Inn Ann is the latest project of Japan House, located in Hollywood and Highland of all places. Japan House was created by Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a way to teach foreigners about Japanese culture “by showcasing the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, technology, and more.”
From their website: Staying true to its ethos, “Discover Umami,” INN ANN will be a discovery for diners seeking out the “hidden” location nestled within an intimate fifth-floor space at JAPAN HOUSE, and will feature a rotating series of Michelin-starred chefs, and highly revered masters, with the aim of introducing Japanese culinary techniques, ingredients, and sensibilities.
We sat at the counter and almost fell off our seats when we realized the Itamae facing us was none other than Mori-san (of Mori Sushi Fame.) I had heard he was retired, then he was doing cameos at Shiki Beverly Hills, so this was an incredible surprise. He had full control and was managing every aspect of the sushi bar area where we were sitting as well as watching with a keen eye everything that was coming out of the back of the house. I am unclear how long he will be there before they switch to another chef. Later, we found out that another friend, Shiki-san, (Maru – now defunct) was Chef du Cuisine for the back of the house. The two made poetry together. 🙂 .
They self-describe as modern Kaiseki. The most expensive $100 menu is five courses and the diner can choose between a number of different options for 3 out of 5 of the courses. The first course is an “appetizer” course that has around 10 very delicious bites, but they are all served in one small vessel so that it more resembles bento. Although I very much appreciated the porcelain styled to almost exactly replicate antique Japanese fine porcelain (yes we googled it), the overall experience lacks the intricacy and presentation of what one would expect from “Kaiseki.” The rest of the courses that follow are what I think of as modern – a reinterpretation of Japanese classics with CA ingredients and of course shun no mono (seasonal items.) But the feel is more like a wonderful Kappo dining experience, not Kaiseki. That said, if they did full on Kaiseki there is no way they could price the meals like this. (Their menu offers a few lower price points as well with a few less courses.) I have no problem sacrificing a bit of pomp and circumstance for this kind of value. When I think modern Kaiseki, in LA I would say N/Naka or Shunji, and in Tokyo it would be Narisawa or Takazawa. Those dinners cost far more.
Philosophy and marketing aside (this restaurant is meant to be an outreach program after all) my takeaway was that for only $100 you can now experience probably some of the best QPR of Japanese fine dining in LA. The ingredients are top notch. Everything was perfectly executed. The flavors, the seasoning, all appropriate to highlight the protein. A problem that often plagues Japanese restaurants in LA was no issue here – nothing was too sweet or too salty or too greasy. The menu options are thoughtful and approachable and are obviously meant to appeal to those not intricately familiar with traditional Japanese flavors, but at the same time they are true to their roots and not “dumbed down” so expats looking for a taste of home will still be satisfied.
As far as specifics around the food:
1) Course one was the appetizers as described above. Some very intriguing and clever flavors and textures combined the traditional with the California modern: Saikyo Miso on grilled cheese. Salmon mixed with Nagaimo so it wasn’t slimy. Dashi was gelled with shrimp inside so it had a mild flavor. Tamago (egg) had truffle oil.
2) Chef’s choice 4 sashimi – all very fresh and perfectly sliced and seasoned. A mild Nikiri was poured for us for dipping. A small complaint was the wasabi, I wish they had fresh grated.
3) We opted to each pick a separate item and share: Heavily marbled Wagyu Ribeye Shabu Shabu for me (served with local seasonal veggies and Konbu broth) and King Crab and veggie tempura served with both tare/sauce and shio/salt for him. Both dishes were of the highest quality and quite memorable.
4) We both could not resist ordering the chirashi sushi with Ikura and Uni. Only complaint here was it was too small.
-With desert being the next course, we asked to supplement and they let us order off the bar menu. We shared an order of Maguro (tuna) sushi and grilled salmon belly. Both were wonderful. The crisped skin on the salmon was delightful.
5) Dessert – we both again wanted the same item – Matcha Mousse with mochi and seasonal fruit. Perfectly light ending to a wonderful meal.
They have a brief but interesting list of sake, shochu, and cocktails as well as a bit of wine. Corkage was $30 and we opted to bring some red burgundy and order a bit of Sake. Their markup on the sake was very fair and a happy surprise. They have some 1.5 liters at prices so reasonable I could see having a party there.
Hollywood & Highland Center
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, 2F and 5F
(Administrative office at Suite 167)
Los Angeles,. CA 90028
5:30 PM – 10:00 PM (Tuesday – Saturday)