Thursday, January 04, 2024

Kinjiro (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Kinjiro Restaurant
424 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Thu 01/04/2024, 07:30p-11:05p

Kinjiro Exterior

If we're talking about izakaya-style spots in LA, then Nomiya Kinjiro (飲屋 金次郎) unquestionably has to be considered among the cream of the crop. Situated in Little Tokyo's Honda Plaza, the restaurant opened in November 2014, and comes to us from Jun Isogai and Tina Kuo, in concert with Chef Yoshikazu Kondo. I'm quite the fan of the place, and returned recently for a birthday dinner.

Kinjiro Menu: Cold Dishes + Fried Dishes Kinjiro Menu: Grilled Dishes + Simmered / Stewed Dishes + Rice, Noodle, Soup Dishes + Dessert Kinjiro Sake List Kinjiro Beer, Shochu & Wine List
The food served at Kinjiro comprises both more traditional and more modern interpretations of izakaya fare, while drink-wise, you'll find a respectable sake selection as well as a short wine list. Corkage is $25 a pop. Click for larger versions.

Seared Uni
Seared Uni [$50.00]
I don't usually get to experience sea urchin with this much sear, but it really worked out. The smoke and char combined beautifully with the lush, sweet uni and its accompanying cream sauce, while a base of seaweed provided contrast in both taste and texture. And if that wasn't enough, you also had those crispy sheets of nori, with their complementary roasty, umami-laden notes.

2020 Shiraiwa K.K. Iwa 5 Assemblage 2 Junmai Daiginjo
To drink, I brought along a bottle of the 2020 Shiraiwa K.K. Iwa 5 Assemblage 2 Junmai Daiginjo, which interestingly enough, was created by Richard Geoffroy, former chef de cave for Dom Pérignon. The 35% seimaibuai sake had an almost wine-like bouquet at first blush, with a distinctly sweet, floral, yet rice-y quality overlaid with hints of umami. On the palate, this was soft and smooth, its initial savoriness leading to a growing stone fruit character and touches of astringency. I'd say that the Iwa was somewhat richer than most sakes, though still quite dainty, and a fitting pairing with the food.

Seared Kanpachi (Amberjack) with Spicy Ponzu
Seared Kanpachi (Amberjack) with Spicy Ponzu [$30.00]
Just-thick-enough cuts of amberjack showed off a satisfying chew, along with a great sear and smoke that meshed superbly with the fish's sweet, fatty nature. Also appreciated was the zestiness of the green onion and the creeping heat from the momiji oroshi.

Wasabi Potato Salad with Ikura & Smoked Salmon
Wasabi Potato Salad with Ikura & Smoked Salmon [$16.00]
Given my propensity for potato salad, this was a must-order for me, and certainly delivered the goods. The potesara had the creaminess I was expecting, along with a pervasive, palpable heat from the wasabi that played well with the smoky, savory duet of salmon and its roe, all while the veggies lightened things up.

Organic Baby Spinach with Organic Mushrooms Salad
Organic Baby Spinach with Organic Mushrooms Salad [$16.00]
This seemingly straightforward salad turned out better than anticipated. The key was how the woodsy, buttery 'shrooms matched up so seamlessly with those supple leaves of spinach.

Kibinago Japanese Sardine Tempura
Kibinago Japanese Sardine Tempura [$18.00]
Fried kibinago were delicately battered, with an appealing mix of both sweet and saline flavors. The fish was tasty alone, but opened up nicely with a squirt of lemon. I also appreciated the piquancy provided by the yuzukosho salt, while the mentaiko salt boosted the brine factor even further.

Agedashi Fried Tofu with Organic Mushrooms Ankake Sauce
Agedashi Fried Tofu with Organic Mushrooms Ankake Sauce [$20.00]
A deep-fried demisphere of tofu displayed a chewy, almost mochi-like exterior that hid tender insides. Its mild, slightly nutty flavors paired easily with the comfortingly savory qualities of that mushroom sauce, and I liked the additional umami contributed by the sprinkles of nori, too.

