When Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery shuttered the original Konbi in Echo Park a few months back, one thing was clear: Whatever iteration of the restaurant opened in its place likely wouldn’t serve the Japanese-style sandwiches the restaurant has been locally and nationally recognized for. (Its Culver City location, which opened over the summer, is still churning out those egg salad and katsu sandwiches.)
“We had to reevaluate the kind of service model this space was,” Montgomery says of the tiny restaurant’s eight-seat counter. “We had to have a different service model to be able to operate sustainably. By offering reservations and a set menu, we can plan our labor accordingly.”
As of this Thursday, the updated Konbi Ni (“ni” means “two” in Japanese) is ready for its close-up: Along with some minor design changes, including painting the exterior a bright blue and some refurbishments inside, the restaurant is debuting reservations for the first time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. Breakfast and dinner are pre-paid set menus, while the lunch menu is a la carte. Montgomery says the restaurant will also tack on a 20 percent service charge to each meal, which goes toward staff wages and health care. Konbi Ni will debut with breakfast and lunch this week; dinner will kick off on December 1.
Breakfast features a Japanese set meal for $35: Items will include the likes of pickled cucumbers, soba cha-braised kabocha squash, a layered omelet, charcoal-grilled fish, and a Sencha cookie, plus the diner’s choice of tea. The a la carte lunch menu takes inspiration from French bistros, with items like roasted carrots with a shishito-pistachio dip and nori; a treviso salad with dates, pear, red walnuts, and ricotta salata; and steak frites with salsa verde and aioli. “We’re leaning into some food that we like and that is very much inspired by things we saw in Japan,” Montgomery says.
Dinner, meanwhile, is a five- to seven-course tasting menu ($95), which will change frequently. The current menu kicks off with an oyster with celery mignonette and an uni rice ball before moving on to grilled sweet potatoes with chile-Meyer lemon dressing, toasted rice, and sesame; and roasted turnips with turnip-top pesto, pickled Asian pear, and sunflower seeds. Diners then have the choice of three entrees: beef stew, king oyster mushroom stew, or grilled fish with daikon relish. Montgomery notes that there will be vegetarian options at all meals to accommodate as many diners as possible.
The restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license, so it’s offering a pairing option ($49) of what Akuto calls “high-end” nonalcoholic beverages at dinner, featuring the likes of ciders from the German craft producer Geiger, as well as a cherry and pear cider from the Swedish company Beskows. Akuto notes that the restaurant will only be serving absolutely zero-ABV beverages (in other words, don’t expect kombucha) and that Konbi’s juices will also be available.
Konbi Ni will be open Thursday through Monday. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., lunch will be served from noon to 3 p.m., and dinner will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations are open on Resy.