Hayato - an evening to remember

“I love to see Dai Lo @beefnoguy eat and review this place!!!”

You called @JeetKuneBao ? :slight_smile: (sorry for the earlier false start)

Originally my trip to LA was but a fleeting fantasy…until I scoured the reservation system and located a seat. With the precision of Hawkeye/Ronin I aimed and sniped the F out of it, hit the bullseye and then the trip planning began. Ultimate and Infinite Endgame!!

I began communications with Chef Brandon Go shortly thereafter and inquired about the beverage selection, and the possibility of special ordering (as sake corkage is not allowed). I think he already knew who I was :sweat_smile: and gladly (and me thankfully) accepted my one off request. It’s a lot of trouble already, but I appreciated all the effort. This is just in case a few of you ask me, since he does not carry them. Interestingly I noted that a few of what I had suggested in communication and also previously in @Chowseeker1999 's post made it to the sake menu!! So consider this a win for Hayato, the sake list improvement, and for their customers (especially FTC ballers, hopefully for the wine fiends too who will try)

It was still around 90 F at 6 pm when I arrived at Row DTLA. A very interesting setup. I decided not to do any pre and post dinner bang bang’s, so to savor only this meal from start to finish. In any case, I did leave feeling quite full and almost had to cry uncle. Perfectly satiated.

I went towards the entrance about 10 mins before 7 pm. Nobody was waiting outside, but interestingly there was a mega baller racing car parked right out front (guessing street price $200K to $250K). Sure enough, a couple regulars already sat down. I didn’t know parking was allowed right outside (whether VIP or not)

Exchanged greetings with Chef Go as I sat down, and felt nothing but excitement, pleasure, fortune, and happiness to be here. Really felt the great vibe about the place, and upon taking shelter in a cooler environment, a pour of welcome sake was placed in front of me.

I would have failed this blind taste test miserably, as it was nothing like how it normally tastes for me. I couldn’t identify it at first, as it was fairly full bodied and fruity (quite chilled), bordering on a Junmai Ginjo at 50%. A nice delicious refreshing start!

And then Chef Go placed the bottle in front of me

Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai. Love this sake. A higher priced go to sake for grill, stews, even lightly spicy Chinese food (think of the cold dishes at Cindy’s kitchen…marinated pig’s ears or marinated beef tendon slices!), izakaya, yakitori, and the right sushi. Having taken this to Kusakabe in SF earlier this year with explosive results, I knew it would be amazing with kaiseki to match all the cooking styles. This is one of the definitive brews from Aomori prefecture and not easy to find even in Tokyo as production is limited, but we are lucky to get some exported. Super floral and mildly earthy in a wider glass and at lightly chilled temperature. It also warms up nicely as well up to about the 45 degrees C range. For those wanting a super food friendly sake entire bottle but want structure and capability also to last the entire meal, this is a solid pick.

Very unusual to have Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai as a welcome sake, but as it turns out this is perfect for me. And hopefully wine drinkers get it too. As this sake has enough umami and structure. Serving it chilled makes it easier for everyone to drink, it serves to calibrate your tastebuds and nicely sets the tone for the rest of the evening (until you dive into other beverages).

During this time I browse the beverage list. I’m thrilled to report that Den Sake Brewery (Oakland, California) Batch #6 is available by the glass, and also by the bottle (500 mL)! This is fantastic not just for Hayato who likes this sake, but also for my friend the master brewer of Den, Yoshihiro Sako whose offerings are already integrated into the beverage lists and pairings of Quince, Saison, Angler, Single Thread, Harbor House Inn Mendocino etc. I believe the #6 they serve is the single pasteurized version which I think is quite fantastic having had it a few times (it actually ages quite nicely and drinks like a great white wine). There are also a few sake that I mentioned in @Chowseeker1999 's thread as suggestions that finally made it to the drink menu…so I guess someone has been reading :sweat_smile: The list has expanded quite a bit and even the white wine selection looks great!

