Japanese Chef, fresh ingredients coupled with French and Italian technique in Sawtelle Japantown.
There is a term that tends to haunt us all in the restaurant or food blogging biz, that does more damage than anything any bad bit of service or ill-prepared bit of fish can do. That term is preconceived notion.
Now the straight Dictionary definition of preconceived notion is “an opinion formed beforehand without adequate evidence”. In the restaurant world, it really boils down to you knowing what a restaurant should be like before you darken its door.
You walk into a Japanese place, and…there are certain expectations. A Japanese place should look like this. The food should be like that, and so on and so forth.
So imagine my surprise, when I’m invited for breakfast by with my friend Rina Yano, who’s the Publisher behind Sawtelle Japantown, and I arrive at Restaurant 2117.
I mean, Restaurant 2117 doesn’t look like Japanese. It has the feel of a European Cafe, in fact. But you look at the menu, and you’ll see amongst the components, things you’d see at any other restaurant in Sawtelle Japantown, or Torrance or Little Tokyo.
But you also see Pate, Foie Gras.
And this is all the creation of Chef Hideyo:
I believe that the responsibility of a chef goes beyond simply having 100% confidence in the food that is served. To me, the quality of ingredients is just as important as how the dishes look, smell, and taste. This principle has led to my insistence on using organic vegetables and natural meat. I combine fine ingredients with French-Italian methods to create my own style of cooking, with emphasis on great taste and healthy nutrition. Enjoy small plates, wine, freshly cooked al dente pastas, fresh seafood, and natural meat entrées.
A Japanese Chef, going their own way. What’s not to like?
You look at the menu, and it doesn’t look Japanese. In fact, if looks like Bistro food, or something you’d see in a cafe near Santa Monica.
What is going on here?!
What’s going on is that you’ve sat down at Restaurant 2117, and you’re about to have a good time.
It’s going to a slightly point-of-view-altering, in it’s own serene way “kooky” experience, but you know what you’re also going to have? You’re going to have a good meal, a good time.
Truth be told, Restaurant 2117 looked and felt like a place I wanted to avoid. I hate to say, I had the exact same feelings about it I had about Lemonade across the street. That it was a Euro place trying to horn in on thing Sawtelle Japantown was trying to do for itself. But my misgivings about Lemonade are built upon the fact that I was never wild about the food. Here at Restaurant 2117…I’m wild about the food.
And I just came for breakfast. Whoa.
Before we wander too far afield, let me just say that this could have gone, really, really wrong for Chef Hideyo. It’s one thing to stick to a list of principles, to be brave and daring and all that, but what if it didn’t work? What if what came out of that kitchen just wasn’t popular, or…heaven forbid, all that tasty.
Well, nothing to worry about there.
Man, what about Dinner? I’m just imagining Dinner now.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: It was breakfast so I had the Wagyu Beef Hash with Scrambled Egg. So imagine a stew of onions, tomato and spices with…yes Wagyu Beef, and served with soft scrambled eggs.
It was delicious.
And Chef Hideyo knows how to make a biscut.
Can say that enough. I would have this again in a heartbeat. All these days later, I’m still thinking about this dish. The flavors were both appropriately spicy (not in a tongue searing way, but in a Japanese way), and affectionally meaty. Yes, plenty of Wagyu Beef in the dish. And the soft scrambled eggs gives the texture and flavor a creamy dimension that just..just…
Oh, just go there and try it. You won’t regret it.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Remember that whole “preconceived notions” thing I opened with. Just drop your guard, and let a good meal, more than what you think of as a “Japanese Meal” be your North Star, and you’re in for a good time.
So strange, what I just wrote is kinda what I went through with Manpuku Tokyo BBQ, but I seemed to be a little harder on that place than this, why? Maybe it’s because Restaurant 2117 is sticking it’s neck out a little more than Manpuku is. Manpuku is producing a basic, straight ahead quality of Korean BBQ (despite the name), and Restaurant 2117 is going in this direction.
PARKING: Restaurant 2117, like Manpuku Tokyo BBQ, like Tatsu Ramen, is located in a small strip mall with…what seems at first to be a plentiful barrage of parking, but…truth be told, the place is constantly busy with all the other fine restaurants to take advantage of. The best…and truth be told, only thing to do is use their Valet service, which operates for all the establishments in that strip mall. The Service is free, and relies on Tips for the Drivers.
Make sure you tip them well.
2117 Sawtelle Blvd. (oooh, I get it now)
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: (310) 477-1617
Tuesday-Friday: 11:45 am – 2:30 pm, 5:45 – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, 6:00 – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 – 9:00 pm