It’s shaping up to be a big year for the Kensho folks. Owner David Wynn has brought in a new partner for his burgeoning restaurant and hospitality group, and is looking to expand into multiple different ventures (and even different cities) over the next year-plus. And to think, it all started from a small Hollywood hilltop.
The current Kensho is a tiny cafe and wine bar located just down the hill from the historic Yamashiro property that overlooks Hollywood proper. Wynn has run his restaurant there since 2019, while also operating onigiri and donburi bar Super Rich in Echo Park — previously home to his collaborative and high-minded cafe Triniti. Over the next year or so, though, Wynn will have grown his base from those two small cafe spaces to include a yakitori bar and cocktail bar on Sunset in Hollywood; an omakase restaurant, cocktail bar, and cafe inside of a new hotel (which he’s also spearheading) in the Arts District; a tea house and curated goods shop in Venice; and more. What the heck?
“A lot of these opportunities came from different property owners,” Wynn said when reached by phone on June 23. It helps that he’s also secured a single like-minded investor to oversee all that expansion together. “We got to a point where we realized that if we’re going to add all of this in a cohesive manner, we have to formal group so that everything stays tight.” The new Kensho Group was born, and with it a prominent new player in LA’s modern Japanese food and culture scene.
The biggest project to know so far is Kensho Ryokan, which takes over the closed Firehouse hotel and restaurant property at 710 S. Santa Fe in the Arts District, next door to the upcoming Yangban Society around the corner from Bestia. Wynn tells Eater that the retrofitted former firehouse will offer the same nine-room hotel stay as before, but with the feel of a Japanese boutique getaway. The team is building an actual onsen water oasis behind the property, while inside a ground-floor restaurant named Kodo will offer omakase experiences. A separate hifi listening cocktail bar and daytime cafe will also operate on-site.
Next up is a two-story Kensho outpost opening in an Art Deco building a block from Gwen at 6630 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The first floor will operate as a yakitori restaurant, with the second story serving as a speakeasy-styled cocktail bar. That property has the same landlord as Yamashiro, so expanding into the new address just made sense to Wynn. Plus, it’s a beautiful building. “Historic buildings with a lot of charm and modern interiors, that’s always been our thing,” he said. “It’s what we want to do as a team.” The Kensho on Sunset should open this fall.
After that, Wynn and company plan to open a “small little pop-up shop, just a tea house and a market with curated goods” on the site of his architect’s office at 805 Hampton Drive in Venice. The group is also in the works on a separate wine and sake shop that also offers a tight collection of teas and Japanese wares down in Laguna Beach, inside of an as-yet-unnamed hotel owned by Wynn’s investor.
Needless to say, it’s all a lot in a short span of time, though obviously Wynn had been thinking about these different ideas in some ways for years before the pieces fell into place. “People started to be like ‘Why don’t you do some of these at our properties?’,” Wynn said of his seemingly sudden post-pandemic plans, “and I would say ‘Well they all sound great, but I don’t have the money to do all this!” And now, he does.