They then asked if I was ready for my sake. I nodded and was quite ecstatic being able to do this customized and self dictated pairing (for me to learn and experiment with). Tatsuriki Kome No Sasayaki “Whispers Of Rice” YK-50 Daiginjo (300 mL version) by Honda Shoten, Aboshi, Hyogo Prefecture. A staple at Mori Sushi, (where Maru san is a huge customer of Tatsuriki for LA and carries a few of their lineup) but I think this particular signature daiginjo was built for kaiseki more, especially here.

I would have gladly crushed the 720 mL bottle but felt like I needed something to handle the later part of the meal. This was quite excellent, strong, bold, masculine, yet aromatic with a lot of umami and structure. Not a prototypical fruity super aromatic daiginjo for sure.

You can choose your choice of Hayato’s sake cups, but for me I went straight for the wine glass.

Before I forget, at some point before my sake came, in walks 2 people. One of them is the local legend Morihiro Onodera! They are seated to my right, but as I never had the pleasure of dining with him at any of his restaurants, I didn’t introduce myself (nor name drop as we have mutual social media friends), and no fangurling. Let him enjoy his meal. Someone asked permission to take pictures, and Chef Go responded that it would be a first if nobody took any. So then I gleefully snapped away (with the sound off of course).

Here’s Chef Go grinning in my direction, although I’m sure under that smile is the feeling of nervousness knowing the master of rice is in front of him watching his every move like a hawk while acting cool and smooth :sweat_smile:. Nothing like industry people coming to your establishment, especially a local legend, and sizing you up in silence. It’s ok chef, I’ll pour you some strong geek sake later!! Got you covered!

Most of you are already familiar with the first course. Wild Santa Barbara spot prawns, seared over binchotan (keeping the inside medium rare) with Tosazu gelee (rice vinegar, dashi, salt) and sake, mirin, white soy sauce, topped with shiso blossoms

This was a perfect blend of all textures. A savoring of the senses, and a great way to start the meal on this hot September evening. Lots of wonderful aromas, and a great match with Kome No Sasayaki Daiginjo… in particular it is the smokey flavors of the dashi (katsuo centric) in the tosazu gelee that interacts with the bold strong umami centric Yamadanishiki in the sake, along with moderate acidity in the sake and astringency that harmonizes and in some ways accentuates the tosazu flavors. Not to mention that this Daiginjo is also quite versatile to pair with shellfish, another added bonus there. Lovely light smokey aromas also from the quick binchotan searing of the spot prawns exterior. Masterfully done. Already a home run for the first course!!

The agemono (deep fried) course was a marvelous kakiage of Northern California Brentwood corn, Hokkaido scallop, and mitsuba. I was surprised to learn that there isn’t as much delicious fresh corn in Southern California now, and that this Brentwood corn was even better during this time. I’ve had Brentwood corn before and more recently at Madcap (Marin County) as surinagashi (fantastically done too), but this was on a different level altogether. Insane frying skills, yet retaining all the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients. Just a tiny dab of salt and the sweetness and natural flavors intensifies. As tempting as it was to try a pairing with a dry style Junmai sake just for this course, the Kome No Sasayaki Daiginjo held up to this nicely, as it should. It was hard resisting clapping for applause.

Bravo, Chef Go! A true showcase of professional skill applying to local premium ingredients (and some from Japan), blending it all seamlessly together.

The famous aji bousushi (Hyogo prefecture) was quite excellent too. Clean, meaty, delicate, with just the right pitch of fish fat, and just a great overall mouthfeel. The rice for bousushi had chopped up chives in it, just a natural flavor boost that worked nicely (instead of putting negi along with ginger on top of the aji, quite genius and subtle I might add). Really didn’t need any further seasoning. Au naturale! Bousushi is more rooted in Kansai, but there are some Kanto/Tokyo slants, as well as Chef Go’s interpretation of this.

The owan course was a magnificent dashi, kani shinjo (made with live Dungeness crab, crab miso [inside the head] and binded with fish paste, and steamed), Junsai, topped with first green yuzu of the season. Soooooo good and soothing. And surprisingly, worked quite nicely with the Daiginjo (but surprised not quite as well with the crab shinjo).

