Chaya Venice has proudly become CHAYA Modern Izakaya. What began as a humble teahouse in the 17th century has grown into a dining empire, expanding into the US nearly 40 years ago, and is continuing to evolve with its new identity, complete with a fresh look and reinvigorated menu.
Similar to a Western gastropub, a Japanese izakaya is traditionally a drinking establishment which serves small tapas-style plates for sharing. CHAYA Modern Izakaya further bridges the gap between Japanese and American dining with Japanese-Californian cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, premium spirits, Japanese Whisky, eclectic sake and wine, and Japanese and local craft beers.
The chef team—Corporate Executive Chef Yukou Kajino, Executive Chef Joji Inoue and Kaiseki Chef Katsuyuki Wako—have a deep background with CHAYA, Japanese flavor and innovative culinary prowess. The trifecta properly bridges Eastern philosophy with Western techniques, utilizing local seasonal ingredients, with sky-high quality standards for seafood, poultry and meats.
CHAYA’s menu features exotic delights across a broad range of categories, from the chrysanthemum salad to grilled octopus and wagyu chazuke. Sushi is unquestionably essential at CHAYA, with rolls and hand rolls that take you across the Pacific. Guests can also experience daily omakase menus at the Kaiseki chef counter, which replaces the old Chaya’s raw bar as a focal point for chefs to showcase their talent.
An eclectic bar adds to CHAYA’s modern appeal, enhancing the restaurant’s social element by allowing guests to congregate over an extensive sake collection, as well as a strong lineup of Japanese whiskies and Western favorites that make for excellent hand-made cocktails.
CHAYA Modern Izakaya is located at 110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291. Open for Dinner 5:30 - 10 p.m. Sun – Thu, 5:30 - 11:30 p.m. Fri – Sat. Happy Hour from 5 p.m. to close. For more information, call call (310) 396-1179 or visit TheCHAYA.com.
Japanese dining doesn't get much more authentic or intimate on this side of the Pacific than at Tempura Endo. The value proposition here may be questionable, but nevertheless there’s no doubt that this place cares deeply for its ingredients and the 500-year tradition behind its cuisine.
For those unfamiliar, tempura is a Japanese deep-fry cooking method. In Endo’s case, chefs prepare each course in front of their guests, using only the highest-quality oils, meticulously stirred batter, black bean soy sauce and a lineup of salts that pair with specific items. Add in premium-grade sashimi and wagyu beef to make this as high-end of an experience as possible. Prix-fixe menus range from 10 – 17 courses, or $150 - $280.
Owner Koichi Endo’s restaurant empire resides exclusively in Kyoto, Japan with the exception of this tiny spot on Santa Monica Boulevard. The tasting room seats eight, with space for a few more in adjacent nooks. Add in the tea room, where guests will go in one at a time to witness matcha made in a ceremonious fashion.
While the ambiance is intimate, Endo’s feel doesn’t match up to its food quality—a rarity nowadays considering the reverse is much more common. This small space is sparsely dressed up with kitschy décor. You can see the bright blue bathroom signs from your seat in the tasting room. Chefs unload ingredients onto the counter from cheap Tupperware. Endo seems more like a dive along Westwood Boulevard than a high-end establishment in Beverly Hills.
Additionally, each course is literally two bites of relatively light food. You will likely need to eat again as soon as you leave Tempura Endo’s doors.
Hats off to the restaurant staff for preparing a truly authentic Far East dining experience, but the atmosphere needs to live up to the price point. It’s hard to justify dropping $300+ for the equivalent of a moderate snack in this kind of setting.
Tempura Endo is located at 9777 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Open 5 p.m. – midnight 7 days/week. Out-the-door price for mid-tier prix fixe menu and 1-2 drinks is ~$300/person. Tempura Endo can be reached at (310) 274-2201 or online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.