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 a little more than an hour. It’s $85 for eight 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 eight-ish course, daily-changing menu is a kind of Taiwanese/Japanese hybrid, mostly seafood-focused, and both familiar (egg drop soup) and not at all (it comes with a dropper of kombu vinegar for you to add yourself). Portions are small, but not just-one-bite-and-then-it’s gone tiny. There’s also an a la carte fried chicken sandwich. You should order it. One not-so-minor issue: Kato is still waiting on its liquor license, so you’ll be drinking a lot of green tea instead of pinot gris for now.
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.
There are two additional supplements to the tasting menu. The first is a pretty straight version of a Taiwanese classic: rich minced pork belly over rice and a soy egg on the side. Order this.
Then again, you probably want this too. Szechuan relish gives it a nice numb-spicy kick, and the chicken is about as crispy as they come. If you wanted to come in just for this sandwich, that would not be the worst decision you’ve ever made.