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LA Weekly Calls West LA's Kato the Spirit Airlines of Fine Dining

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Is this the future of independent restaurants?


This week, Garrett Snyder of LA Weekly peeks inside Kato, a tiny restaurant tucked away in a mini mall in West LA. The tasting menu-only restaurant is the work of chef-owner Jonathan Yao, who "exhibits an almost preternatural knack for weaving together subtle Taiwanese and Japanese flavors in ways that are at once elegant and unpretentious" even though his only prior restaurant experience comes from stages at Alma and San Francisco's Coi.

Here the five-course chef's choice menu is only $49, which G. Sny likens to Spirit Airlines, where the experience "is whittled down into pure form and function." But for that unbelievable price comes some pretty extraordinary dishes:

The parade of plates continues, each precious enough to consume in a few bites, while Yao builds excitement and shows off his cleverness in subtle ways. A beautifully poached cod filet is lacquered with a vibrant green sauce speckled with bursts of orange. The green component, a warm relish made from ginger and scallion, is not unlike the garnish that comes alongside Hainanese chicken; the orange is a blend of fermented mandarin skin and lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorns — pretty heady stuff. [LAW]

Ultimately, Yao's ability to "#MakeTastingMenusFunAgain" earns him three stars, and hints at the future of fine dining:

So consider this caveat: If you're someone who ruffles at certain austerities — blank walls, uncomfortable furniture, no sommelier — this place might not be your cup of tea. But just as some air travelers are willing to skip leg room and a complimentary beverage in exchange for a cheaper flight, Kato could well be a harbinger of what to expect from the next generation of independent restaurants. If that means eschewing certain luxuries in favor of the exquisite and extremely personal cooking that Yao is pulling off, I'd imagine that the future might not be so bleak after all. [LAW]


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