Could there be anything more healing than a restored 1930s bungalow that offers wellness treatments like acupuncture and ritual bathing? Perhaps there could — and it just might be that same bungalow serving a menu of Japanese-inspired food and drink.
California Izakaya, next door to and curated by Venice restaurant titan the Butcher’s Daughter, is the new extension of wellness center and spa Den Mother, located at 1209 Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The retreat and spa opened its plant-based restaurant arm on September 2. Den Mother’s creative director Heather Tierney of the Butcher’s Daughter says the opportunity to create a restaurant component came from Los Angeles’s Al Fresco program, which allowed the center to open a parklet in the street. But offering food and drink was a part of the social atmosphere the owners wanted to create from the beginning. “We always wanted to be a neighborhood space,” co-owner Kenny Parmelee says.
The menu serves “healing plant-based” items, such as inari stuffed with a jackfruit crab meat alternative for $16. A “trio of Japanese bar snacks” described as a “rotating selection of treats from the far east” costs $8. Standard drink options include Japanese sake, beer, whiskey, and natural wine, but, naturally, elixir lattes, hard kombucha, and fermented probiotic matcha from Japan are available as well.
Fermented foods, and the positive impact they can have on the gut, is a big focus with the menu. The fermentation industry has become increasingly homogenized in recent years, along with a disconcerting trend of white fermenters becoming some of the most visible faces and marketers of traditionally East Asian fermented drinks and products. But the chefs behind Den Mother’s menu are Jamie Lee of the Butcher’s Daughter and Elisa Angelone, whose mother is of Chinese heritage and was raised in Okinawa. Sawtelle Sake, a fully Californian producer, is on draft, while local tea outlets Huxbrook Tea and Wild Terra Apothecary are available to order.
“The snacks and drinks are all derived from the food Elisa grew up on,” Parmelee says. “It’s an homage to not only Elisa but to her mother.”
It’s worth noting that there’s no need to book an Ayurvedic foot bath just to grab an inari pocket, either — guests can walk in off the street or make a reservation in advance. Private events are on the docket, as well, in addition to local partnerships which focus on Den Mother in its entirety. The meditation and breathwork app Open, for example, brings programming onto the property. But now, everyone can grab a fermented bite to eat once the deep breathing pivots into mindful eating. “It’s a chance to extend this oasis in the city-feeling we always envisioned,” Tierney says.
Den Mother is open Tuesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, and reservations can be made via Resy.