INKO NITO Celebrates the fall season

Some subtle changes have occurred at the Inko Nito downtown in the Arts District. Diners can almost feel the heat from the open robata grill while sitting at the new dining counter. It’s an interactive experience as guests watch chefs prepare new seasonal dishes, as well as many beloved signature favorites.

When Inko Nito opened in January last year in downtown L.A., it became so popular that the Zuma team opened a pop-up on Third Street in Beverly Grove, which closed earlier this year. Now the team is focusing on their flagship location with a chef’s counter and 124-seat dining room designed by Studio Mai that offers communal seating and tables set for smaller groups of two and four guests. They built a larger full bar and added more greenery to the front door patio, softening the industrial design and adding a coziness for al fresco dining.

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Head Chef Randolfo Vaz added new items to the menu, including a sashimi section and a few robata dishes such as bone marrow and a sea bream fillet with saikyo miso and pickled red onion.

The drink menu is inspired by Japanese bar culture, offering Japanese beers, sake, California wines and some creative nonalcoholic beverages. Try the spritz made with watermelon, aperol, yuzu and a splash of sparkling wine. They also offer a Japanese-style margarita named Palomita – a combination of  sakura tequila, agave, a squeeze of lime and pink grapefruit juice.

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We ordered a cut corn on the cob and enjoyed it with a sprinkle of shichimi. Seven different ingredients combine to give the dish pizzazz, including red chili pepper, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, ginger, pepper and nori.

Near the grill, a large container holds black charcoal logs called Binchōtan. Creating a beautiful flame that creates less smoke than wood, this charcoal produces high heat while preserving the flavorful juices of proteins and some vegetables.

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Each chef has his own station and responsibility. One chef marinates spicy beef and yellowtail collars with brown butter and a citrus-based ponzu sauce. Thick cuts of salmon filets are grilled and glazed with grapefruit miso and a sprinkle of sansho salt, which carries a little basil and spearmint flavor.

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Lighter fare includes an acidic empire salad layered with butter lettuce and mixed greens, slices of smooth avocado, small black quinoa for a slight crunch and an apple wasabi dressing.

An artistically arranged sashimi board arrived with two slices of salmon, toro and hamachi yellowtail and tender tuna belly maki with fresh wasabi, scallions and topped with rich, briny Petrossian classic shassetra caviar, as well as avocado and cucumber maki with wasabi peas, shichimi and yuzu.

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Four pieces of toast glazed with garlic butter accompany silky and buttery bone marrow topped with a smokey soy sauce. Another beef favorite, sliced spicy beef tenderloin, glistens with a caramelized chili and scallion sauce. The tender meat and appealing flavors made this one of our favorite dishes. We finished with a bowl of coconut soft serve ice cream drizzled in sweet soy and crunchy housemade Japanese granola on top. Bright green pocky sticks decorated this sweet treat.

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“We are like family working together, and we make sure each guests leaves satisfied,” said General Manager Nathan Merriman.

Inko Nito offers delicious fare, a pleasing atmosphere and attentive service. The restaurant opens at 5 p.m. daily, except on Saturday and Sunday when it opens at noon. $$ 225-227 S. Garey St. (310)999-0476.

Featured also in the Beverly Press.

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