Tasting menus: a thing you either love or hate. For some, the idea of letting a big deal chef (they’re usually big deal chefs), tell you what you’re going to eat is an adventure. For others, it’s really obnoxious to have your entire meal decided for you. Not only that, but tasting menus also tend to involve multiple courses, multiple hours, and multiple paychecks.
But Kato, a tasting menu spot in West LA, might sway even the most anti-tasting menu people. No, you don’t get a choice in what you eat, but you’re likely to be in and out in under two hours It’s $150 for about nine courses, so while this isn’t quite regular Tuesday night food, it’s also a lot more reasonable than many tasting menus around town.
The multi-course, daily-changing menu is a kind of Taiwanese/California hybrid, mostly seafood-focused, and both familiar (on one visit, we had egg drop soup) and not at all (it came with a dropper bottle of kombu vinegar). Portions are small, but not just-one-bite-and-then-it’s gone tiny. One important note: Kato is still waiting on its liquor license, so they're BYOB for now. Feel free to bring a bottle of your own, or order margaritas from the Mexican place next door.
Just be aware that you will need to break out your summer camp compass skills to actually get to dinner. Kato is hidden in the corner of a strip mall in a bleak-looking part of West LA. But that doesn’t surprise you anymore.
You could try and come up with a special occasion to justify eating at Kato. But this is a special kind of meal, that doesn’t always require a special occasion - just that you want to eat some great food, maybe on a Tuesday night. Birthdays are overrated anyway.
There will probably be some snacky things to start, like a black tapioca bun filled with sweet pork. If you’re lucky, they’ll have the tuna tartare served on top of a huge white soy cracker, with blobs of avocado and uni on top. They’ll definitely serve their smoked hamachi with charred scallion sauce and pickled cucumber, and you’ll definitely be into it. The whole thing generally ends up being around eight small courses, the majority of which are seafood, with one or two meat dishes in there as well. The buttermilk pudding is a menu staple and one of the best desserts we’ve eaten this year.