People read entire books, attend weekend seminars, and sob uncontrollably inside Joshua Tree sound baths in the hopes of figuring out how to date correctly. And rightfully so, it’s hard as hell. While we’ll leave the personal reflection and breaking down of emotional walls to the experts, we can help with an equally important component - finding the right place to eat on said dates.
It’s Yapa, a Peruvian/Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo. With a menu full of light, interesting food, strong cocktails, and a space that can be as fancy (or casual) as your night requires, you’re going to feel comfortable - regardless of your opinion on the person sitting across from you.
Of course, dating isn’t just a sport for single people. Whether you’re in a relationship, married, or somewhere in between, you need a restaurant that feels special, too - and if it can be booked for a random Tuesday dinner, that’s even better. Again, it’s Yapa. The second you walk into the small, attractive dining room (there’s a bunch of hanging greenery that they actually use in many of their dishes) and get handed a complimentary sparkling tea from the hostess, you’ll feel like you just found your next go-to neighborhood haunt. Then you open up the menu and spot dishes like an uni-topped bluefin tiradito and a 32 oz. dry-aged ribeye, and you realize there’s a lot more going on here. Yapa is a great neighborhood restaurant, but one with food that’s so exciting the entire city should experience it.
We’ve eaten great food from every corner of Yapa’s Nikkei-style (Peruvian ingredients prepared with Japanese techniques) menu, but the strongest section is the “cold” dishes. You’re going to want to grab a few Pacific Gold oysters, the aforementioned uni-topped tuna tiradito, and a leche de tigre ceviche that’s among the best we’ve eaten in LA. If you’re looking to roll higher or earn some power-move points, we love the $36 caviar service that comes with salsa, creme dip, and crispy acorn bread. It’s a fun (since you’re basically building your own caviar sandwiches) and well-balanced mix of salty and spicy, and different than any kind of caviar experience you’ll have around town.
Frankly, spending an entire meal in the “cold” section is a move we endorse, but if you came hungry - and aren’t worried about overeating in front of someone you swiped right on - then make sure you visit the “hot” section, too. It’s where you’ll find the more traditional Peruvian dishes, like tacu tacu (a tremendous rice and bean cake topped with long beans and chiles) or a hearty guiso stew with barley, mushrooms, and beans. Where the “cold” section favors light, refreshing, seafood-forward dishes, the “hot” dishes are where you get the kind of savory, flavor-packed plates you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night craving.
No matter what you order though, we guarantee you’ll walk away happy at Yapa - so at least one part of your night will turn out the way you wanted. And that’s important, because while we can’t promise you’ll find love, we can promise you’ll find a new restaurant to add to your rotation.
There are a lot of great ceviches in Los Angeles, and this needs to be considered one of them. The corvina (a South American saltwater fish) is fresh and flavorful, and the leche de tigre provides a sweetness that props up the fish without overpowering it. You need this on your table every time you go to Yapa.
This is our favorite dish at Yapa - just a perfect plate of ocean things. Sure, it’s $21, but considering you’re eating premium bluefin tuna with sea urchin on top, it’s actually a steal.
At $36 for a half ounce, this is definitely a splurge item, but if you’re comfortable throwing down a little tonight, definitely order it. The dish comes with a spicy Peruvian salsa, kabosu creme, and a crispy acorn bread on the side, so it’s really a build-your-own-caviar-creation station. Trust us, all dates need an interactive element.
An obvious play on the BLT, we like the pork belly itself a lot, but the tomato and lettuce give off too much moisture, and make the whole dish a bit soggy. You can skip this one.
If you get one dish off of the “hot” section, make sure it’s this rice and bean cake. On its own, it would probably suffer from being a bit too savory, but the chile and long beans on top add a crunch that pulls it all together.
Cut into delicate flakes sitting in a squash puree, this is a beautiful - and surprisingly great - dish to share. We say that because no one wants to split a piece of fish with someone they met 35 minutes ago.