Kato: A Pictorial Essay

In only its first week of operation, Kato (with virtually no marketing) has managed to pack the house. Even my server seemed to be surprised with the initial success of this affordable, tasting menu-driven hole-in-the-wall. Located next to Oaxacan legend Monte Alban in a Westside strip mall, Kato serves up small plates of Taiwanese and Japanese-inspired cuisine. Kato Chef Jonathan Yao used to work the line at Alma, and has staged at Coi in SF.

Currently, the menu features a $49, 5-course tasting menu (I am told a la carte options will be coming soon.) There are also a few supplements offered (which push up the overall cost just a tad).

The place seats about 22-25 people, with another 3 seats at a small counter near the kitchen. Service is enthusiastic, but can be erratic (completely understandable during Kato’s first mad week of infancy).

To drink: Calpico, Ramune, Apple Sidra or passionfruit water? I’ll take the passionfruit water, please… (No liquor license, and I didn’t happen to see anyone bringing in booze during my visit, either)

Amuse: Ikura on a nori chip… Nice toasted flavor on that seaweed chip; I just wished the salmon roe portion would taste a bit more lively - Nonetheless, a nice opener.

Course #1: Smoked hamachi (yellowtail) with pickled cucumber and nori “mozuku” sauce…

Course #2: Scallop, Meyer lemon ponzu, pomelo, nasturtium… A nice dish in concept, but not enough scallop was used (hardly even tasted it).

Course #3: Summer corn potage, with miso & soft yolk… Comforting as heck. Served lukewarm, this was a definite winner.

Course #4: Brick chicken with charred cabbage, mandarin salsa & treviso… Succulent chicken thigh, with a hint of tart and nice smoky finish from the cabbage - Nice!

Course #5: Shellfish porridge… Using dried scallops, dungeness crab, and uni, this combined for a super umami! The edge of the bowl is lined with XO pepper to add terrific complexity to the bowl. This concoction brought back memories of the old-school Asian porridge vendors with its daring-ness. Kudos.

Supplement #1: Pork belly rice, with soy egg & pickled mustard. OK this was delicious. No fusion influences here - Just a hefty nod to Taiwanese goodness. There was nary any soy sauce in that soy egg, but that is definitely forgivable once you bite into that luscious pork, mustard and rice. A “must get”.

Dessert: Butterscotch panna cotta with guava slushie. Almost too sweet for its own good, but a nicely executed dessert to finish off the meal.

Overall, I did enjoy my tasting menu very much. My total bill (food & drink before tip) was just over $60. Portion sizes at Kato are on the small-ish side. Be warned: Those of you with very large gullets may find yourself still a bit hungry after the meal. But taste-wise, I see lots of potential in Chef Yao’s cooking. Kato is well on its way to finding a core audience in West L.A.


11925 Santa Monica Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90025


Thanks for the heads up @J_L. Another great writeup. :slight_smile:

For the porridge, could you taste any dungeness crab meat chunks in the bowl (it looked pretty small and non-existent)? Or was it just the flavoring simmered into the rice?

Looks like it has potential and that pork & rice bowl at the end sounded like the winner.

Yah the portion sizes look pretty small even when you zoomed in.

More importantly, how was your meal at Urasawa after this “first dinner”? :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:

Those portions look like the amuses at providence before the tasting menu.

At least it’s near mori or shunji for a convenient second dinner.

Thanks for the report.


Thank you for the report.

I was very curious about this place, esp. how Yao would do on his onw.

The crab chunks were small but discernible in this dish. The overall gestalt was excellent, though, with the flavor permeating adequately throughout the porridge. Almost reminded me of Chef Jordan Kahn’s Red Medicine uni porridge, in a way…

I admit: I did consider stopping by Shunji afterwards, but my LA-based bikini body fairy told me not to.

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8 courses and drinks before tip was $60?.. Holy shit…

Nice early report. I’d love to check this out after I get back from my vacation to SE Asia.

Hopefully it was a little nuts last week bc our post, which did very well on social media

Kato is brilliant - I highly recommend it. Great food, casual and friendly service - just the right vibe for LA. Thanks, @J_L, for the find.


