Hayato (Downtown L.A.): A Pictorial Essay

To dine at Hayato is to be transported to Japan. The tastes are bold yet delicate. Wild yet precious. Chef Brandon Go meticulously finishes every dish in front you throughout the meal. While there is admittedly no avant-garde ground being broken with serving old school Japanese kappo kaiseki, the deftness and precision of the execution at Hayato should excite the L.A. diner all the same. No fusion of cuisines will be found here. What you are eating IS what they are serving in some of the finest traditional restaurants of Japan - Same ingredients, same mise en place, same cooking techniques. My kaiseki meal at Hayato, served during the current soft opening, was one of the finest meals I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

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And in a creative, cosmopolitan Pacific Rim city such as Los Angeles - where the amalgam of clashing cultures meshed to create just the right conditions for wonderful inventions like Spago’s smoked salmon pizza, The Donut Man’s strawberry doughnut and Philippe’s French dip sandwich - coming “full circle” and going back to all-traditional preparations actually seems like the logical next step forward.

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As Chef Go confesses openly, the sourcing of the ingredients for every one of his authentic kaiseki services poses potential challenges. Sometimes there are no shrimps available from Tsukiji Market. Sometime the eel-monger sends hamo which are too small and not fatty enough for the chef’s liking. The premium binchotan (pine charcoal imported from Japan) alone costs $150 per bag. Hopefully, once things smooth out later on, the occasional hiccup with sourcing of seasonal items will become a thing of the past.

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Perhaps one of the loveliest things about kappo-style eating at Hayato is the interaction between the chef and the customer. Having worked in a Japanese kitchen practically all his life (his family has operated a successful sushi shop for years), Chef Go is thoroughly experienced in Japanese cuisine and its nuances. He has apprenticed at some of the best regarded Japanese kitchens, mainly under the tutelage of kaiseki master Hideki Ishikawa in Tokyo. Even better, he enthusiastically shares his knowledge of washoku with his diners. I am confident that almost everyone will complete their kaiseki at Hayato with at least a small increment in their understanding of Japanese cuisine.

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After a welcome sake aperatif, let’s have some kaiseki! Itadakimasu!

Binchotan-seared Santa Barbara spot prawn, tosazu jelly, fava bean & okra… Tosazu is a vinegar dressing featuring smoky katsuobushi (dried and smoked bonito). The perfectly seared spot prawn tail was just marvelous. By the way, Chef Go uses no butane torches for the searing. All heat for grilling and searing at Hayato is provided by old-fashioned binchotan (Japanese pine charcoal). Mad respect.

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The head of the shrimp (the best part), was quick-fried with its roe, and presented with sea salt… Superb!

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Sake: Dassai 39… True to kappo ryori hospitality, Chef Go pours all drinks for his counter customers.

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Hokkaido scallop, farmers market summer corn & mitsuba kakiage… What a fantastic summer bite.

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Aji bo-zushi… Line-caught horse mackerel with pressed and seasoned sushi rice. Terrific stuff!

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Live amerika-ichogani (Dungeness crab) shinjyo owan with junsai (water shield) & baby kabu (turnip)… Chef Go stresses locality and taste here. Ounce for ounce, he finds Dungeness crabmeat to be more intense in taste. He states also that Dungeness crab “binds” better than other crabs types when used in an owan-style presentation. Junsai is an aquatic vegetable used for adding interesting texture to dishes. In the past, I’ve seen Shunji-san and Nakayama-san use junsai to great effect. No exception here with Chef Go - this bowl of crab owan is simply fabulous.

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Wild Japanese tai (sea bream) sashimi with myoga, shiso, grated wasabi… Go-san explains: Tai (sea bream) is a fish so ingrained in the Japanese food psyche, it almost has to be included in any high-end meal. And wild-caught tai has a unique flavor not easily replicated in its farmed counterpart.

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Steamed Central Coast abalone with awabi kimo (abalone liver)… Again, locality plays a part in the kaiseki ethos. The steaming of the awabi takes considerable skill - it is done painstakingly slowly so as to not leech out the abalone’s natural flavor/umami (an act many other younger chefs are prone to commit), says Chef Go. This awabi was served with a sauce of kimo (its own liver). WOW! Overall this dish was definitely tied with n/naka’s baby abalone spaghettini as the best abalone presentation I’ve yet had in the United States! Terrific!!!

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Binchotan-grilled nodoguro (blackthroat perch) with gobo… Nodoguro is having is moment in the spotlight, appearing on many menus across town these days. Chef Go goes further to explain why the characteristics of this interesting fish lend itself to grilling, as well as sushi purposes.

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Anago (sea eel) tempura, gin-an (dashi ‘silver’ ankake), shoga (ginger) & Tokyo negi (scallion)… Such gorgeous frying technique on display here!

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Mebaru (rock cod) shabu shabu with mizuna, shiitake & bamboo… Really flavorful broth here - the mizuna adds a totally Japanese feel to the dish.

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Seared kamasu (baby barracuda) takikomi gohan kamameshi-style with miso soup and pickled vegetables… For the final course before dessert, and served with hoji-cha (roasted tea), Chef Go presented another fish which releases deep tastes once seared. An outstanding rice set!