Spanish Octopus with Japanese Peppercorn Aioli
Spanish Octopus with Japanese Peppercorn Aioli [$36.00]
Octo arrived with just enough chew, working hand-in-hand with shishitos and the brightness of a shiso leaf condiment. It was even better when taken with the sansho aioli, but was best with a dab of matcha-wasabi salt.

1983 Huguet Pinon Vouvray Demi-Sec
Next to drink was the 1983 Huguet Pinon Vouvray Demi-Sec. The Loire Valley Chenin blanc demonstrated a lush nose filled with pineapples, stone fruits, and honey. Taking a sip, I found the wine silky smooth, with more of those apricot, plum, and honeyed notes countered by a remarkable freshness and acidity. This was definitely mature, yet not over the hill, and was quite a pleasant surprise.

Thick-cut Beef Tongue with Yuzu Negi
Thick-cut Beef Tongue with Yuzu Negi [$38.00]
Cuts of tongue were indeed as thick as advertised, and showcased a gratifying texture along with a deep, robust beefiness, some buttery traits, and pinpricks of salt. Given the gyutan's heft, the sharp heat of the accompanying yuzu-green onion sauce was much appreciated.

Beef Tongue Curry Rice
Beef Tongue Curry Rice [$26.00]
I'm a sucker for Japanese curry, so this was another dish that I couldn't pass up. The tongue itself was as soft and homey as I was hoping for, and melded perfectly with the dark, heady, familiar flavors of the curry. Meanwhile, the rice was the perfect companion, and I quite liked the acidity and crunch offered up by the fukujinzuke pickles.

Hot Inaniwa Udon Noodles with Braised Beef Tongue Soup
Hot Inaniwa Udon Noodles with Braised Beef Tongue Soup [$26.00]
Our third serving of beef tongue was another standout. Again, the actual chunks of tongue were properly hearty and tender, and meshed flawlessly with that cozy soup, with the bitter greens working superbly for contrast. However, the hero here were the thin noodles, which displayed this wonderfully slick, slightly chewy consistency that I reveled in.

King Salmon 'Ochazuke'
King Salmon "Ochazuke" [$18.00] | Rice with Hot Dashi Broth
The night's final savory was another winner. The key was how the salmon's smoky, saline, fatty nature linked up with the relatively restrained dashi broth, all while the stinging heat of wasabi peeked through just enough. I liked those crunchy, charred cuts of salmon skin, too.

Sake Kasu Crème Brulee
Sake Kasu Crème Brulee [$10.00]
Desserts ended up being comped, perhaps because of the aforementioned birthday, or perhaps because we shared wine with our server. In any case, sake lees gave the crème brûlée a delightfully fruity, almost banana-esque taste that made a lot of sense with the custard's smoky bits and healthy amount of vanilla.

Black Sesame Mousse
Black Sesame Mousse [$10.00]
This black sesame-boosted mousse made for a fitting close. It had that familiar nuttiness I was looking for, rendered in creamy form, with additional interest provided by both kinako and kuromitsu.

Kinjiro delivered a top-notch izakaya experience tonight, as it always does. I feel like the flavors here are so clearly and cleanly conveyed, and there's a purity, a finesse to the cooking, but also plenty of comfort and familiarity. The food is elevated, but doesn't lose sight of its humble origins. I consider this place an essential part of the Little Tokyo (and Downtown in general) dining scene.


Blogger RoyBoyLove said...

I've always wanted to try this place. Can I ask how many people this meal served?

Thursday, March 21, 2024 1:36:00 PM  
Blogger RoyBoyLove said...

I've always wanted to try this place. Thank you for the review. Can I ask how many people this meal served?

Thursday, March 21, 2024 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I'd say that this was sufficient food for three diners.

Sunday, March 24, 2024 12:25:00 AM  

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