You can’t judge food by its appearance at the newer HATCH Yakitori + Bar located in DTLA’s The Bloc. If I did, I would have never tasted their delicious signature Japanese-style black karaage fried chicken on a stick.
When it was first delivered to my table, I declined it. The two day brined chicken thigh meat is by far the ugliest item on the menu. It looks like nuggets of dry black coal, or a meteorite that dropped to earth from a far-off galaxy. This karaage gets its coloring by rolling the chicken pieces in squid ink powder, before deep frying and skewering with a stick.
Noticing my friends animated and thrilled faces while devouring a plate of crispy black nuggets, I reluctantly squeezed a slice of grilled lime on top, dipped it in a black ranch aioli and took a bite. I will never turn up my nose again. The moist chicken meat has an exquisite balance of taste, texture, and aroma. The chefs use thigh meat, because it tastes better than breast meat. Legs of chickens are fundamentally different than drier and whiter breast meat. Thighs are built for endurance and contain a higher concentration of myoglobin which gives leg meat its characteristic dark color and umami-rich taste.
What makes HATCH Yakitori + Bar unique is its Japanese style stick food and creative Japanese twist to cocktails. Bar Director James Fastiggi stirs things up by pairing fresh and innovative flavors with owner-partners Akarad “AK” Tachavatcharapa, Nara Latip, Partner and Executive Chef Daniel Shemtob’s exciting menu.
When I requested a drink to start my culinary adventure, Fastiggi recommended the “Wassup Bae” made with Roku Gin, wasabi, cucumber, lemon juice, lemongrass syrup and a whisper of charcoal salt on the rim. He told me it’s a millennial favorite.
Next I sipped a refreshing green Matcha Highball made with Iwai Whisky, coconut lemongrass nigori, lemon juice, house-made honey syrup and matcha powder. It’s poured into an ice-filled Collins glass and served with a metal straw. I learned that Iwai whiskey offers tasting notes of pear, quince, red fruits and vanilla. Matured in the finest Japanese handmade mizunara oak casks, it spends the last leg of its maturation at sea, with the salt air and ebb and flow of the tides enriching the whisky. This drink paired well with the crunchy avocado tuna toast on crispy rice with scallions and sesame seeds.
While enjoying a “Mushroom Party” stick, I sipped a pleasing “The Rum Tum Tum” cocktail. It’s made with house-made tepache, a beverage of Mexican origins in which pineapples are fermented for seven days before spices are added, and then joined with Greenbar Spiced Rum, lemon juice, Demerara syrup and Angostura bitters. It’s a tropical vacation in a glass. There were three different types of grilled mushrooms on this “party” stick.
Next we enjoyed sipping a Yuzu Sour paired with a plate of hamachi. This cocktail is a refreshing twist on a Pisco Sour and is presented with a pretty design on the creamy egg white foam. It’s also prepared with Iwai Whisky, yuzu liqueur, lemon juice, and simple syrup.
The prettiest pink drink named “For Goodness ‘Sake’” was decorated with an edible flower. It gets its dazzling color from a pour of prickly pear juice, dry sake, Tito’s vodka, lychee juice and pear syrup. This drink went well with chicken meatballs shaped as cigars on a stick and served with a side of savory egg yolk for dipping.
A crowd favorite was the slightly sweet and spicy “Mangorita” made with Lunazul Tequila, house-made mango syrup, agave nectar, lime juice, orange bitters, and serrano pepper. The rim was slightly salty and peppery. We sipped this while enjoying a one bite Wagyu Beef A5 Nigiri. Chef Daniel cuts a thin slice the finest Japanese beef with delicate marbling evenly distributed throughout. He then brushes on a soy sauce they make in house, and lightly sears the beef with a cooking blowtorch before topping it with a crispy garlic chip.
The “Tokyo Drift” drink has a pour of Kaiyo Whisky, Angostura & orange bitters, and a magic citrus elixir developed by Fastiggi. It was inspired by a savory sauce made by Chef de Cuisine Erick Cielo. This drink went nicely with the Agedashi Tofu. It’s a Japanese way to prepare silken firm tofu. First the tofu is lightly dusted with potato starch, cut into squares, deep fried until golden brown and served hot. The chefs top this tofu with umami flavor, paper thin bonito fish flakes and green chive ribbons.
Besides cocktails, the bar also serves unfiltered and cloudy sake. American and Japanese beers on draft include Asahi, Sapporo, Orion, and Kirin, as well as Coedo Shiro Hefeweizen Wheat Beer, Samurai Blonde Ale, Delicious IPA, and the Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale. Two varieties from the Kyoto Brewing Company are served in bottles. They serve Kyoto Matcha IPA and Kyoto Kuromame Black Soybean Ale. Ginger beer includes a 8% alcohol content Hitachino Ginger Brew.
During Happy Hour Chef Daniel offers one hour of discounted oysters that can be ordered chilled, grilled, or fried accompanied by ume mignoette. There are plates of slow cooked miso pork spare ribs glistening with a spice blend, miso caramel and green onions. House sake, wine and beer by the glass are available at special prices.
HATCH Yakitori + Bar is open for lunch every Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for Dinner every Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m, Friday and Saturday the restaurant stays open until 11 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday dinner service begins at 6 p.m. Happy Hour is every Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. $$ 700 W. 7th St. (213)282-9070.
This article was also featured in the Beverly Press.