Tastes: INN ANN Offers a Culinary Escape in the Heart of Hollywood

by Isaac von Hallberg

Tokyo was awarded 234 Michelin stars in 2018. For some time Tokyo has held more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris, and a trip to Los Angeles’ newest Japanese concept, Inn Ann, which opened on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at Japan House, shows you why.

Inn Ann translates as “hidden retreat,” and this sleek comfortable 35-­seat restaurant is exactly that. It’s situated in an unlikely location—the 5th floor of the Babylonian-themed mall at Hollywood and Highland, but comfortably above the bedlam of the walk of fame. It’s but a small part of the Japan House, one of only three in the world, which functions as a cultural center where both the homesick and the budding Japanophile can engage with Japanese culture through performances and talks, a gorgeous library, and, of course, the cuisine. It offers a full view of Hollywood blvd.’s street-lit stars, the El Capitan theater, Jimmy Kimmel’s studio, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and many, many nonplussed tourists.

But let’s talk about the food. The opening menu is a traditional kaiseki (multi-course meal) with an exclusive focus on California ingredients and produce. The set menus at Inn Ann are available in two options: traditional kaiseki or vegetarian (I strongly encourage the former). The kaiseki begins with Zensai, or small appetizers, arranged like prized heirlooms in a jewelry box, including Japanese Omelet with Truffle, a single shrimp encased in a cube of Dashi Jelly like a tiny, delicious Han Solo, Sesame Tofu Croquette, and Miso Marinated Cheese.

After this assortment of distinctive delights (see the photos), we move through a stellar sashimi course and a fabulously buttery wagyu main served either grilled or with a hot pot, and arrive at a dessert course. There’s an extensive selection of rare sake, shochu, and Japanese whiskey, as well as a well-considered cocktail list, all wisely paired with the curated dishes. Do these traditional items feel too familiar? I doubt it. Nonetheless Inn Ann will rotate a lineup of highly accomplished Japanese chefs, in hope of ongoing discoveries for the restaurant’s future.

The tasting menu is curated by Chef Taro Araki, Executive Chef for the Consul­-General of Japan in Los Angeles, which means, as we learned, that you’re supping on a meal akin to that served to diplomats and dignitaries, which eschews cleverness and cutesy experimentation for a perfected take on tradition. If you can’t afford the full omakase, I suggest snacking at the intimate sushi bar, where you’ll find extraordinary quality of fish.

The concept of the restaurant is the perfect antidote to Hollywood: the extravagance, the superficiality, the ego, the traffic and the crowds. Inn Ann asks you to slow down, to appreciate a culture and a cuisine that itself deeply respects the sources of our food—the sea, the land—and elevates their gifts to an even higher state. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in Japanese culture or to dine like a diplomat amongst the stars, Inn Ann makes for a welcome, transporting respite.

Photos courtesy INN ANN (Wonho Frank Lee, Ryan Miller)