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A close shot from the side of raw fish on top of rice.
Get up close and personal with LA’s new Kodo.
Wonho Frank Lee

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Inside the Arts District’s Stunning, Serene New Kodo

This new Japanese restaurant, cafe, and (eventually) hotel, all stone and steel, comes from two well-known LA minds

It’s hard to think of a cooler Los Angeles block than 7th and Santa Fe in the Arts District. The area, anchored by the Warner Music building as well as mainstays like Pizzanista and Bestia, has become a hotbed of recent culinary activity, just in the pandemic alone. There’s Detroit Vesey’s, a come-as-you-are space for drinkers, cyclists, the LGBTQ community, and everyone else. There’s Yangban Society, the colorful, cool Korean-American restaurant from two Northern California fine dining vets. And now there is Kodo, an austere indoor-outdoor Japanese restaurant that will eventually double as a hotel and spa, done up with the kind of modern flourishes and pared-back aesthetic that could only come from the minds of the Kensho Group.

A hand pours a large bottle of clear sake on a stone table.
Pouring sake.

The new Kodo looks nothing like anything the Arts District has seen before. Matching light slate tones and lots of stone with blonde wood finishes — all while toggling between smooth lines and sharp corners across multiple dining spaces — the restaurant feels like something pulled across time. It is both modern and timeless, Japanese and Angeleno, culled from the creative class and plunked down with heavy authority inside of a former firehouse.

David Wynn, Kensho Group’s founder, is known for bringing together the kind of people that will push the design envelope, as evidenced by his other LA project Kensho Hollywood on the Yamashiro property. He’s the kind of person who loves to collaborate on detail, laying out a list of craftspeople who have helped to bring every aspect of the space to fruition, from the soap to the comforters to the hanging linens and poured concrete. It is in the details that Kodo comes through, matching the warehouse-y brick of the Arts District to the group’s more subtle study of steel and space, led by design/build group M Royce Architecture in addition to Gry Space and Sacha Robertson.

And then there is Yoya Takahashi, executive chef for Kodo. As boisterous as ever, the ponytailed Takahashi is one of the most colorful characters in Los Angeles sushi, having moved to the city from Japan to become an actor. Along the way he rooted himself in restaurant work and reverence for sushi, marrying his playful sensibility with the traditions of the cuisine. He has spent years working across Los Angeles and Japan, most notably at the Westside staple Hamasaku.

Now at Kodo, Takahashi is being given the space to flourish on the plate, pulling off everything from grilled spare ribs and a deconstructed tsukune to sashimi selections, seared sea bream, steamed clams, and beyond with his team. In all, the menu is broken down into quadrants, leaving room for live fire (overseen by chef de cuisine Jaehee Lee); sushi (from head sushi chef Alex Kohsuke Suzuki); cocktails from beverage director Chris Gomez and bar manager Will Henry; and pastry and desserts from chef Mami Yamamoto. The opening menus are below.

A narrow image of a light green and wood bench in a grey room.
Spare design touches at the front of the building.
A thin tree grows inside a stone colored tall room.
Growing from below.

As with the food, the finished Kodo space pulls in multiple complementary directions. The primary dining activity will happen in the outdoor alley to the left of the building’s frontage on Santa Fe. Diners will enter through a wave of steel and stone to find long, firm banquettes and light grey seats under breezy brown hanging fabrics. Inside, tall black booths pair with the glowing bar — home to Gomez’s cocktail and sake programs — that leads back to a small courtyard and fire pit. And up front, inside the building, is the cafe for caffeinated drinks and smaller snacks as well as sake and wine.

As of now, Kodo is the first fully realized activation for this address at 710 S. Santa Fe. Eventually, Kensho Group’s property will grow to include the ryokan-style hotel (stylized as the name Rykn), complete with a spa/bathhouse in the back. Expect the hotel, at least, to open by the end of this summer. Kodo opens on April 20, keeping hours from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m, Wednesday to Sunday, while Rykn Cafe will run longer hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday, toggling between coffee, lighter lunch service, and evening bar snacks. Reservations can be made via Resy.

A large stone table and slate colored tea bar.
The front cafe.
A low shot of a room with a tea bar and three tea cups ready to drink.
Tea at the ready.
A multiple tea bar pour setup at a cafe.
A green matcha latte with matcha cake on a wooden bench.
A latte and side of orange juice colored drink on a wooden bench.
Cortado and kumquat panna cotta.
Metal walls showing a stoic space beyond.
The front entrance to the patio.
A corner angle of a dining room with Japanese plates and tools.
Set for service.
An angle of a patio with cloth floating on strings above.
The breezy primary outdoor dining area.
A long look down the middle of an outdoor restaurant patio in slate colors.
Brick, black, and light grey tones.
A tall open patio with light grey seats and tables.
Grey banquette seating in the open air.
A low look at a run of grey tables at a new restaurant patio.
Low stools and two-top tables.
An angled look at a new restaurant patio.
Brick, stone, and sunlight.
A tree grows inside of a tall metal square in a new restaurant dining room, painted black.
Indoor dining and room for wine.
An angled look at an L-shaped bar with golden underlighting.
The low glow of the bar in the back.
A close look at Japanese table setups in a new restaurant.
Indoor dining at the bar as well.
The glow of a new bar set for service at a restaurant in Los Angeles.
Plates, chopsticks, and bottles beyond.
Small two-person booths painted black inside of a new restaurant.
A bartender smears a light yellow sauce inside of a tall glass.
Will Henry making a highball.
A bartender pours seltzer into a tall glass.
A tall glass with a brick of ice and smear of yellow inside clear liquid.
A coupe glass with a sprig of wood at a new semi-transparent cocktail.
A light yellow cocktail with a swirl of cucumber atop.
A close up shot of raw seafood and greens in a bowl.
Gomori five selections sashimi.
A spoon drops balls of fish roe onto rolls of salmon.
Overflowing ikura atop salmon.
Tweezers drop micro greens onto a seafood dish.
Finishing touches.
Raw fish, sliced thin, in a shell-like bowl.
Seared sea bream.
A cooked oyster in yellow sauce in its shell on a pile of salt.
Grilled oyster.
Steamed clams in a light broth inside a stone bowl.
Sakamushi clams.
Ribs on the bone piled onto a stone plate with greens on top.
A stack of ribs.
Cooked seafood with a raw egg yolk on top being spooned over by a brown sauce.
Tsukune.
Four pieces of sushi on a stone.
Nigiri three piece.
A light, tall egg souffle with sauce on the side.
Sake kasu cheesecake.
Two hands unwrap a brick of rice with egg on top.
Unwrapping mushi zushi, steamed sushi rice with salmon and mushrooms.
Unwrapped banana leaves show a brick of rice with sliced egg on top.
Candied orange fruit with an orb of ice cream on top.
A finishing fruit cup with gelato.
An overhead shot of a variety of Japanese dishes, mostly on stone plates and bowls.
The full Kodo spread.
A wide shot of a firehouse brick building with touches of black at the doors and side patio.
The view from the street at Kodo, inside a former firehouse.

Kodo

710 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90021
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