Inko Nito Reimagines the Robatayaki in L.A.’s Arts District
The new downtown restaurant uses Japanese open-fire cooking to showcase Korean flavors.
“With the international culture of the city, we thought it would be a great place to launch something a little different,” says chef Hamish Brown. “By different, I mean being unconventional.”
So Brown uses Japanese open-fire cooking to showcase Korean flavors: There’s an astoundingly good beef cheek with spicy Korean miso, pickled daikon and butter lettuce. Roll everything up into a lettuce wrap and you’ll have something that evokes bo ssäm, with the beefiness and texture of the tender, fatty cheek popping as much as the bold Korean flavors.
“It’s something that’s very familiar, but also very different,” says Brown, who also serves kimchi fried rice and fried shrimp with Korean miso at Inko Nito.
Inko Nito is part of Rainer Becker’s Azumi Ltd., best known for its glittery Zuma restaurants around the world. Azumi also runs London’s Roka restaurants, a collection of modern robatayakis with menus overseen by group executive chef Brown. But rather than duplicate one of its existing restaurants, Azumi smartly decided to create a new concept specifically for L.A.
“We’re introducing some new cuts of meat and some different flavors,” Brown says. “We’re opening the pantry a little bit for some bigger and bolder flavors.”
Brown says he’s excited to have a restaurant in a city where there are “no preconceptions” of what his food should be, where blending cultures is celebrated and playfulness is rewarded.
Another great dish at Inko Nito that offers both a familiar and a different experience is the fried chicken. It’s a thin katsu cutlet, sliced into pieces that make it easy to dip into the accompanying sauce. But instead of a traditional sweet-and-sour katsu sauce, Inko Nito has a next-level chili garlic yogurt.
Other standout dishes that are grilled in front of you include tiger prawns (with garlic and lemon sansho) and yellowtail collar (with brown butter ponzu and lemon). And Brown knows that seasonal vegetables should be a major part of any ambitious restaurant in L.A.
“The big thing for us is taking advantage of the local produce, looking at what’s available in the market,” says Brown, whose Inko Nito menu featured an avocado salad, an heirloom tomato salad and grilled corn on the cob, asparagus, cauliflower, shishito peppers, broccolini and sweet potatoes on the night we visited. "We’ve got lots to learn. California’s new for us. We’re still discovering what’s out there.”
Inko Nito, 225-227 Garey St., Los Angeles, 310-999-0476