Kensho, the tiny Japanese restaurant located within the Yamashiro complex in Hollywood, has been an Infatuation favorite since it opened in 2019. And before the end of 2021, the owners plan to open Kensho Ryokan, an eight-room onsen-style hotel in the Arts District with some exciting restaurants attached.
We talked with founder David Wynn about his new spot as part of our preview of Fall (and early Winter) LA openings.
Kensho Ryokan will include a restaurant, as well as a cafe and bar that will serve matcha and coffee during the day, then transitioning to Japanese-inspired cocktails, natural wine, and sake at night. The dinner-only izakaya restaurant, Kodo is going to serve robata, yakitori, and sushi.
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Kodo’s kitchen will be run by Yoya Takahashi, formerly at Hamasaku. He plans to serve dishes like seafood kakiage, seasonal California veggies in agebitashi, grilled mochi mentaiko with nori, and fried tofu with miso paste and albacore. “At its core we want Kodo to be really fun,” Wynn says.
Wynn is Korean, Japanese, and Irish-American, and most of his staff are hapa too. “That’s the culture I identify with the most,” Wynn says. “I love people who bridge the Asian-American universe, and I think that’s really part of the LA identity...My favorite part of living in Los Angeles is being reminded that we are a global hub and portal to every culture around the country and world.”
Wynn grew up in Asia but has lived in DTLA for most of his adult life. Before Kodo opens later this year (the hotel will follow in early 2022), Wynn will be eating his way through the Arts District – below you’ll find his favorite neighborhood spots.
David Wynn’s Favorite Spots In The LA Arts District
“I love starting my day at Maru with a matcha latte. Their beautifully minimalist space and zen vibe helps me focus on my thoughts, get some email work done, and have a quick meeting while usually running into a friend or two.”
“Living in LA we are predominantly surrounded by Asian and Mexican culture. Having recently fallen in love with Oaxaca and Mexico City, the fancier Damian is where I go with friends and teammates to sit at the bar or lounge in the outside courtyard to sip mezcal and dream about our next trip to Criollo or Pujol. If I’m running around during the day and need a quick bite, Ditroit, the back-alley lunch spot at Damian, has delicious tacos, churros, and agua frescas that I scarf down at least once a week. Shrimp tacos and yuzu palo santo agua fresca are my go-to.”
“Kensho Ryokan is right next door to Bestia, so it’s where our team ends up regularly. I personally love to pop in without a reservation and usually find seats at the bar to casually snack, grab a cocktail, and catch up. My go-to is scallops, pizza, and mussels, so that I can dip the crust in mussel jus.”
“Our Kensho creative team usually ends up walking to Death & Co after we eat dinner. I love going with my friend Chris Gomez from Shibumi who somehow seems to know everyone at the bar, so we end up having a blast. The New York cocktail vibe really resonates and makes you want to stay out late and not be home by midnight like most Angelenos.”
“I grew up in Los Angeles as a skateboarder, so I learned the city by exploring the streets and filming tricks at spots with friends. Salman Agah, a legendary pro skateboarder, owns this pizza spot, so whenever I feel the urge to skate a block or two to clear my head, I end up cruising over for a slice at Pizzanista. It reminds me of skating as a teenager to the local skate shop to meet up and hang with friends.”
Verve Roastery Del Sur
“I started my hospitality career as a barista and opened my first cafe business in Echo Park, so I tend to still spend quite a bit of time working out of coffee shops. I used to go to Verve on Spring Street a lot when they opened since I lived down the street, but now I end up in the Arts District location. I’m happy to be able to eat a delicious brunch at a coffee shop while getting work done and watching them roast.”
“Although I haven’t been to the original Chicago location, it’s been fun to get a taste of the famous chef’s creations here in LA. Especially since my mother went to the Art Institute there, I tend to be drawn to whoever lands in LA from Chicago. The goat liver mouse, yuzu kosho beet salad, and branzino were all delicious.”
“Since our whole team has been in love with Mexico City and Oaxaca, I love having LA restaurant options that originated from Mexico. Whenever we want a fun casual rooftop dining experience with the team and feel a little more motivated to walk rather than stumbling a few steps to Damian or Bestia, we end up here.”
“Our whole team is in love with art, design, architecture, and food, so Manuela at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel checks all the boxes. When I crave a quiet walk alone to be inspired, absorb new ideas, read art books and grab a bite, I end up here. I love that there is a garden area and an open courtyard that you can relax at.”