Would you eat something that’s been sitting in a 70-year-old marinade? At Jist Cafe in Little Tokyo, the mother marinade for their pork belly chashu has been added to and then cooked off for that long. Had I known, I probably would have ordered the pancakes instead. Ignorance is bliss.
This family-run restaurant has been around for 70 years, offering a fresh take on both American and Japanese classics. Katsu, deep-fried pork cutlet, is served as an open-faced sandwich, under a heaping pile of cabbage, drizzled with tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. It’s definitely a fork and knife dish, accompanied with shoestring fries and mixed green salad.
One can have breakfast for lunch here as well. For vegetarians, there’s the Angeleno Veg Omelet stuffed with zucchini, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes and pesto. The veggies are cooked just right, with the pesto enhancing the flavors. Egg dishes come with breakfast potatoes and toast or coffee cake.
Their famed Chashu Hash Skillet features the previously mentioned pork belly chashu “deeply marinated in family history” with two 6-minute eggs and potatoes. You’ll be offered the option of adding on rice to help mop up the sauce. Do it. The sauce is the highlight of the dish.
Had I seen the pancakes prior to placing my order at the counter, I would have probably ordered them instead. Jist Cafe’s pancakes are wondrous creations made from a creme fraiche batter, big and fluffy, the size of an 8-inch plate. The Tcho Chocolate Chip and Banana Pancakes come three to an order and looked like a giant pancake cake. It probably would take at least three people to finish one order. If you don’t want to commit to eating just pancakes, you can order a single pancake for $4 or one specialty pancake for $6. I’ve been dreaming about them since our visit.
The restaurant is pretty small, but there’s a large covered patio area. Beverages include Stumptown coffee, mimosas and Bloody Maris (made with soju, hence the different spelling) – making Jist Cafe the perfect place for brunch or lunch any day of the week. Just don’t visit on a Monday when the place is closed, that 70-year-old marinade aging to perfection.
Location – 116 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles 90012
Website – http://jistcafe.com
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes