Kato: Simple Elevated
The 10-course tasting menu at Kato is chef’s Jon Yao’s interpretation of Asian American on a plate. His constantly rotating menu inspired by seasonal flavours is a nod to Los Angeles, Taiwanese, and Japanese fare. Food and Wine Magazine awarded Chef Jon Yao the Best New Chef in 2018. He also received a nomination for a Rising Star from the James Beard Foundation. Chef Yao and thus Kato’s popularity is inevitable. Get in before the rush hits. Their simple elevated plates will guarantee to stir your taste buds and evoke discussion.
@Kato, Los Angeles: First Impressions
Kato is tucked in a corner of a random mini-mall. The sign is subtle, written in cursive pink letters, and marked on its single glass door entrance. As you push through the unassuming entry you instantly slip into a calm and peaceful space. The walls are pale and bare, adorned only with simple sketches mounted in white frames. Light-coloured wooden accents flow throughout the dining area and lighting emanates through the glass oil lamps atop each table. Clean and minimalistic, Kato’s ambience is perfectly simple.
Kato: Simple Elevated 10-Course Tasting Menu
Kato offers a constantly changing 10-course tasting menu for $85. With seafood at the helm, it’s Japanese and Taiwanese influence is clearly evident. Hints of LA also pop here and there. Chef Yao offers unique flavour profiles and experiments with surprising combinations. These flavour-packed gems will provide you scrumptious bites of delight.
Our Fav Kato Bites
1. The toro and pear maki were incredible. I absolutely adored the toro and sweet pear together. However, the crispy nori that gave the dish a nice little crunch is what really made these mini-makis stand out. I wish I could’ve had a plate full of these.
2. When in LA, you MUST TACO! And when in KATO, cross your fingers for the SHRIMP TACO. The shrimp is lightly-battered and sits on chili jam and fermented black bean sauce, atop a soft rice flour pancake tortilla. It’s Mexi-Asian bringing it’s A-game.
3. The mushroom rice was the bomb! Deliciousness literally exploded in my mouth and I couldn’t get enough. The smoked beef fat really brought out the natural earthy flavours of the enokitake mushrooms and elevated a simple dish into an unforgettable one. I will fondly remember Kato with this dish in mind.
4. Wow… taking my first bite of the smoked amberjack was incredible. The seaweed sauce accentuated the sweetness of the fish, while the fresh cucumber and crispy nori provide a textural contrast.
5. Oh, uni! How I love thy creamy, buttery, yet briny-oceany taste. Against the fried tapioca fritter, your glory is undeniable.
6. And for dessert – the buttermilk pudding. It was silky smooth, perfectly sweet and perfectly paired with the mandarin ice.
Yes, it was good. But it can even be better…
Alcohol does make things more fun, if that’s your thing (cuz it’s mine)
While Kato offers some in-house made, unique and delicious drinks – yuzu lemonade and Kato milk tea – a glass of wine or some sake would’ve really elevated the dining experience. From my understanding, they are looking to get their liquor license and hopefully, those spirits will soon be flowing.
I get some noodles, right? Wrong!
First off, where were the noodles??? Seriously, Taiwanese and Japanese, but no noodles… Not going to lie, this was a slight deal breaker for me. I was really looking forward to slurping and twirling some long noodles with my chopsticks. Also, a noddle dish would’ve rounded out the meal better and made up for the super small plates that took over the menu.
Shingling – pretty to a point
Chef Yao is known for “shingling” or layering thinly shaved things on top of each other. Although it offers a delicate touch, symmetry and spreads more of the flavour to the rest of the dish, it literally covers up the main event. Blanketing the entire piece of the beautiful white turbot and the tiny slice of wagyu can be overpowering. It also creates a very monotone picture devoid of any colour contrast or pops of colour. Although I’m a huge fan of shingling, editing it down might be more impactful.
A little too simple?
Kato is simple elevated. But overall, the entire meal was a little too simple. Aesthetically, the colours of the dishes were quite monotonous. I really wish there had been a plate that I didn’t want to touch or eat because it was a fricken knockout beauty of a thing.
That being said, I’d totally hit up Kato again
Initially, after walking out of Kato, I was hesitant to say that I’d be back. I left completely sober, the plates were small, the dishes were monotone and at times drab, there were no noodles, and it lacked an Instagram worthy food porn shot. However, on second thought, the service was wonderful, the virgin drinks were fantastic, the course was well-paced, their unique flavour compositions shocked my taste buds, and most importantly my boyfriend and I couldn’t stop talking about it – whether it be good or bad. While it wasn’t perfect, Kato is definitely heading towards the right direction and has created an undeniable buzz amongst those who’ve Kato’d.
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