Went this past weekend. Unfortunately left my camera, so didn’t grab any snaps.

Very much recommended. Service seems to have improved from earlier reports, and the dishes were all solid to great.

At $49, it’s a pretty decent deal, though I can see how those with big appetites would leave hungry.


Another fan of Kato here. I enjoyed each of the dishes that came as part of the tasting menu.

Some negatives to get out of the way:

  1. As stated, no alcohol at all. No BYOB. No nothing. I don’t need a lot of alcohol, but this food deserves more than sparkling water. They’re working on the license so patience is the watchword.
  2. Dishes are assembled a la minute, but precious little cooking is done during your meal. Some items don’t hold up so well, such as the squid ink pork bun. But even on courses that don’t suffer this problem, over the evening the meal began to feel a bit less vibrant.
  3. Portions are quite small. I went in hungry and the tasting menu didn’t satisfy. You should expect to get some supplements if you had a light lunch.
  4. The supplemental dishes feel clunky and out of place after such a refined menu. They’re tasty (tried all three) but they feel homey and a bit heavy when following the preceding elegant dishes.

That said, I think this is really good food! The flavors were intense, but very well balanced. The room is very contemporary, but it’s size read as cozy rather than cold.

The feel of it reminded me a bit of LASA, but with a different kitchen vocabulary. Refined, relatively light, personal cooking arranged in a tasting menu with a well-planned progression of dishes.

All in all, I’m so happy Kato landed on the west side! Looking forward to going again!

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I have been three times. Each time it gets even better.
Lack of booze is a real issue.

it’s overpriced though, good though.

This is what irks me, if you’re a tasting menu only restaurant, the tasting menu should at least satisfy your hunger without having to add on additional supplements or go out for second dinner. It’s like being sold a base model car only to be told that the steering wheel is extra.

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I went the other day as well. You criticism is more than fair although I liked the squid ink pork bun more than you. The Fried chicken sandwich supplement was delish but not like the tasting menu. Not that I cared because it was good. The Crab rice with uni is pretty great. For a 50$ tasting menu I won’t complain too much.

Personally I love that a young talented chef is stretching himself. And yes a beer/wine lic would be nice. We tried begging for byob but they don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize the application. I can respect that but their food should be paired with wine IMO.

Ah I thought it was BYOB for some reason.

Is the food seriously not cooked fresh though?.. So what do they do, keep everything under heat lamps?

It’s a small place 27 seats if I counted correctly. Maybe 3 people in the Kitchen for 7 course tasting menu + supplements. I don’t think its that they use heat lamps more that menu is designed (purposefully) so there is a minimum of ‘a la minute’ cooking and more things that can be prepared in advance like the short rib (really good).

Which is smart if you have a small staff and kitchen.

Most kitchens prep, heck I think all good ones do… But there is a difference between prepping and not actually cooking anything fresh. No?

Arr they making mostly low heat smoke cooked meat and marinated raw fish dishes or something?

Someone mentioned a fried chicken sandwich… Are you saying thy fry up all the chicken in he afternoon and assemble sandwiches as ordered?? I don’t see how that could be very good…

Chicken sando was excellent and it’s thigh which I prefer. Didn’t taste like it was sitting around.

I don’t think @frommtron meant that the food wasn’t fresh or was being held for a long time but there isn’t much sauteed/seared to order, Rice can be done partially in advance, stuffed Squid ink bun, Konbu cured hamachi, Short rib. The ocean trout can’t really be done in advance and was excellent.

Personally I don’t fault them for doing as much as possible in advance. If you are doing a tasting menu for that low price you have to run a tight ship.

Yes to all you said. I don’t mind a ton of prep and it’s needed for layered dishes like Kato is doing.
But I would say the only truly cooked to order item is that chicken sandwich. Which is really good! Possibly that ocean trout, though I suspect that was prepared in a water bath.

I’m definitely down with this place. Happy with my experience at that price point and hoping they grow even more over time. And by the way, I have to say that I loved the dessert. So refreshing, but the rose water ice and the buttermilk yogurt had a ton of flavor.