Hayato: Sushi Transcendent
The instructions you’re given tell you not to be late as the meal service starts promptly at seven. You walk into the ROW DTLA complex as the sun is setting and find the Noren curtain that signifies the restaurant’s entrance. You may have an idea of what brought you here tonight, but you won’t understand the magnitude of it until you take a chance and walk through the door.
Facing across from you is Chef Brandon Hayato Go, who will guide you through the evening’s three hours of dining mastery.
You’re one of the lucky ones who has snagged one of the seven seats available for the only seating of the evening. You are about to experience something sublime.
Chef Go opened Hayato in January of 2018, first serving his high-quality bento boxes, and then opened up his dinner reservations a month later. He has been virtually sold out ever since.
His sushi pedigree is deep. He began working in his father’s sushi shop in Seal Beach at 15 and apprenticed at restaurants in Japan, including Tokyo’s three-Michelin-starred Kagurazaka Ishikawa, before setting out on his own.
Hayato brings an authentic Japanese dining experience to Los Angeles. “All places in Japan are small restaurants,” says Chef Go. “They are about this size or slightly bigger, with seating less than 20. To me when I go to a restaurant of this type I expect the chefs to serve me, I expect to talk to the same people. I think that’s the big difference between the US and Japan. When I go to a restaurant there it’s like getting a haircut -- you’re going to see your salon person and they’ll take care of you. You’ll know what to expect and it’s a more personal transaction.”
The limited seating, coupled with Chef Go’s mastery of the food he serves, has filled their reservation list since opening. Reservations are booked through Resy.com and go up at midnight one month before the seating. There are seatings Tuesday through Saturday.
The dining experience at Hayato is called kappo kaiseki, which roughly translates to a Chef’s table dining experience that is focused on extreme seasonality and ingredients of the highest quality. You sit across from Chef Go and you eat what he puts in front of you. There are no substitutions, though you can request omissions.
Chef Go still prepares meticulously crafted bento boxes -- 16 a day -- on Friday and Saturday. These are slightly easier to get a hold of than the dinner reservations, and you are encouraged to find a quiet place among the ROW’s buildings to savor them. For Chef Go the intention of the food in the bento boxes is a different experience than eating in his restaurant. “The flavors play off of each other in the bento,” he says. “It’s different than the dinner, which is showing off the pristine seafood. In the dinner, when you eat crab I want it to taste like crab.”
The reviews are equally stunning, with LA Times food critic Bill Addison describing a meal at Hayato as “transcendent” and Food & Wine naming him one of the best new chefs of 2019.
Hayato is in the upper echelons of dining in Los Angeles. Intimate and exacting. An evening at Hayato is an experience to be treasured.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Katie Gibbs (courtesy Hayato)