Quietly, Osen restaurant group has been capturing the attention of Japanese food fans in Silver Lake and Santa Monica. Izakaya Osen has consistently been one of the best Japanese drinking restaurants at its Sunset Boulevard location while Kappo Osen in Santa Monica supplies upscale sushi and prepared dishes on the Westside. Opening on August 2, Yakiniku Osen serves chef Damon Cho’s intimate wagyu tasting menu featuring raw A5 wagyu and supremely fatty grilled meats in Silver Lake.
One notable difference with the dining room setup are the individualized tabletop grills, which is a rare sight in either Japanese or Korean barbecue. That’s because these meals tend to be more communal activities, with sliced meats and other dishes set to share in squared tables (which Yakiniku Osen does offer). But Cho conceived Yakiniku Osen for a more solo experience (though diners can enjoy meals side-by-side), with each grill possessing its own exhaust system overhead at the bar.
Cho also designed Yakiniku Osen as a parade of mostly A5 wagyu, the highest quality produced in Japan, though American wagyu also goes into one dish. The meal starts with crispy gimbugak (seaweed coated in glutinous rice paste) topped with yukhoe, the classic chopped and marinated Korean raw beef dish. For a luxurious finish, yukhoe comes laced with Santa Barbara uni and caviar.
Next is another tartare dish, but this time more of the French style with A5 wagyu capped with a raw egg yolk. A minari (the Korean water parsley after which the 2020 film was named) salad also has more chopped A5 wagyu ribeye (seriously, there’s a lot of wagyu here) tossed in a miso dressing. That’s followed by a katsu sando using fried American wagyu smeared with mustard dressing between milk bread slices. The starters end with a refreshing cold udon dish with a frozen granita-like dashi broth in the sudachi style, though with lime instead of the Japanese citrus. In the premium version of the tasting menu, these noodles come with ikura (salmon roe), amaebi (raw whole spot prawn), and uni.
Once the meat finally turns to the grill, there are three kinds of A5 wagyu: marinated tare slices, salted slices, and zabuton (well-marbled short rib). Those are served in either two- or four-ounce versions over a charcoal-gas combination grill with open grates and fresh wasabi and yuzu koshi as sauces. As for pricing, it’s unclear what the meal will cost, expect to pay a hefty price for the special experience.
LA has seen its fair share of upscale tabletop grilled meat in recent years, from Yazawa in Beverly Hills, Ta-maen in Lomita, and Yakiya in Hacienda Heights, as well as a slew of Koreatown spots like Daedo and Tenraku. It’ll be interesting to see how Cho’s approach, which has already struck gold with Izakaya and Kappo, will play out at this new Japanese barbecue destination.