much all the dishes you all did reflecting the Summer season. :slight_smile:


Thanks @CiaoBob! Can’t wait to hear how your experience went. If you want a Sake recommendation, give the Born “Wings of Japan” or Okunomatsu “Juhachidai Ihei” a try. Loved the Okunomatsu at Raku, and Wings of Japan is limited and a nice treat (thanks to @beefnoguy). :slight_smile:


Yikes looks incredible. Finally a high caliber kaiseki in LA

I think it takes a skilled chef to execute this ‘simplicity’ well. Had an amazing chawanmushi like dish earlier in the week at another restaurant, unassuming yet so beautifully executed.


@Chowseeker1999 So I suppose YOU were the note-taker. :sunglasses:


Hi @moonboy403,

Hm? I don’t take notes usually, nor did I last week for this meal. Also unless there was another table, I don’t think you were amongst my party of 6. :stuck_out_tongue:


Never mind. I guess it was somebody else then! Strangely, that person ordered the same sake you did!


Hi @Sgee,

Yah Hayato looks to be a stunner. Hope you get a chance to try this soon!


Hi @moonboy403,

Ooh, nice. Then again, Chef Go told us that particular sake was really popular with many of his guests. I blame @beefnoguy for popularizing it, LOL. It’s on many sake lovers’ favorites lists, so it’s not surprising.


Hi @Sgee,

Wow that meal looks great, thanks for the recommendation! That Kama Toro! :open_mouth:


Thanks - I like very dry sake - nothing too florally.


Born is served at his parents’ restaurant. That’s how my friend got hooked on that brewery. She regularly drinks Gold, but has yet to try Dreams Come True. We did get to sample Wing of Japan the night we went…that was quite nice.


Hi [quote=“CiaoBob, post:13, topic:8244, full:true”]
Thanks - I like very dry sake - nothing too florally.

I like dry Sake as well, but am OK with some floral notes if it still finishes cleanly and dry-ish. In that case, maybe skip Born “Wings of Japan”, which is wonderful, but has floral notes. Their Sake Menu doesn’t have anything as bone dry as say, Izumi Judan, but I’ll defer to @beefnoguy for more dry recommendations. :wink:


Thank you again for yet another fantastic report! I’ll respond later to the food.

Haha you have been officially ruined for life. You still have a lot of sake to try, and now you had a taste of the super rare and highly sought after Juyondai quite early in your sake adventures! In Japan, the only way to get Juyondai is either you have connections, or you win a lottery at a sake shop that carries the latest release. Juyondai has a similar status to first growth Bordeaux, DRC, or Petrus (Pomerol). Something that would otherwise cost US$65 retail for this particular bottle in Japan gets marked up exponentially and it becomes a super premium in the aftermarket and a jacked up markup in restaurants (or black market).

Chef Go served the Cho Tokusen Junmai Daiginjo as a welcome sake? That’s far too generous! Even Narisawa in Tokyo, their welcome sake is Aramasa and is extremely light bodied and an apertif, which retails US$20 or less. He’s really going for making an impression! I wonder what he is going to serve when he runs out of that, those are some hard shoes (or bottles) to fill. And like I said, these are so ridiculously limited (and expensive) to get. A bottle in Hong Kong retails for around US$500 if you can find one, and more in a restaurant. In Tokyo if you can get it by the glass, it will be anywhere from $20 to $30 for 90 to 180 mL (depends on the establishment).

I believe the Cho Tokusen is brewed with Banshu Yamadanishiki rice and polished to 35%, and is one of many variations of the product lineup, and must be served chilled, though should be allowed to breathe a bit more in the vessel before you can get the maximum enjoyment out of it if poured right after opening.

If taking out Juyondai from the equation, then the Dreams Come True is certainly a fantastic one. May I ask how much they charged for the bottle? Hopefully much cheaper than Tempura Endo!

Though to be honest, I’ve had quite a few Juyondai’s in Tokyo from izakaya to sushi to kaiseki restaurants. It’s a good sake, but certainly not worth spending your life savings or the cost of a full blown omakase meal on. Plus it’s not the best pairing exactly with food, but totally enjoyable on its own and separately. And I’ve also had the Juyondai Banshu Yamadanishiki Junmai Ginjo Bessen (it makes it to California maybe once a year in super limited amounts), and it was probably one of the worst I’ve had :sweat_smile: that paired with only one or two things I had (this was at Iroriya by the way lol).

