In West Hollywood, the demand for lounge and date night restaurants is seemingly endless. A new Nikkei restaurant from Bee Taqueria chef Alex Carrasco, who worked with Peruvian chef Ricardo Zarate at Once in Las Vegas, will open Onizuka on December 28 along La Cienega Boulevard in the former Agura space. Remember that David Chang was slated to open Momofuku Noodle Bar here, originally announced in 2018 but scuttled before Onizuka took over. The opening seems to have been stunted a number of times, reported as mid-November, but apparently, the real debut is in two weeks. Partners Nabil Mihoubi, Christopher Bongo-Ping (who was involved with Bootsy Bellows), and Ismael Khayatey have brought on seasoned general manager Cory Eckstein, who was at Red Medicine for nearly its entire tenure and worked at Hutchinson as well.
The vibe here is decidedly Nobu-esque lounge with upscale food and tropical-inspired cocktails served in a jungle-looking space by Mihoubi. A sushi bar lined with Italian marble toward the back, hanging greenery, velvet banquettes, and Peruvian paperword tables give it a real over-the-top aesthetic that should play well in this part of town. And in case there’s any doubt that this isn’t a clubstaurant in the making, it’ll have a DJ booth and colorful mural by New York City artist Gian Galang.
Nikkei cuisine, which hasn’t really caught on Los Angeles, though Yapa in Little Tokyo had certainly tried to increase its presence before it was closed by the pandemic, is a subset of Peruvian food that uses Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques. Causa limeña, which Zarate served at the now-closed Picca on Pico Boulevard, resembled a potato-based sushi. Carrasco and Pablo De la Cruz put together Onizuka’s menu of sushi rolls, sashimi, and causa, as well as hot stone pachamanca and fresh ceviches. In addition to tropical cocktails using a seasonal selection of fruit, the wine list will feature stuff from Valle de Guadalupe, an increasingly common region on LA menus, plus France, Spain and California, with local and Mexican craft beers thrown in for good measure.
Once it opens in late December, Onizuka will throw a New Year’s Eve party to help propel it into 2022. This block of La Cienega Boulevard already features the rooftop at E.P. and L.P., Zarate’s own Rosaliné, the Nice Guy, Koi, Nobu, Petite Taqueria, and Barton G, which raises the question: When will people in LA just start calling this area Clubstaurant Row? The other restaurants along Beverly Hills’s “official” Restaurant Row on La Cienega, like Lawry’s, the Stinking Rose, Capital Seafood, Fogo de Chão, Matsuhisa, and Kazan can only look at their northern neighbors with envy.