Karayama: Japanese Chain Brings Kara-age Chicken To Little Tokyo
If you’ve been noticing the recent chicken boom in DTLA, you’re not crazy, it exists and it’s taking over. One of the newcomers in this recent wave of fried/Nashville/hot chicken joint is Karayama which has set its roots in Little Tokyo near the Japanese Village Plaza. Back home in Japan, Karayama is well known as one of the best fast food places for fried chicken. So think of the way you feel about Chick-Fil-A or Raising Canes, that’s how much Japan loves Karayama. However, I will go ahead and dare to say that Karayama’s chicken is much, much higher quality.
The Kara-age technique is one of masterful tact & patience. Since Karayama is not a chef-driven concept, every employee participating in making the main product has to master the process. The process is meticulous but it yields shocking results. To Kara-age something, one must lightly coat the meat in potato starch & deep fried in a light oil. To describe the way it feels one could say it is less heavy than your everyday American deep fry and very crispy.
Of course, there’s different styles of Kara-age-ing, so Karayama has a secret ingredient. They begin by massaging the chicken so it may absorb the signature umami marinade, made using a low-temperature fermentation, then it rests for 4-8 hours to deeply absorb the marinate before frying. The variation of flavors come in the style of sauces. Karayama has a ton of options for dipping their delicious chicken that should not be skipped out on. You can try their chicken in different forms such as by itself with a few sides, in a bowl (with an egg!), or a sandwich. Their bread is made with shokupan bread which is locally sourced from a bakery shop in the Japanese Village across the street.
The CEO Sky Whitehead knew, from many trips between Japan and LA, that Little Tokyo was the perfect place to open up their first U.S. location. “We came to LA in part because of what is happening in LA, there's a big deal of new and interesting. Our market represents authenticity and crossovers and it is inspired by the food culture growing here.”
Karayama opened back in August and they have been enjoying a warm welcome from the neighborhood ever since. You’ll mostly see it occupied by lunch crowds but Karayama is for everyone, as Sky put it, “Our owners in Japan have maintained for a long time a dream and vision of bringing this to the US for over a decade. The concept was developed from their love of what the US has done with fast casual dining. It’s an exciting time for hospitality right now from all ends of the spectrum and we look forward to growing and claiming our stake here in LA.”
The stake has been claimed, folks. This Japanese delicacy is about to give the other chickens a reason to cross the street.
Written by Mariana Ramos | Photography by Robiee Ziegler