At this point, I think it was time to move on to the next sake

Mutsu Otokoyama Chokara Junmai (Hachinohe Shuzo, Aomori Prefecture)

This brewery (Hachinohe Shuzo) is also very famous in Aomori prefecture, although not as famous as Denshu (Nishida Shuzo). They have two labels: Mutsu Hassen, and Mutsu Okotoyama. However their sake are not to be underestimated, especially for those who love BBBS (big beautiful bold sake), and will appeal to wine drinkers for sure. I first had this at Aoyama Ichita (one Michelin star kaiseki) and found it very delicious. I had no idea this would get exported, and it was a no brainer to try it here upon learning this is available for distribution.

One whiff in my glass, and oh man… heavenly. You know the feeling you get when you smell a premium Brunello, Barolo, Super Tuscan decanted after 2 hours and get a whiff of it (or a Burgundy?) Yeah…that’s how I felt with this bad boy and even more so as it came down in temperature. It was like playing Street Fighter with Shin Akuma injected with the Kurse Stones (re: Thor Dark World) with triple double bars of power. Shun Goku Satsu (Raging Demon) all the way from here on!!

So much structure, character, umami punch, super dry, but well balanced. Red wine drinkers will like this for sure.

At this point, my front view started to look a bit too sake geeky :sweat_smile::nerd_face:

Sashimi course: Madai (Chiba prefecture), Tairagai (Aichi prefecture), Aka Uni (Awajishima, Hyogo prefecture). Brilliant!! Quite amazed at this point how the Mutsu Otokoyama was also a great pairing with this course, despite the BBB aspect of it.

Steamed abalone (sake, water, piece of konbu) with abalone stomach sauce, and gelee made with its essence. Needless to say, explosively great and it was yet another pairing home run with the Mutsu Otokoyama (I had given up on the Daiginjo at this point and moved on to Shin Akuma lol). The texture of the steamed abalone is ridiculous. This also goes to show the importance of sake used for cooking in Japanese cuisine, and yes even properly done Edomae sushi or otsumami. And you look back at western media coverage saying sushi doesn’t go with sake because rice vs rice and then you shake your head in utter disbelief and ridicule.

The yakimono course was a delectable and fantastic nodoguro, very simply seasoned with salt and grilled over binchotan. As chef Go explained, the salt, fat and flavors of the fish, and the smoke from the binchotan come together to create wonderful combinations of aromas and profiles. And yes needless to say, conducive to that beverage pairing for you to discover and pound to the ground. In the back, lotus root slow roasted until it starts to carmelize. Freaking ridiculous, insane binchotan grilling technique. The renkon flavors and aromas reminded me of fresh senbei/Japanese rice crackers with the brushed sauce right off the grill (e.g. Tokyo, Kyoto).

Of all the pairings this evening, the Mutsu Otokoyama and this yakimono were dead on perfect together in every way. Amazing harmonious match made in heaven. Like scoring double Perfect with Shin Akuma, and telling the other player to take his Street Fighter milk money and go home! So good!

Anago from Yamaguchi prefecture, sauce is made with ankake (dashi thickened with starch), ginnan (gingko nut), ginger juice, dashi, and topped with Tokyo negi. Wonderful light frying skills, fatty anago yet retains all its natural flavors, still crispy on the exterior all the way throughout the course, yet delicate natural anago flavors, perfect chew, and tender on the inside. Legendary and master level! Shin Akuma sake was proud of this too!

Next, a wonderful piece of binchotan grilled aka amadai, shitake, komatsuna, and a beautiful intense dashi infused with the flavors of all the ingredients. The aka amadai was naturally amazing, but one major umami boost came from the shitake. Also it was my first time having yakimono / binchotan grilled fish served in dashi. Incredible combination! Amazing!

