The exterior façade of Hayato is simple. A plain noren (screen curtain), embossed with a mon (family crest) hangs in front of the entrance, flowing in the wind. Construction workers mill about outside (ROW DTLA is not quite yet ready for prime time), with the occasional resonances of hammering in the distance.
Once inside, however, quietude and serenity pervade. Chef Brandon Go welcomed me from behind the finely sanded hinoki counter as he put the finishing touches on my bento. “There’s still a lot of work to do,” he says, referring not my bento, but rather the interior of the restaurant space. “The tatami space will be here,” as he points to an empty area near the front door. Though Hayato Restaurant is still undergoing physical transformation, the seriousness of its intended cuisine is already being felt. And as for the bento box? It represents a sort of introduction of this spirit to future diners.
I am here for this bento.
And what a gorgeous box it is! A total of sixteen items are inside, each serving meticulously prepared using traditional methods honed from Chef Go’s time spent at Michelin three-star Ishikawa in Tokyo. And yes, each item is absolutely delicious.
-Wild Mexican Shiro Ebi (White Shrimp) Shinjo
-Dried Shiitake Nimono
-Shungiku (Chrysanthemum Greens) with Sudachi Zest
-Kamo Tataki (Seared Duck Breast)
-Black Cod Saikyo Yaki
-Honshimeji Mushroom Ohitashi
-Kyuri (Japanese Cucumber) with Sesame & Salt
-Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato) Mitsu-Ni
-Grilled Hokkaido Hotate (Scallop) Shioyaki
-Zuwaigani (Snow Crab) Tofu
-Agedashi Nasu (Eggplant)
-Togan (Winter Melon) in Ginger Dashi
-Koshihikari Rice with Root Vegetables
In Japan, the bento box can either be a mode of casual quick eating, or it can symbolize an elaborate affair - one worthy of gifting and savoring. The $50 bento at Hayato, which takes up to 48 hours to prepare, rests most definitely in the latter category. Chef Go teaches me that there is thought given the subtleties of travel which must confront each bento chef: Will the flavors and aromas be too weak or too strong after fifteen minutes of travel? How about at thirty minutes? What about temperature? Each dish must taste good even after cooling a bit, and perhaps even at room temperature. Furthermore, unlike omakase, where chef controls the next bite with progression, a bento customer can randomly choose his/her next bite. These are facts not lost upon the bento masters of Japan.
“No fusion. No modern flourishes,” the chef proudly states. Once Hayato Restaurant is up and running, Chef Go plans to offer traditional kaiseki dinners in Los Angeles. “I was born and raised in America, but trained in Japan. I want to bring washoku - traditional Japanese cooking - combined with Michelin-level precision, to Los Angeles.” Having practically inhaled my entire bento by Chef Go, I most eagerly await the opening of Hayato. Gochisosama deshita!
Hayato Restaurant (Bento Take-out)
1320 E. 7th St., Suite 126
Los Angeles, CA 90021