Are you in search of an excellent eatery in Los Angeles that goes above and beyond in terms of atmosphere? Look no further than Hansei, an Asian fusion restaurant helmed by Chris Ono.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Chris Ono is a fourth-generation Japanese American on every gourmand's chef-to-watch list.
A born foodie, Ono graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
From there, he was recruited by some of the world's most venerated kitchens, and the young epicurean quickly accumulated Michelin-level experience during stints at celebrated eateries like Morihiro Onodera's Mori Sushi in Los Angeles, RyuGin in Tokyo, and Eleven Madison Park in New York.
In 2022, Ono became the master chef in residence at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles.
“Nikkei” has a few different meanings.
Broadly, Nikkei or Nikkeijin refers to members of the Japanese diaspora living worldwide. It’s also a synonym for “fusion” as it relates to Japanese cuisine. And lastly, some apply the term strictly to menus that marry Peruvian and Japanese flavors and techniques.
Ono uses Nikkei to describe dishes that embody Californian and Japanese flavor profiles and cooking styles.
Nestled in a garden oasis in the middle of Little Tokyo, Hansei — which means self-reflection in Japanese — has quickly earned a reputation as one of the top restaurants in LA. Located at the Toshizo Watanabe Culture & Culinary Center, it ranks among the city’s most unique dining experiences.
Upon arrival, guests are treated to a tour of the grounds. Next up are shochu-infused drinks and “LA Nikkei,” Hansei’s version of tapas.
After the first course, diners head to the “chef’s counter” for the main event. All dishes use the finest, freshest ingredients with a recipe twist. For example, Hansei’s take on the California roll features fried seaweed, crab, uni, avocado, and cucumbers.
But don’t overstuff yourself with the main course. Save room for dessert, which is served in the property’s James Irvine Japanese Garden.
Are you a slow eater? Never fear: You can set your own pace. But be sure to make a reservation. The chances of getting in without one are between slim and none.
Hansei’s menu changes, but Ono’s dishes always aim to fuse Japanese and American flavor profiles and culinary techniques.
In terms of stand-out dishes, everything is excellent. Try the wagyu steak option if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian.
Are you a fan of cocktails? Hansei’s bar stocks old favorites, local craft beers, an extensive sake collection, and options from California wineries run by Japanese Americans.
As you’ve likely guessed by this point, Hansei isn’t the cheapest restaurant in Los Angeles. Expect to pay about $200 per person — before tax and tip. Bump it up if you have a healthy appetite for alcohol.
But it’s worth the price — because Ono’s creations at Hansei are incredible.