Hayato is the culmination of a twenty year journey I have taken as an American-born chef learning about Japanese cuisine.
I was born into this business.
My Japanese father owns a sushi restaurant in the Los Angeles area, and I began working in his restaurant when I was fifteen years old. As with most Americans, sushi was the gateway through which I became seriously interested in Japanese food. During my teenage years, I made sushi. Throughout college, I made more sushi. After graduating from college, I went to live in Tokyo for a short time, I got a job in an izakaya, and I started to realize that sushi is a very tiny part of Japanese culinary tradition. I have spent rest of my life trying to learn the rest of it.
I dreamt of having my own restaurant since I began making sushi.
But the type of restaurant I wanted to open has evolved since then. For my entire life, I have heard Japanese chefs talk of how good the cooking is in Japan, but how it would be impossible to garner support for truly authentic Japanese cooking in the U.S. because of how different American tastes are. I heard this constantly from chefs both in Japan and at home. I have even read it in cookbooks. Because of this, I always envisioned my restaurant being mostly authentic but having to play to the American tastes in order to ensure survival.
As I have come closer to opening this restaurant, while working in Tokyo I started to feel an inner compulsion to only cook the flavors of Japan that I love.
Within every Japanese chef who invited me into their restaurant to train, I sensed that they were not trying to share things just with me, but with whomever I was eventually going to be cooking for in Los Angeles. I have been unbelievably blessed to train with chefs in Tokyo whose restaurants I idolized. Now that the time has come to open my own doors, to be true to my own tastes, and to honor all of the mentors who have invested so much time in me, I have decided to take the risk of opening a restaurant that strives to exactly replicate everything that I love about Japan.
Now that the time has come to open my own doors, to be true to my own tastes, and to honor all of the mentors who have invested so much time in me, I have decided to take the risk of opening a restaurant that strives to exactly replicate everything that I love about Japan.
Hayato is about true Japanese cooking - Washoku.
We use the five Japanese cooking techniques (sashimi, grilling, steaming, frying and simmering) to produce simple dishes that derive their complexity from the quality of our ingredients. Our food is very light. As is typical with all traditional Japanese food, we rarely use oil in anything other than fried dishes. Our food focuses on fish and shellfish. Almost every dish in our daily menu is focused on showcasing a specific piece of seafood that we consider to be exceptional.
I honestly do not know what sort of reaction to expect with this restaurant. The first time I ate in a kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo, there were dishes that I did not appreciate. But there were other dishes that I still remember vividly to this day - dishes that sparked an obsession in me that led to Hayato. Because this food means so much to me, I think it is worth taking the risk to serve it here in Los Angeles. I hope you agree.