May 18, 2022

Inside Kodo, the stunning new Japanese restaurant in the Arts District

It’s hard to think of a cooler Los Angeles block than 7th and Santa Fe in the Arts District. The area, anchored by the Warner Music building as well as stalwarts like Pizzanista and Bestia, has become a hotbed of recent culinary activity during the pandemic alone. There’s Detroit Vesey’s, a space tailored for drinkers, cyclists, the LGBTQ community, and everyone else. There’s Yangban Society, the colorful and cool Korean-American restaurant of two Northern California gourmet vets. And now there is Kodoan austere indoor-outdoor Japanese restaurant that will eventually serve as a hotel and spa, done up with the kind of modern flourishes and clean-lined aesthetics that could only come from the minds of the Kensho Group.

Pour sake.

The new Kodo is nothing like anything the Arts District has seen before. Matching light slate tones and lots of stone with blond wood finishes — while switching between soft lines and sharp angles in multiple dining spaces — the restaurant looks like something pulled back through time. It’s both modern and timeless, Japanese and Angeleno, from the creative class and lodged with great authority in an old fire station.

David Wynn, the founder of Kensho Group, is known for bringing together the kind of people who will push the boundaries of design, as evidenced by his other LA Kensho Hollywood project on Yamashiro’s property. He’s the kind of person who likes to collaborate on details, building a list of artisans who have helped bring to life every aspect of the space, from soap and comforters to hanging linens and poured concrete. It’s in the details that Kodo shines, pairing the brick of the Arts District warehouse with the group’s more subtle study of steel and space, led by the design/build group. M Royce Architecture in addition to space gray and Sasha Robertson.

And then there’s Yoya Takahashi, executive chef of Kodo. As boisterous as ever, the ponytailed Takahashi is one of LA sushi’s most colorful characters, having moved to the city from Japan to become an actor. Along the way, he’s rooted himself in restaurant work and a respect for sushi, marrying his playful sensibility with cooking traditions. He spent years working in Los Angeles and Japan, including at Westside’s Hamasaku.

Now at Kodo, Takahashi has the space to thrive on the plate, pulling off everything from grilled spare ribs and a deconstructed tsukune to selections of sashimi, seared sea bream, steamed clams and beyond with his team. In total, the menu is broken down into quadrants, giving way to high heat (supervised by chef de cuisine Jaehee Lee); sushi (by sushi chef Alex Kohsuke Suzuki); cocktails from beverage director Chris Gomez and bar manager Will Henry; and pastries and desserts from Chef Mami Yamamoto. The opening menus are below.

A close image of a light green and wooden bench in a gray room.

Understated design touches to the front of the building.

A slender tree grows inside a large stone-colored room.

Grow from below.

As with food, the finite Kodo space pulls in several complementary directions. The main dining activity will take place in the exterior aisle to the left of the building’s facade on Santa Fe. Diners will enter through a flurry of steel and stone to find long firm banquettes and light gray seats under light brown hanging fabrics. Inside, large black booths pair with the bright bar — home to Gomez’s cocktail and sake programs — that leads to a small courtyard and fire pit. And at the front, inside the building, is the cafe for caffeinated drinks and small snacks as well as sake and wine.

From now on, kodo is the first fully realized activation for this address at 710 S. Santa Fe. Eventually, the Kensho Group property will expand to include the ryokan-style hotel (stylized as the Rykn name), with a spa/public bath at the ‘back. Expect the hotel, at least, to open by the end of this summer. Kodo opens April 20, keeping hours from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, while Cafe Rykn will operate longer from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, alternating between coffee, lighter lunch service and evening bar snacks. Reservations can be made via Resy.

A tree grows inside a large metal square in a new restaurant dining room, painted black.

Indoor dining room and wine cellar.

Four pieces of sushi on a stone.

Nigiri three pieces.

A wide shot of a fire station brick building with black accents on the doors and side patio.

The view from the street in Kodo, inside an old fire station.

710 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90021