Izakayas, Japanese pubs with food designed to go well with beer and sake, have progressed significantly in L.A. over the past decade. Ingredients and composition have advanced, as has the restaurant design. At Kinjiro in Little Tokyo’s Honda Plaza, right next to perpetually packed Sushi Gen, Jun Isogai has created a destination izakaya where his previous spot, b.o.s., last stood. The space features a black sign, mustard colored walls, a shelf of sake bottles, and glass-fronted kitchen. Kinjiro chef Yoshizaku Kondo fills a blackboard with tantalizing specials, perhaps none more enticing than Seared Uni ($18).
Sweet, creamy Santa Barbara uni is magical on its own, and as I learned at Kinjiro, tastes pretty damn good when torched. In this case, Chef Kondo served the sea urchin on a bed of chopped wakame, with molten uni cascading over the edges of the wood box. Really, I could have spooned this luxury ingredient straight into my mouth and been happy, but Isogai encouraged us to wrap the uni and wakame in sheets of crisp, savory nori. That also works wonderfully.