Chinmi course: Konoko (sea cucumber ovaries). Very high quality and just very lightly pickled/salted, and imported from Japan. Served with pour of Denshu. For those that did not have sake, another welcome sake sized pour of Denshu was a good match to have (and to re-try it). However if you have a BBBS (or a very dry / 0 dosage bubbly) you will already be in great shape for the pairing. This is something that’s rarely seen even for me in kaiseki cuisine, but I really appreciate it as it introduces customers to some fundamentals of beverage pairing and otsumami/chinmi that elevates the taste of sake.

And next was the super famous earth shattering gohanmono (rice course). Tonight’s fish was binchotan grilled kinmedai

Hands down one of the best gohanmono courses I’ve had in recent memory! I think we all prefer stronger flavored seasoning, and Hayato adjusts theirs to match our tastes (and frankly stronger flavors make beverage pairings that much easier). Personal preference…although gohanmono courses in Japan tend to not taste anywhere near as strong or robust by design.

Beautiful pearly grains of this Niigata rice, perfect heat, texture, temperature, stickiness (nebari), with the aromas from the seasoning, the vegetables, the grilled fatty kinmedai…too good for words.

Rice course is incomplete without pickles. Both the sliced cucumber and the daikon were great…particularly the daikon. Holy crap, hints of Kyoto style turnip and Tokyo sushi restaurant bettara zuke. Legendary match.

The soup was brilliant too. A real nice way to wind down this meal and to be satiated (before dessert!)

Dessert was next, I was super looking forward to it!

Harries Berries Mara Des Bois strawberries with kinako cream, served with a tea blend of matcha and sencha. A simple take on strawberries & cream, but at such a high level!

Chef Go was so kind and gave us all extras of the strawberries, as much kinako cream as we wanted, and some slices of really delectable seasonal summer pluots. So good and satisfying!

This was definitely one of, if not the highlight of my trip! Super happy!

A few additional comments

You guys here in LA are very blessed and fortunate to have Chef Go, a man and craftsman with this level of talent, and to be able to blend all sensibilities together (skill, use of premium local and imported Japanese ingredients) yet deliver an experience that fits a wide variety for the Californian crowd. It’s a no brainer that VIP ballers love to come here and enjoy their aged burgundies, or splurge on very nice sake. But the food is also built perfectly that even if you open and enjoy geek sake or niche wine, that it will work great.

Service is super attentive, and all their server staff are well trained and kept the right pacing. Chef Go is extremely engaging and makes sure everyone leaves happy and satiated. A true to spirit professional craftsman, pays great attention to detail and strives to improve and stays in tune with kaiseki trends (or to stay grounded)…Sushi Yoshizumi is exactly the same way in this regard.

Also loved the build out of the place. A very intimate atmosphere. I can only hope that people who come here really do appreciate the cuisine, and at least leave with a better understanding of washoku, technique, execution, and all the nuances of profiles, aroma, flavors…and last but not least, why having a place like this is ground breaking and a treasure (also setting the bar high for those attempting anything remotely similar).

Looking forward to returning next time!

26 Likes

Thanks for the detailed write-up! Hayato is indeed a wonderful restaurant. How many McChelin stars did it garner from you?

Also, how many bowls of rice did you have?!

1 Like

Thank you for reading!

Can’t decide how many McChelin…too many eyes reading this post who lurk also haha. Lots of pressure. But it was all splendid for sure. Let’s just say during some of the courses I was reminded of my few limited kaiseki experiences (see past reviews on the Japan board I did for Goryukubo and Aoyama Ichita…both places I spoke with Go san about and we had a great chat about Kubo san too).

I crushed 3 to 4 bowls. Lost count. As I absolutely did not want to do a tacos bang bang afterwards!

2 Likes

Thanks for the excellent report! Glad you made it out.

I wonder if Mori liked the rice and sushi course…

1 Like

Fuk, couldn’t score ressies to dine-in or for the to-go-box :sob:

Hi @beefnoguy,

Yay! So happy you finally got a chance to try Hayato! Subarashii desu ne? :wink: :blush: It’s amazing! And a great report and pics. Thanks!

Wow, you got Go-san to special order Tatsuriki Kome no Sasayaki with your dinner? That sounds amazing.

