Saturday, April 15, 2023

Kato (Los Angeles, CA) [4]

Kato Restaurant
777 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Sat 04/15/2023, 08:15p-09:45p

Kato Exterior

My last post detailed a tasting of Yamazaki whiskies over at Bar Jackalope. Now given that I'd sampled no fewer than 10 spirits at the event, I felt the need to eat something. Since I was already in Downtown, I decided to mosey on over to ROW DTLA and try to walk-in at Kato, the much-lauded modern Taiwanese spot from Chef Jonathan Yao, Nikki Reginaldo, and Ryan Bailey. Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn't able to accommodate me for either the standard tasting menu or the new bar tasting menu (instituted last August), but I was able to take a seat at the bar and dine à la carte.

Kato Bar Menu Kato Cocktail List
Here we see the bar menu as well as Austin Hennelly's stellar cocktail list. Click for larger versions.

Uni Donut
Uni Donut [$20.00] | iberico ham, brown butter
Given that there were only four items on the menu, I ended up just ordering 'em all. Up first was something that I'd actually had on my last visit to Kato, but I'm happy to report that the dish has been improved since then. I loved the deep savoriness of the jamón ibérico right up front, which quickly transitioned to the sweetness of both sea urchin and brown butter, while the lingering finish showed off the uni's oceany charms. This was pretty much the perfect bite.

Jack Rose
Jack Rose [$20.00] | lemorton pommeau de normandie and domaine de montreuil selection calvados shaken on crushed ice with bitter pomegranate, lemon, star anise and cinnamon
My first cocktail was a definite winner. I enjoyed how the complexities of the apple brandies were conveyed here, and how they combined with a fragrant vanilla ice cream-esque character, while the deft application of sweet spice served as a great accent.

astrea kaluga caviar
Milk Bread
Milk Bread [$12.00 + $75.00] | butter + add astrea kaluga caviar (30g)
I have fond memories of the shokupan from my last meal at Kato, and tonight's example managed to live up to those expectations. The signature softness and subtle sweetness I was looking for were there, but joined by an almost onion-y savor. An extra "cheesy" butter paired beautifully with the bread, while more intriguing was the caviar, which had this sticky salinity that arguably worked even better for contrast.

Syllabub [$21.00] | la cigarrera oloroso sherry and amaro dell'etna shaken with lemon, egg white, calpico and salted egg yolk
Next to arrive was this reworked incarnation of a British classic, which was no doubt one of the more beguiling things I've imbibed all year. Initial aromas were bittersweet and eggy and slightly herby, while flavors leaned sweet and lactic, with a delightful oxidative edge from the sherry that was key. I quite enjoyed the sheer "fluffiness" of the cocktail, too.

Maitake [$17.00] | fermented chili
The maitakes were also spot-on. I appreciated their feathery-yet-substantial texture and how that was juxtaposed against a light, crisp batter. Taste-wise, the mushrooms' delicately woodsy qualities married easily with the creeping, zippy heat from that fermented chile sauce.

Tipperary [$37.00] | duck fat washed redbreast sherry cask irish whiskey and l'encantada xo cask strength armagnac stirred with chartreuse cuvee des mof and principe de barbadillo amontillado sherry
I want to say that this was my first time having a Tipperary, which is a bit of a shame, since this was absolutely lovely. The cocktail smelled of rich, lush fruit, but with a marked nuttiness courtesy of the amontillado. Tasting it, I got delectably bittersweet chocolate commixed with more of those oxidative notes from the sherry, all perked up by a minty, herbal top note.

Boba [$15.00] | boniato yam, cheese
Dessert (a Kato classic from the original location) featured wonderfully slick, chewy, boniato-enriched tapioca pearls. The boba was paired with an intensely sugary syrup, brown butter sablé shavings, and a light, salty cheese, all of which came together to make for a nearly salted caramel-like sensation. Superb.

Even though I merely had bar bites tonight, I left Kato surprisingly sated, and I think the key was how the kitchen's thoughtfulness and precision were clearly evident, even with these relatively "casual" dishes, The cocktails were also top-notch, as always; despite their admittedly verbose descriptions, they never veer overly fussy, and always demonstrate focus and finesse. I suppose this all just serves as a reminder that I need to return here for a proper tasting menu again sometime.


Blogger Charlie Fu said...

food is killing it at Kato lately. Especially as it leans more and more to Chinese flavors again

Thursday, April 27, 2023 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

kato is killing it now. Especially as they lean harder and harder into Chinese flavors.

Thursday, April 27, 2023 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger asdfqwerty said...

Love that you had 10 spirits and continued to drink more. I am envious of the powers of both your stomach and liver.

Thursday, April 27, 2023 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Charlie: Yeah I've heard that Yao's going more overtly Chinese with his menu now, so I'm definitely curious to give it a go again.

asdfqwerty: Haha to be fair, the pours at the Yamazaki tasting were quite small, may around 20mL (two-thirds of a fluid ounce) each.

Saturday, April 29, 2023 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

we went to kato and thought it very unique, extremely american-born chinese. the technique or dishes seemed french or japanese but with chinese flavors. I see mei lin and yao spitballing and experimenting together a lot on their instagram over the years so her influence is undoubtedly there, and recently mei cooked yao's infamous 3 cup chicken on tournament of champions so he's influenced her a lot as well.

i think kato is as much yao discovering his identity as it is also connecting with it - we are eager to keep trying to see how his food and perspective changes over the years as he finds a rhymthm and niche to settle into here in LA.

Monday, May 29, 2023 8:00:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yeah Charlie (the commenter above) mentioned that Yao has gone more overtly Chinese with his cooking as of late, which to me sounds like a good thing. Agree that it's been intriguing to see how the Chef's food has evolved over time--I really need to have a proper meal here again!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 5:56:00 AM  

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