At Ishikawa I’m sure they have to offer Juyondai given the prestige of the restaurant and the clientele it attracts. Goyrukubo when I visited two years ago, did not, but I really appreciated the other sake offerings they had (many of which were also very well respected for those in the know). What I have found is that for even places like Aoyama Ichita (one Michelin star), their sake are very enjoyable, but nothing really jumped out that paired very nicely with food.

I do hope Chef Go expands and builds upon his sake selection, and not just focusing only on the brand name high end (also because they are easy to get into), there are some selections that I feel will be even better matches with his food that will greatly enhance the dining experience even more. There is plenty of opportunity here that I hope he will consider, and if he is sourcing Born, then he has access to a portfolio that has a lot of very interesting and worthwhile selections. Having something eclectic that is high end enough but works even better with his food, will make him stand out more from other restaurants that carry the same sake. (Just trying to play “sake somm” here to indulge myself a little)


@Chowseeker1999 How many bowls of rice did you consume? Also, did you think that portion was a bit small?


Excellent report @Chowseeker1999. Looks like chef go added some more fish to the sashimi course. And that saba looks incredible.

Have you tried his bento box yet?


A few comments:

Brandon Go’s food reflects his mentors (Ishikawa san and Kubo san), and while I have not had Ishikawa, the two restaurant’s kaiseki style still reflects Kanto region, which are generally stronger flavored compared to Kyoto or Nara kaiseki (Kansai). It’s still subtle, but nowhere near as subtle as western Japan.

I just saw moonboy403’s review so you were super duper lucky to get Juyondai for the welcome sake, as it was hand carried from Ishikawa san, and I doubt he could fit too many bottles of good sake in his luggage. Probably a fresh batch too (or the release probably dated a few months ago, not sure if this is one of those brewed a few years ago then release a few years later). Also possible because of a buyout and a high end sake purchase, as well as the timing/availability for him to pour. Either way, a super generous gesture on Chef Go’s part. I think there were a couple or other customers who got this pour based on their Instagram uploads (unless one of them was in your dining party).

Born: Dreams Come True is also popular because Shinzo Abe gifted one to former President Obama. It is also aged 5 years (I’m guessing at 0 degrees C, remember alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature) so it has pretty intense aromas, full bodied (guessing as a result of the extended low temperature aging), and a very velvety going down feel all the way to the finish and can be dangerous as the alcohol will eventually creep up to you. I would say if someone is into aged Burgundy, they will also love this bottle. I would also say the Dreams Come True pairs better with food overall than the Juyondai Cho Tokusen, in a way where the food makes the sake tastes better and vice versa. With 6 in your party, 1000 mL is a good size so everyone gets a sufficient amount to share.

Where is the abalone from? Was it steamed?

Hamo is technically daggertooth pike conger eel, but commonly referred to as pike eel. Anago is more commonly referred to as conger eel.

There are actually 2 major types of amadai used in high end Japanese cuisine.

Aka Amadai 赤甘鯛 (horsehead tilefish) Branchiostegus japonicus
Shiro Amadai Tilefish 白甘鯛 (tilefish) Branchiostegus albus Dooley

There is also Ki Amadai 黄甘鯛 (tilefish or blanquillo) Branchiostegus auratus. The skin resembles itoyoridai a little bit, beautiful strands of yellow make the appearance more striking.

If I were to take a stab, based on the skin I would say what you had was aka amadai, the giveaway being the red shade to some of the patterns on the skin. Either way a very prized high end fish.

I also noticed that at his mentor’s restaurant, Ishikawa, carries at least two extremely affordable Junmai sake that are medium to full bodied but have a lot of umami and structure, and they also are excellent at room temperature or served warmed. And they would pair great with the variety Chef Go has for sure (and best of all they are also exported to the US/California and available to order from another source…). There’s a lot of room to play around with for sure.

Let’s see what LA Eater will do with these recent reports…