Is Mutsu Otokoyama different from the more ubiquitous Otokoyama? It probably is because I remember Otokoyama is from Hokkaido. Your 2nd Sake sounds wonderful as well. I don’t think I’ve seen that particular bottle at any local places recently, I’ll bookmark it, thanks. :slight_smile:

Isn’t Go-san’s techniques pretty special? I still dream about the Owan course and the Dashi he makes from scratch each time. There is such clarity, so pure in its flavors and what it’s trying to do. :slight_smile:

Compared to some of the other places that got it, Hayato definitely should’ve gotten 2 Stars. Oh well, more for us; it’s better that it’s “only” a 1 Star to keep it more underrated. :wink:

Lastly, your comment @beefnoguy about only people who appreciate this food should visit, sadly, on our last visit, Go-san had 2 guests who were sitting to the side, paid no attention to Go-san the entire night, even talked over him while he was introducing his courses, and were surfing on their phone / social media the entire night (and barely bothered to eat the food). :roll_eyes: :rage: :expressionless: Sad.

But back to the thread. Glad you liked Hayato, and yes, it’s one of L.A.'s standout restaurants! :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Aw, sorry to hear @Sgee. :frowning: /comfort

Hopefully next time you’re in town you’ll be able to get rezzies. I think you’d love Hayato!

1 Like

Haha I need to plan a bit further in advance. Everything looks terrific.

2 Likes

Good corn is hard to find anywhere. Everybody plants relatively flavorless sweet & grassy modern hybrids instead of corn-flavored classics like Country Gentleman and Silver Queen.

1 Like

I really need to go back sooner than later

2 Likes

The flavor king pluots he’s serving now are delicious!

Glad you had an amazing meals. Great detailed write up. Will have to ask about the sake you had on our next visit!

What’s funny is we almost never see other parties ordering alcohol. Most people just sit there quietly just eating their food and barely talking to each other or with chef.

1 Like

Could not agree more!

Six. I finished off the entire rice cooker. (In my defense - they have tiny bowls at Hayato!)

7 Likes

Thanks for your kind words! It is reviewers like you who push me into giving back and putting on my geek hat! Least I could so since you’ve written so many reviews and given me tons of future ideas when I visit again. Yes truly subarashii as you so eloquently put it (and no other word better describes the experience!)

Yeah but just a word to everyone else, I don’t think anyone can just go in and special request things and get them. After requesting I felt bad incurring all that inconvenience!
Hopefully this was a learning experience for both of us, and who knows… perhaps something will appear on the sake menu next time!

The omnipresent Otokoyama is a mass producer of sake out of Hokkaido and probably the most famous “Man’s Mountain”. Unfortunately for us sake drinkers there are quite a number of other breweries adding the kanji “Man’s Mountain” to their labels and sub labels, but none that are purely “Otokoyama”. Niigata has a fantastic producer called Nechi Otokoyama and they are to me a geek level parallel of Honda Shoten Tatsuriki for Niigata, same philosophies and thinking and approach. Hachinohe brewery’s Mutsu Otokoyama is totally unrelated of course. Then there’s another something something Otokoyama out of Yamagata.

On a side note, there are two breweries who name their offerings “Jokigen”. One is in Ishikawa prefecture and the other is Yamagata. Lol.

You’re not the only one who has said to me that Hayato deserves two stars. But given the unevenness of Michelin (even in San Francisco) stranger things have happened. Also look at some of the BS in SF that got one Michelin star… it makes the ones that truly deserve it feel like they are on the wrong and uneven playing field. But that’s how this works. Only in our hearts of hearts do we know or care who truly earned and deserve it (and we continue to patronize).

Yep totally hear you on the craptacular customers, there’s a certain segment in particular that are terrible and rotten to the core, oblivious of ettiquette, and I won’t go any further…I think a few of you out there know what I’m referring to. Money never buys class.

That’s also part of the M-star curse, it attracts more riff raff too. I’ve sat next to my fair share of them up here. But as a business owner one has to unfortunately cater to everyone and keep good spirits and do their best despite the A-holism. If you think what we experienced is bad, there are lots of horror stories in Japan at the high end restaurants.

