Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

After years of wanting to dine at Kato, I finally made it. I used to live less than five minutes away from Kato when it was located on the Westside. But, I could never get a reservation. In early 2022, Kato reopened, post-pandemic, but in a new, larger space in downtown LA. I had tried to get a reservation but still had no luck. But then a month ago, a friend and I set a date to meet for dinner after way too long. I pulled up Ressy and entered the date to see what might pop up and lo and behold, there was a 7pm reservation available for two at Kato. I booked it and awaited the date. This past week I finally dined at Kato and it lived up to my expectations and that is why it is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

Kato is owned by chef Jon Yao and his partners Nikki Reginaldo and Ryan Bailey. Kato was formerly in a strip mall in West LA where it received one Michelin star in 2019. Now it is in a corner build-out on the ground floor of an industrial building in Downtown LA’s eastern edge.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

This downtown space is much larger than the original space, which was the size of the current private dining room. The space is sparsely decorated and very spacious. Despite the large space, tables are not packed in. There is a very casual, comfortable feeling which is enhanced by the friendliness of the staff.

Kato offers a tasting menu only. The menu features a lot of fish which is sourced from Japan. Other ingredients come from local farms. Everything is seasonal and the menu changes weekly. To pair with the menu, Kato offers a wine flight, as well as a reserve wine flight. For non-drinkers, there is a non-alcoholic wine flight as well. Kato also has a thick wine list offering bottles from around the word, with an emphasis on French and California wines.

The tasting menu includes 12 dishes plus an optional 13th dish. Dining with my friend, we decided to splurge and add this extra dish.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

Our primary server was David Cortes, who is also the assistant sommelier. With each course, he presented the wine, offering information about the grape and a tasting description. While my friend and I are rather knowledgeable about wine, we enjoyed listening to his descriptions as I know how valuable they are to other diners who do not know as much about wine. I even overhead a table near us marvel as they enjoyed the Chablis they were poured and then found out Chablis is made with Chardonnay.

To began our meal, David poured us a Grower Champagne, the Champagne Liebart Regnier Sur le Grand Marais, a Blanc de Noir wine made from Pinot Meunier.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

The rich texture of this Champagne paired elegantly with the first three bites (from left to right):

  • Sweet shrimp with rice wine, rice, cilantro, and black vinegar in a nori cup
  • Wild yellowtail with cilantro relish, onion croustard, seaweed, and shaoxing (rice wine)
  • Scallop tart with soy preserves, cucumber, fingerling limes, doubanjiang (Chinese bean paste), and kelp thread

Each bite was to be eaten in a single bite and was quite a mouthful. What was extraordinary about each bite was the delicateness when the bite first entered the mouth but the rich, savory flavors on the finish.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

I am a huge fan of Chenin Blanc, our second wine, and the Wind Gap 2015 Chenin Blanc, North Coast, with its lovely mineral notes, was a beautiful example of Chenin Blanc with age on it.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

The Chenin Blanc was paired with another single bite. This bite was Sea urchin with brown butter, wrapped in Iberico ham. Just a single bite yet so intense with flavor and the wine definitely cut through the richness.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

From Chenin Blanc we moved on to Chablis with the Guy Robin 2020 Vieilies Vignes Chablis, Franc, an elegant and fresh wine.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

The elegance of the Chablis was perfect with the Caviar with Dungeness crab which was not only one of the most beautiful dishes of the night, but also one of my favorites of the night.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

With the Caviar dish, we were also served milk bread with garlic and butter. It was hard not to devour the entire loaf.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

David came to the table with our next wine, a Sancerre. But this was not a typical Sancerre as it was not Sauvignon Blanc. Rather is was the Lucien Crochet 2018 Sancerre Rosé made from Pinot Noir.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

The rosé was paired with Spiny Lobster with orange and sudachi, a Japanese citrus fruit. The batter on the spiny lobster was light and crispy and I loved the play of the citrus notes with the wine.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

From the rosé, we moved back to white wine with the J.B Becker 2013 Riesling Kabinett Trocken from Rheingau, Germany.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA

The dry, aromatic Riesling, with notes of petrol, was a good pairing with the Tilefish with fish fragrant sauce and Szechuan peppercorn. The subtle heat of the dish was a surprise but was tempered by the wine.

Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Michelin-Starred Taiwanese Restaurant Kato in Downtown LA