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Dessert time!

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Andy’s Orchard Gold Dust peaches with sake gelee… A rare treat from Morgan Hill, these heavenly bites of ripe, sugary peach were the essence of summer itself!

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The finessed pacing, the warm hospitality, the attention to detail - basically the things I look for in a washoku meal of this type - all of these are present in abundance at Hayato. The $200 price tag per person isn’t cheap, but frankly an experience of Hayato’s caliber is well worth the price of admission here. Currently, even in its soft opening, there is absolutely nothing else like this that even comes close in Los Angeles.

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Once the finishing touches are placed on the tatami room (a private room which will seat 4), Hayato will celebrate its grand opening in autumn.

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By going back to the roots of its homeland, Hayato’s audacious new kaiseki-only format at ROW DTLA represents the next step in the evolution of Japanese cuisine in Los Angeles. It is a meal not to be missed.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Hayato
ROW DTLA
1320 E. 7th St., Suite 126
Los Angeles, CA 90021
213.395.0607
HayatoRestaurant.com

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Thank you for this detailed review, i wouldn’t know how to describe the dishes or remember everything we had in conversation with Chef Go.

It was definitely one of my favorite meals this year.

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Gorgeous pictures and excellent review, thanks!

  1. Can I ask what was your welcome sake apertif?

  2. Can you describe the flavor profiles you picked up in the owan (the dashi)? More kelp, or more katsuo? Smokey? A bit of acidity?

Hi @J_L,

Great, detailed review and gorgeous pics as always! :slight_smile: I can’t wait to try this place out. So currently besides the complimentary pours, Hayato is not serving any Sake right (not even “off menu”)?

This looks like a special place and a welcome addition to L.A.!

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Beautifully written and photographed. Thank you so much!

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Thanks!

  1. Mizbasho ginjo
  2. Gani shinjyo owan was slightly smoky, with a hint of tart. The young turnip balanced it all in towards the end of the sip…
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No, there is sake (I ordered a bottle of Dassai 39 there).

It’s just that the Hayato sake list hasn’t yet been finalized. Chef Go is no fool - he wants to get the very important drinking part of the whole experience nailed down proper before releasing his booze list to the public.

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Silly question, but how does one make a reservation to have this meal? I can’t see anything other than their bento box service on their linked website.

Thanks!

Since it is still soft opening, i think you are supposed to email him and he will get back to you.

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Ah great, thanks!

I didn’t quite pick up on that. Hoping to sneak in tomorrow before I leave town for a few weeks!

Edit:

I got in! Hooray!

According to you heavy-hitters, would it be considered good to bring an expensive bottle of sake to share? Or should I just show up and have whatever the chef pours?

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You should ask Chef Go what his corkage policy is first, and ask if the bottle you are bringing is something he already carries.

Unless you planning on gifting it to the chef himself, and not partake in any, but that’s a different story.

Kaiseki in my experience, is best suited with some of the really nice Junmai Daiginjo, and Daiginjo grade sake.
Of course, Junmai and Junmai Ginjo would work perfectly too. The ideal scenario would be the restaurant carrying a variety that they have by the glass, carafe, and bottle (and some bottle exclusive only) which was the model for Goryu Kubo.

Though from my standpoint, Chef Go’s mentor’s restaurant Ishikawa, based on tabelog pictures of their sake list, it’s a bit all over the map, with some that are designed to be consumed as is or separate from the food.

Which sake bottle(s) were you thinking of bringing?

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I was just thinking of bringing a bottle of Born Chogin, nothing too crazy. You’re right it’s probably already on his list huh? I just wasn’t sure if people were saying he isn’t serving alcohol so you have to BYOB, etc… I was thinking of sharing some with the chef in the moment if that’s allowed, but I am a neophyte and not sure if this is the kind of place where chefs have a drink with guests or not.

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I was talking to my friend, who introduced me to Chef Go’s family restaurant, and she mentioned she wanted to try this before she goes back to work. We scored the last 2 seats for tomorrow evening. I’d be interested in how to handle sake, too. She’s more well-versed than I am and has a couple of bottles she’s been saving.

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Crazy, it seems we will be sitting next to each other tomorrow night then!

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Just talked to my friend. Looks like we’re not going to bring sake and going to try ordering from the selection he has available. Cheers to kaiseki tomorrow!

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I just heard back from the chef that they don’t allow you to bring any sake at all (only wine @ $40/bottle)! Good thing I asked!

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Thanks for the note! My friend can’t drink wine…it gives her some strange reaction. Sake she can handle, though…mystifying to me.

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I empathize as I suffer from something extremely similar regarding vodka. No matter how expensive or cheap, if I have a bit of vodka it always triggers an intense migraine.

I imagine sake will pair better with the food at Hayato better than wine in general anyway, though!

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There IS a sake list (and a nice one at that!) that you can choose from - I just can’t publish it for now (at the request of Chef Go).

Enjoy!

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I just called and chatted with Chef Go. He said right now the restaurant is only seating people (such as prior bento customers) who are already on a long wait list. He’s limiting service while he tests out ideas and makes improvements. Reservations will be available to the general public probably beginning the end of August, and can be made via Resy starting in a few days. On your marks, get set…

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