WHERE MEXICAN OMAKASE COMES TO LIFE
Culinary fusion has been a popular trend for years. Blending cultures to create flavorful dishes is a fine concept—when it works. But lets face it, they often tend to be safe pairings. So, when heard about Ainoko and its Mexican Omakase, well, I was very interested.
First of all, you may be asking yourself what and where is Ainoko? It’s the Japanese word for half breed as the man responsible for Ainoko is Chef John-Carlos Kuramoto—half Mexican and half Japanese. Located within posh Petite Taqueria in West Hollywood, Ainoko is an intimate sushi bar space housed inside a trendy Mexican restaurant.
“Food transcends unlike any other type of art,” says Chef John-Carlos. “In food, we embrace different flavors, ingredients, techniques and celebrate all the different elements to create something new. At the same time, we must never forget where those elements originated from. This is culture. This has always been culture, and we must embrace the new with reverence for the old.”
Omakase is a popular Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it up to you.” And when dining, that usually translates to Chef’s choice. And dinner at Ainoko is a multi-course tasting menu that is bold, clever, daring and above all, delicious. My experience there was one of my favorite meals in the last year—easy.
“Ainoko is an exploratory tasting menu kitchen in which we bring those elements together and create a tasting menu of natural fusion, i.e. Anioko—half breed fusion,” Chef John-Carlos explains. “This natural fusion comes from myself, being of Mexican-Japanese descent. I bring elements of diametrically opposed cuisines to form an autobiographic tasting menu every night. I tie in my own experiences of growing up multi-culturally, while also incorporating flavors that I have picked along my career life in Los Angeles.”
The menu changes all the time but plan on approximately a 10 to 13-course meal, which includes tea service to start and end. A Japanese Highball cocktail is a good way to begin the night as the mellow drink, with its softness of peat aromas, is refreshing and thirst quenching. If you desire to drink with dinner, I’d avoid the Petite Taqueria cocktails and opt for Japanese beer or sake.
As I mentioned, the tasting menu varies but during my visit I was really fond of the ahi tuna tostada, and the charred white corn soup was out-of-this-world good. The pork toro and garbanzo taco was absolutely delicious. Other favorites included the Tako (octopus) Taco, and the Banh Mi Torta with duck confit and chicken pâté. If your dinner includes the A5 Japanese Wagyu Taco, well, consider yourself lucky.
Chef is always playing with new ideas and different takes of favorite dishes so every dinner will be unique. As soon as our dinner concluded, I couldn’t wait to go back and revisit the dynamic genius of Chef’s offerings.
I think the term “melting pot” gets overused but in this case, it’s apt as delectable dishes from said pot and as good as anything being served anywhere in town.
Ainoko is open Tuesday through Saturday with one seating at 8pm. Dinner costs $85 and that includes tax and 18% gratuity. Ainoko does not accommodate substitutions or dietary restrictions.
Ainoko is located inside Petite Taqueria at 755 N. La Cienega Blvd. Click here to make reservations.
Phototography by Adrian Favela
Story and some Photography by Jose Martinez