Whenever I find myself needing to kill some time downtown, I usually head to 525 S. Flower St. One address, two awesome all night happy hours: Drago Centro and Chaya Downtown. For the rest of the summer, I may find excuses to brave the 10E and head downtown. The reason? Chaya Downtown’s Japanese Beer Garden is excellent. The beer garden takes place every Monday through Friday from 4 pm to close on the patio. While the dining room is elegant but a bit stuffy, the patio is relaxed, bright, and fun. This beer garden would be an excellent and festive date spot.
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the patio is a Yakitori grill preparing skewers made-to-order. The tender beef skewers were a clear favorite, but they were all solid. The mushroom’s had a slightly sweet glaze with a strong umami aftertaste. The mint on the shrimp skewers were dominating, so stay clear if mint is not your thing. Not surprisingly, the bacon wrapped dates were more on the sweet than savory side, so a little goes a long way.
The spicy tuna & shishito pepper tempura were flavorful, crunchy, and a winner.
Although I’m more of a corn purist (a hot grill and a little salt is all I really need), I was impressed with this take on grilled white corn. I described it to my dining companion “as spicy, creamy, and cheesy…just like me,” but alas, she replied, “No, you’re just cheesy.” I would order this again as well.
The highlight of the meal was the coffee BBQ pork. Whenever I start toying with the idea of giving up pork, I have a delicious dish like this one. The red sauce gives it a little spice, which nicely balances the sweetness of the pork’s glaze. This is a must order.
The only disappointing dish of the night was the “Today’s Sushi Roll.” The day I went, it happened to be shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, with shrimp on top. There was nothing bad about it, it just wasn’t too flavorful.
If you’re a fan of lychee, this cocktail is for you. While lychee is the main thing you’ll taste, other ingredients include: leblon cachaça, st. germain, soju, sweet & sour, and mint leaf.
I fell in love with this cocktail last year (I ended up recreating it at home several times last summer), and while it didn’t blow me away this time, it is still a solid choice: blood orange and lavender infused Sauza tequila, lime juice, and pomegranate juice.
When I asked for the dessert menu, I was told that this was the dessert to get, and I was glad I skipped the menu and took the server’s word for it. Banana ice cream, banana pie, and chocolate covered banana. The crust was buttery and everything came together to make a sweet, crunchy, and creamy dessert. Beautiful.
Do yourself a favor and make an excuse to head downtown and enjoy a beautiful night on the patio. And if you live or work downtown, consider me jealous. Parking is easy, the music is great (I heard Miike Snow and Cut Copy), and the food is delicious.
525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles
Monday through Friday, 4 pm – close
Through September 2, 2011
Disclosure: The meal was hosted.