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LA’s James Beard Award-Winning Izakaya Dresses Up as Netflix’s ‘Midnight Diner’ on Halloween

Plus, a feature on the Manzke empire, a fundraiser for Artsakh, and more

Dining area of Ototo in Echo Park, Los Angeles with wood paneling and curtains.
Dining area at Ototo in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
Wonho Frank Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

There’s a trend of restaurants and bars leaning into special themed events around the country, like the Moe’s Tavern pop-up in Austin that’s happening right now. In LA, izakaya Ototo is joining the fray with a transformation into Netflix’s wonderful show Midnight Diner, an anthology series that takes place at a Tokyo restaurant that operates from midnight until 7 a.m. While completely fictional, Midnight Diner’s thoughtful storytelling makes it feel like the depictions of ordinary Tokyo denizens trying to find their way in life could translate to anyone in the world in need of companionship and a good meal.

In the series, the nameless chef Master cooks up Japanese comfort food, which Ototo chef Charles Namba will attempt to recreate, such as curry ramen, tonjiro (pork and vegetable miso soup), ham katsu, yakisoba dog, and tamago sando. Expect Ototo’s staff to dress in Master’s blue samue and an overall Midnight Diner vibe. No reservations, walk-ins only from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on October 31.

A deep-fried pho debate points to a now-closed LA restaurant

The New York Times worked out a debate at the State Fair of Texas over who invented the popular deep-fried pho “burrito.” A vendor named Michelle Le of Eat Crispies popularized a deep-fried spring roll filled with vermicelli noodles and beef with a side of pho broth. Meanwhile, Dallas restaurant Cris and John, who don’t operate at the state fair, say they brought the phorrito served with a consome-like dipping broth to Texas.

Le claimed she’d been working on the dish but also reached out to Cris and John owners Cristina Mendez and John Pham for a collaboration but never heard back. The reason why it’s a controversy is that vendors compete to win awards for popular deep-fried foods. Mendez and Pham eventually reveal they were inspired by the now-closed LA restaurant Komodo, which first served a non-deep-fried phorrito at its Pico-Robertson storefront and food truck. Komodo has been permanently closed since 2018 though co-founders Eric and Erwin Tjahyadi continue to operate Bone Kettle in Pasadena.

A rundown of the Walter and Margarita Manzke restaurant empire

CSQ magazine recently covered the excellent journey of Walter and Margarita Manzke and their collection of restaurants in Los Angeles and Manila, Philippines. Those who only know about République or Bicyclette might not realize that the Manzkes operate not only six restaurants in LA but 17 Wild Flour restaurants and bakeries in the Philippines. The article highlights their successful career and some of the folks on the team who helped them along the way including République chef de cuisine Laure Rewega, and Manzke and Bicyclette chef de parties Joseph Ruby.

10 years of plant-based Thai cooking

Santa Monica restaurant Satdha Kitchen is celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Thursday, November 9 with a special vegan tasting menu by chef Gunn Pankum with seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at $110 per person.

A special dinner at Ka’Teen

Hollywood restaurant Ka’Teen will host chef James Beard-nominated chef Jermoe Grant for a collaboration dinner with chef Wes Avila on October 24. Expect Avila’s Yucatán-inspired flavors and Grant’s Afro-Filipino dishes served family-style. Tickets are priced at $95 per person.

Raising funds for Artsakh

In light of the suffering and turmoil in the Artsakh region, a land contested by Armenia and Azerbaijan, and recently subjected to violent aggression by Azerbaijan, chef Vartan Abgaryan is hosting a dinner to support people being displaced. The dinner takes place on Monday, October 23, at Momed, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Teach for Armenia and Traveling Doctors of Armenia.