Beyond Benihana, or maybe Mori in Glendale, there aren’t many places to get sit-down teppanyaki in Los Angeles, though plenty of casual hibachi trucks have proliferated across the city. That’ll change come August 31 when Maison Kasai opens at Mark and Jonnie Houston’s dream project Level 8 at Downtown LA’s Moxy/AC hotel under the direction of talented LA chef Joshua Gil. Gil, who operates Mírate in Los Feliz and only recently closed Eater LA 2021 Best New Modern Mexican Restaurant Mírame in Beverly Hills, brings a deep pedigree of finer dining experience, most notably as the chef de cuisine at Joe’s Restaurant in Venice where he helped it to earn a Michelin star.
Gil, whose winding career led to him opening one of LA’s most talked-about Westside taquerias in Tacos Punta Cabras, is returning to his classical training, incorporating French flavors, ingredients, and techniques with a show-stopping teppanyaki grill (hence the moniker Maison Kasai, which means house of fire).
Like many of Level 8’s restaurants, such as Ray Garcia’s Qué Barbaro and Hisae Stuck’s Lucky Mizu, Maison’s Kasai offers a stunning interior design, with 10 steel flattop grill stations surrounded by seven seats apiece. Parallel wood accents help hide the bulky hoods; the wood motif extends to the vintage midcentury Japanese magazine collage, shrouded with ropes. A French Art Deco wallpaper design by Candice Kaye accents one wall while lush emerald pattern upholstery covers the modernist metal dining chairs. A standing cocktail bar assembles drinks conceived by bartender Devon Espinosa. Altogether, it’s a visual feast of textures and materials in case the action at the grill isn’t enough to entertain.
Though Gil hasn’t worked at a teppanyaki restaurant, he felt compelled to go all out on the menu, with thoughtful and luxurious touches. Robuchon-style pomme puree get a hit of spicy, heady wasabi while an appetizer of whole baked tomatoes harkens back to the old steakhouse dish, but stuffed here with sushi rice, fried garlic and shallot, herbs, and tomato consommé. Gil felt encouraged to work on a flashy Downtown hotel project knowing that chef Richard Archuleta, who worked with him at the Jonathan Club, would be running the day-to-day. “He was the one who reached out to me about the project,” says Gil. “Fuck yeah — there’s someone in there that I can trust.”
Most diners will opt for the base teppanyaki dinner, which comes with an amuse bouche and then offers a black goma (sesame seed) tofu, a recipe Gil learned for his former Tacos Punta Cabras partner Daniel Snukal, who used to work at Urasawa. It’s topped with a summer fruit kosho, an appetizer that Gil calls “simple but elegant.” Other blends of French and Japanese cuisine abound, like a kanpachi with bouillebasse sauce, ginger, and miso.
Those ordering a la carte should try the wagyu dumplings, served with shiitake consommé and fresh wasabi. Entrees come either prepared in the kitchen or atop the teppanyaki, from potato-scaled dorade to A5 wagyu to whole lobster finished with kosho corn custard and flambeed with brandy. With high-end add-ons like wagyu and caviar, meals could top $500 a person, but Gil says the average check should be closer to $100 a person before drinks and extras.
With Gil’s cooking now spreading to Downtown, the talented Baja California-born chef has an increasing influence on the tone of Los Angeles cooking. His restaurant Mírame ultimately failed to resonate with Beverly Hills diners, though Gil says Mírate in Los Feliz is jibing a lot more with the locals. Mírame still has plans to open in Northern California while Gil’s seafood-and-champagne lounge at Level 8 will open around the time of Maison Kasai, with more details on that spot to come.