2 Likes

Only deserves one…forever… pls don’t make reservations any more difficult :grin:

3 Likes

Yes I believe that’s exactly what I had (king of flavor pluots).

Yeah I don’t know about asking about those specific sake. I think you may be better off ordering from his list, as he has some new ones. The ones I ordered in particular are very geek level that not everyone will appreciate or understand.

But here are some on the current sake menu of note that I think everyone should try:

Den Sake Brewery Batch #6 (bottle or glass)

Sohomare Junmai Ginjo Tochigi (bottle)

Nishida Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai (bottle or glass)

Tedorigawa Yamahai Daiginjo (bottle) - highly recommend this one for those who love bold red wines. The first time I had this particular bottle was with the now closed Kappou Gomi in San Francisco (helmed by a retired top notch kaiseki chef), and it was quite powerful (also can withstand heat, good acidity so it will withstand fried and fatty deliciousness)

Tedorigawa Tsuyusanzen Nama Daiginjo - cheaper than Mangekyo but also very good and hard to get

Hakkaisan Kowagura Junmai Daiginjo - I believe this is one to two year aged in igloos/low temperature. I first had this at Goryu Kubo in late 2016 and it blew me away…I’m not much of a Hakkaisan person but I’ll gladly taste this again. Well worth a try

Daishichi Minowamon Junmai Daiginjo - supposedly built for kaiseki, I have not yet tried it with

Dewazakura Daiginjo and Dewazakura Yukimanman - I really enjoy these two

and of course Kokuryu Shizuku and the more affordable Ryu. The Ryu might be able to handle mild heat.

Last but not least, Shimeharitsuru “Kin”" Daiginjo, this is a must try and is on numerous die die must try sake lists in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong amongst the sake fanatics over there. I was gifted a bottle earlier this year, and shared this with white burgundy drinkers who were blown away by it. The finish is a bit quick for me (typical Niigata profile) but the front and mid drinking experiences are first rate competition level Daiginjo. The “Jun” of Shimeharitsuru would be then the nice piggy back after the Daiginjo for the heavier flavored latter courses (like the grilled fish). Put this one on your list and grab your wine homies to share this with and do side by side wine/white burg with it.

Grab burgundy glasses for those ultra fine daiginjo and white wine glass for the Junmai/Junmai Ginjo, and have a blast savoring all those aromas. Or if you prefer portion control and gentle sipping, the small ceramic cups that Hayato has.

In any case starting with a Daiginjo at kaiseki for me, is a pinnacle of spoilt luxury, whether a high end or a lower end one (so long as it pairs).

4 Likes

SIX!

I pledge myself to your teachings…I mean… eatings… my master.

1 Like

Thanks for the amazing write up, not that Hayato needs any more hype. The food looks impeccable. Having said that, based on what I see, I feel like I would leave still starving unless I just stuff myself with bowls and bowls of the rice dish. If you only had one bowl of rice, would you have been satisfied?

1 Like

My stomach has shrunk quite a bit over the years. I think I would have been fine with only one bowl, as I think I struggled a bit trying to finish the pluot and 2nd round of strawberries. If you are really hungry there’s the oyster bar nearby and a few other places before (or elsewhere afterwards) but with kaiseki the best thing is just to be satiated instead of busting your gut.

This was fun to read…and in that you went full on sake geek and Chef Go was game is super cool. I think this kind of service is only meant for those in the know/gangsta enough for the extra mile.
I really need to go back for another dinner…but the reservations are impossible now.

2 Likes

Thanks @attran99!

In the Japanese restaurant world, it takes passion and being a geek, and on top of that having A game to really stand out from the bunch, as well as maintaining consistency of qualitiy/execution. Chef Go for sure encapsulates all that. The real deal OG Shiznit shokunin for sure.

I do hope more customers go there and purchase alcohol (wine, sake, or champagne or a mix) and find their own sweet spot pairings with the food. That is the ultimate enjoyment when you realize and hit all those notes. Although taste is so subjective between folks.

4 Likes