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Underground Japanese Restaurant KinKan Goes Legit in Virgil Village

Silver Lake’s buzzy home bento and chirashi box spot is moving from Instagram to one of LA’s busier restaurant blocks

An overhead triptych of bento/chirashi boxes in dim lighting.
KinKan
Jesse Hsu

Silver Lake’s underground KinKan was a sensation even before the start of the pandemic, which gave rise to the city’s robust and ongoing Instagram dining marketplace. The home restaurant, run by Thai chef and self-proclaimed Japanese food obsessive Nan Yimcharoen, had emerged from its invite-only early days to become a star on the scene, buoyed by bright roe-studded bento boxes seen all over social media. Now Yimcharoen is going legit, opening a standalone restaurant in Virgil Village, nearly right next door to what may be LA’s busiest restaurant, Courage Bagels.

Yimcharoen tells Eater that the new KinKan restaurant will open at 771 N. Virgil Avenue sometime next month, with initial plans to operate for takeout only, as she’s done for the duration of the pandemic. These new chirashi bowls and bentos will range from approachable to special occasion dining, depending on the ingredients used, with some nods to the greater breadth of Japanese cooking too. Yimcharoen adds that she’ll likely introduce some Thai food as well down the line, making for a truly personal restaurant that isn’t trying to tie itself to any sense of singular culinary authenticity.

As for dining in, KinKan will first open for reservations only to those that have previously supported the restaurant, with open on-site dining available later on. Yimcharoen says that she would like to “honor previous customers who have supported” her dream to open her first project by giving them early access to seating. A more casual takeaway-focused menu will run though lunch hours, with a sit-down tasting menu for dinner in the months to come.

Fans have been dining at KinKan since it was Yimcharoen’s kitchen counter, staying for hours to chat, drink, and eat multi-course meals long into the Silver Lake night. Because her restaurant has operated inside her home, which is not currently permitted in LA County, KinKan’s Instagram page has almost always been private and her guest list has mostly existed offline.

Last year, Yimcharoen did briefly get some pushback on broader social media for not acknowledging the use of someone else’s photo when promoting a wagyu chirashi takeout dish she intended to sell. That dish was made by a different chef in Japan and Yimcharoen did not have permission from the photographer to use the image; after being contacted about its usage and the tone of the accompanying caption (where it seemed Yimcharoen was taking credit for creating the dish in the photo), the post was removed from the KinKan feed. Yimcharoen says that she regrets using the image without attribution, though she has not reached out to the Japanese chef who made the dish to apologize, as some had pushed her to do.

The arrival of KinKan marks another moment of enduring change for Virgil Village. The East Hollywood community, bordered by Silver Lake, has been a nexus for gentrification and new restaurants over the past ten years, from Sqirl to Ken’s Ramen to Courage Bagels. The neighborhood’s changes have been chronicled for years by sites like This Side of Hoover and the Jimbo Times.

KinKan

771 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029

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