We cannot stop raving about Atwater Village’s new Ozu East Kitchen. This place is something special, from the clean eating with flavor that packs a punch, to the expert interior design, to the owner Paul Yi who greets each customer with excitement and has a deep-rooted passion for his restaurant.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Paul and hear his thoughts on what inspires him and drives his success in the competitive and bustling North East Los Angeles food scene.
What inspired you to open your own restaurant?
Food has always been a passion of mine, as has cooking my fav dishes at restaurants from my worldwide travels. But especially ramen for the past number of years, so everything came together a few years ago when I decided to take the leap and open my own restaurant and create a place I want to go to: delicious food, great drink pairings, and a fun atmosphere. Hopefully I’ve succeeded.
What inspired your interior design choices for Ozu East?
My aesthetic is minimal and meeting my architect, Silverlake local Aaron Neubert, was a perfect match because we match our tastes. You can call it Asian modern zen for lack of a better term but it’s also about the details. We wanted to create a space that was clean and minimal to showcase the food, which is delicious but also clean in execution and flavors.
What is your favorite dish on the menu?
Ah, that’s a tough one to answer. It has to be two items that are unique to Ozu, the Crispy Rice Cakes and the Kimchi Cream Udon. I’m Korean American and these two are uniquely my creation. The first is a take on the classic Korean street food, ddukbbokki, Korean rice cakes smothered in a sweet kochujang sauce, which my chef crisps, making the interior softer. While the pan is hot, my chef hits it with our own chili vinaigrette, mixing in myung beans and herbs, and finishing with a sunny side egg which develops a rich complex sauce. The Kimchi Cream Udon with shrimp and spam is a dish I’ve been making for years, then forgot whilst my world travels, until a dear friend asked for the recipe a few months before I opened and I had to have it on the menu. These two dishes are standouts because no one in the world is doing them.
Who or what inspires you right now?
Wow… no answer. Life inspires me now, my customers and staff inspire me.
To you, what is the best “secret spot” in Los Angeles and why?
Hmm… I don’t like “secret” spots so I like local favs, Atwater, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Echo Park, I think Eastsiders are not about secrets. This is our hood. I love the Arroyo Secco bike trail, for example. I did love the Tea House in Griffith Park.
What’s your favorite L.A. neighborhood?
Eastside, cause it’s cool without the pretension. It’s all ages, all colors, all cool.
What is your favorite style of home / interior design?
You see it in Ozu.
We agree with Paul’s favorites. Other must-trys include the Miso Ramen (hands down the best veggie ramen we have experienced) and the blistered shishitos.
Atwater Village is hip and Ozu East Kitchen only contributes further to this notion. LOVE!
All photos courtesy of Ozu East Kitchen.