Tasting the Seasons of Japan - The Exquisite, Austere, Pure Kaiseki Cuisine of Hayato [Thoughts + Pics]



@Chowseeker1999, your posts always makes me smile. I love the way you enjoy and describe food. So happy you had a wonderful evening! I think it’s cool that some of the dishes have changed since my visit…the presentation of the saba zushi is different from what we enjoyed. I am so excited to see how he evolves as he gets into the groove of things.


Wow! Great report.
I’m going this Wednesday.
Can’t wait.


Hi @attran99,

Thank you. :blush: I have to thank you and @J_L and @PorkyBelly for the great reports on your visits, and I’m glad I got to try pretty much all the dishes you all did reflecting the Summer season. :slight_smile:

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Thanks @CiaoBob! Can’t wait to hear how your experience went. If you want a Sake recommendation, give the Born “Wings of Japan” or Okunomatsu “Juhachidai Ihei” a try. Loved the Okunomatsu at Raku, and Wings of Japan is limited and a nice treat (thanks to @beefnoguy). :slight_smile:

Yikes looks incredible. Finally a high caliber kaiseki in LA

I think it takes a skilled chef to execute this ‘simplicity’ well. Had an amazing chawanmushi like dish earlier in the week at another restaurant, unassuming yet so beautifully executed.

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@Chowseeker1999 So I suppose YOU were the note-taker. :sunglasses:

Hi @moonboy403,

Hm? I don’t take notes usually, nor did I last week for this meal. Also unless there was another table, I don’t think you were amongst my party of 6. :stuck_out_tongue:

Never mind. I guess it was somebody else then! Strangely, that person ordered the same sake you did!

Hi @Sgee,

Yah Hayato looks to be a stunner. Hope you get a chance to try this soon!

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Hi @moonboy403,

Ooh, nice. Then again, Chef Go told us that particular sake was really popular with many of his guests. I blame @beefnoguy for popularizing it, LOL. It’s on many sake lovers’ favorites lists, so it’s not surprising.

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Hi @Sgee,

Wow that meal looks great, thanks for the recommendation! That Kama Toro! :open_mouth:

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Thanks - I like very dry sake - nothing too florally.

Born is served at his parents’ restaurant. That’s how my friend got hooked on that brewery. She regularly drinks Gold, but has yet to try Dreams Come True. We did get to sample Wing of Japan the night we went…that was quite nice.

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Hi [quote=“CiaoBob, post:13, topic:8244, full:true”]
Thanks - I like very dry sake - nothing too florally.

I like dry Sake as well, but am OK with some floral notes if it still finishes cleanly and dry-ish. In that case, maybe skip Born “Wings of Japan”, which is wonderful, but has floral notes. Their Sake Menu doesn’t have anything as bone dry as say, Izumi Judan, but I’ll defer to @beefnoguy for more dry recommendations. :wink:

Thank you again for yet another fantastic report! I’ll respond later to the food.

Haha you have been officially ruined for life. You still have a lot of sake to try, and now you had a taste of the super rare and highly sought after Juyondai quite early in your sake adventures! In Japan, the only way to get Juyondai is either you have connections, or you win a lottery at a sake shop that carries the latest release. Juyondai has a similar status to first growth Bordeaux, DRC, or Petrus (Pomerol). Something that would otherwise cost US$65 retail for this particular bottle in Japan gets marked up exponentially and it becomes a super premium in the aftermarket and a jacked up markup in restaurants (or black market).

Chef Go served the Cho Tokusen Junmai Daiginjo as a welcome sake? That’s far too generous! Even Narisawa in Tokyo, their welcome sake is Aramasa and is extremely light bodied and an apertif, which retails US$20 or less. He’s really going for making an impression! I wonder what he is going to serve when he runs out of that, those are some hard shoes (or bottles) to fill. And like I said, these are so ridiculously limited (and expensive) to get. A bottle in Hong Kong retails for around US$500 if you can find one, and more in a restaurant. In Tokyo if you can get it by the glass, it will be anywhere from $20 to $30 for 90 to 180 mL (depends on the establishment).

I believe the Cho Tokusen is brewed with Banshu Yamadanishiki rice and polished to 35%, and is one of many variations of the product lineup, and must be served chilled, though should be allowed to breathe a bit more in the vessel before you can get the maximum enjoyment out of it if poured right after opening.

If taking out Juyondai from the equation, then the Dreams Come True is certainly a fantastic one. May I ask how much they charged for the bottle? Hopefully much cheaper than Tempura Endo!

Though to be honest, I’ve had quite a few Juyondai’s in Tokyo from izakaya to sushi to kaiseki restaurants. It’s a good sake, but certainly not worth spending your life savings or the cost of a full blown omakase meal on. Plus it’s not the best pairing exactly with food, but totally enjoyable on its own and separately. And I’ve also had the Juyondai Banshu Yamadanishiki Junmai Ginjo Bessen (it makes it to California maybe once a year in super limited amounts), and it was probably one of the worst I’ve had :sweat_smile: that paired with only one or two things I had (this was at Iroriya by the way lol).

At Ishikawa I’m sure they have to offer Juyondai given the prestige of the restaurant and the clientele it attracts. Goyrukubo when I visited two years ago, did not, but I really appreciated the other sake offerings they had (many of which were also very well respected for those in the know). What I have found is that for even places like Aoyama Ichita (one Michelin star), their sake are very enjoyable, but nothing really jumped out that paired very nicely with food.

I do hope Chef Go expands and builds upon his sake selection, and not just focusing only on the brand name high end (also because they are easy to get into), there are some selections that I feel will be even better matches with his food that will greatly enhance the dining experience even more. There is plenty of opportunity here that I hope he will consider, and if he is sourcing Born, then he has access to a portfolio that has a lot of very interesting and worthwhile selections. Having something eclectic that is high end enough but works even better with his food, will make him stand out more from other restaurants that carry the same sake. (Just trying to play “sake somm” here to indulge myself a little)


@Chowseeker1999 How many bowls of rice did you consume? Also, did you think that portion was a bit small?

Excellent report @Chowseeker1999. Looks like chef go added some more fish to the sashimi course. And that saba looks incredible.

Have you tried his bento box yet?

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A few comments:

Brandon Go’s food reflects his mentors (Ishikawa san and Kubo san), and while I have not had Ishikawa, the two restaurant’s kaiseki style still reflects Kanto region, which are generally stronger flavored compared to Kyoto or Nara kaiseki (Kansai). It’s still subtle, but nowhere near as subtle as western Japan.

I just saw moonboy403’s review so you were super duper lucky to get Juyondai for the welcome sake, as it was hand carried from Ishikawa san, and I doubt he could fit too many bottles of good sake in his luggage. Probably a fresh batch too (or the release probably dated a few months ago, not sure if this is one of those brewed a few years ago then release a few years later). Also possible because of a buyout and a high end sake purchase, as well as the timing/availability for him to pour. Either way, a super generous gesture on Chef Go’s part. I think there were a couple or other customers who got this pour based on their Instagram uploads (unless one of them was in your dining party).

Born: Dreams Come True is also popular because Shinzo Abe gifted one to former President Obama. It is also aged 5 years (I’m guessing at 0 degrees C, remember alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature) so it has pretty intense aromas, full bodied (guessing as a result of the extended low temperature aging), and a very velvety going down feel all the way to the finish and can be dangerous as the alcohol will eventually creep up to you. I would say if someone is into aged Burgundy, they will also love this bottle. I would also say the Dreams Come True pairs better with food overall than the Juyondai Cho Tokusen, in a way where the food makes the sake tastes better and vice versa. With 6 in your party, 1000 mL is a good size so everyone gets a sufficient amount to share.

Where is the abalone from? Was it steamed?

Hamo is technically daggertooth pike conger eel, but commonly referred to as pike eel. Anago is more commonly referred to as conger eel.

There are actually 2 major types of amadai used in high end Japanese cuisine.

Aka Amadai 赤甘鯛 (horsehead tilefish) Branchiostegus japonicus
Shiro Amadai Tilefish 白甘鯛 (tilefish) Branchiostegus albus Dooley

There is also Ki Amadai 黄甘鯛 (tilefish or blanquillo) Branchiostegus auratus. The skin resembles itoyoridai a little bit, beautiful strands of yellow make the appearance more striking.

If I were to take a stab, based on the skin I would say what you had was aka amadai, the giveaway being the red shade to some of the patterns on the skin. Either way a very prized high end fish.

I also noticed that at his mentor’s restaurant, Ishikawa, carries at least two extremely affordable Junmai sake that are medium to full bodied but have a lot of umami and structure, and they also are excellent at room temperature or served warmed. And they would pair great with the variety Chef Go has for sure (and best of all they are also exported to the US/California and available to order from another source…). There’s a lot of room to play around with for sure.

Let’s see what LA Eater will do with these recent reports…



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