Kato is an unassuming restaurant in a West LA strip mall, offering beautiful California - Asian inspired dishes via a reasonably priced tasting menu experience.
You get a small hint at what you're in for when dining at West Los Angeles' Kato when you visit their website. A simple picture of a hand drawn fish is the only thing you see on their home page. Click on "about" and you'll get one line of type, "Kato serves seafood focused tasting menus influenced by California, Taiwan, & Japan." Hit menu, and you'll see the two tasting menu options - 55/80 with nothing else listed.
When you pull into the non-descript, two-story strip mall parking lot off Santa Monica Boulevard, not far from Sawtelle, you'll see more simplicity. A glass door with an etched Kato is the only marker for the restaurant. There's no big sign above indicating it's in the corner of the mall.
Inside, the tiny dining room has plain white walls, simple light wood tables and metal-footed stools with a thin, beige pillow on top. On the surface, Kato is minimalistic and understated.
I was curious to see how this would play out with the food. My friend and I ordered the smaller $55 tasting menu, which included 5 course, plus 2 desserts. I will admit that I wasn't completely full when I finished, but by the time I hit the car, I was pleasantly satiated.
The initial dish introduced the first drop of color into the room. Kombu cured fluke rested on an avocado meyer lemon cream which sat on a shiso leaf. The shiso leaf brought some peppery notes to the delicate dish with super clean and fresh flavors.
The next dish was another cool fish preparation. Beautiful smoked hamachi chunks were tossed with lightly pickled cucumbers and dressed with a charred scallion sauce. The scallion gets cooked and nearly blackened before oil is added to create an assertive, but not overpowering sauce. The dish was a great play of textures and flavors.
The theme of light, fresh and cool continued with a delicate cold noodle dish. Mussels floated in the lightest tomato water with just the right hint of flavor. Horseradish nasturtium added a bit of a bite to the lovely dish.
My taste buds felt so nourished and taken care of with the three cool dishes, but it happily greeted the warm, meatier grilled octopus. A single octopus leg was presented with a dollop of a burnt orange doubanjiang black bean emulsion. The fiery sauce was a great transition and welcome twist from the previous dishes.
To cool things back down, the final main dish was a sea bass in a delicate pear ginger sauce with a thicker black bean puree sandwiched between. The flavors all worked so well together and the fish was perfectly cooked, crispy skin and moist interior.
Kato's beautiful meal presentation continued into dessert when they delivered a small white covered dish. A pop of the top revealed an artistic green apple sorbet with coconut lime and shiso. Divine.
HIbiscus ice was the final palate cleanser for the evening. I opted out of the accompanying buttermilk pudding as they were open to gluten and dairy substitutions for allergy sufferers.
Kato is not glitz and glamour, but it is understated elegance with creative dishes, plated beautifully and enjoyed via a reasonably priced tasting menu. With a changing seasonal menu, I look forward to returning to see what comes next.
11925 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles 90025