JiST Cafe – Just Opened, First Bite

13 Jul

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JiST Cafe is open and serving six days a week at 5am. Familiar face, redone digs, totally different menu. JiST is a promising new addition to the neighborhood, filling a (partially filled) hole in the Little Tokyo dining scene.

For those who remember Tokyo Cafe, rejoice! It’s the same family! In fact, the sweet older lady who ran the old place is still around. But now the kids are running the show. Out with the gyoza and brick red chashu; in with a REAL breakfast menu.

Alice Shin of Kogi/Chego fame was there on opening day. And their website is running on the same platform as that spiffy new site that Chego and Kogi are running. But it’s not clear to me how the partnership between the Tokyo Cafe family and the new partners is set up.

They offer a great deal for early risers: between 5-7am, you can get the Super Huge Breakfast Burrito or the breakfast sandwich for $7 (instead of $10). But come on, that’s never going to happen.

For the rest of us, they offer a fresh, simple menu of cooked breakfast dishes plus sandwiches and salads for lunch. Everything is au courant, with a kale salad, pork belly hash, creme fraiche pancakes, and Stumptown Coffee (French pressed for now until they get their drippers). Expect huge portions.

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Here’s the nectarine corn coffee cake, the clear winner among stuff I tried. A bit undercooked and gooey, they use seasonal fruit and bake it fresh. Served warm!

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And here’s the gigantic homemade croissant. They said they worked with a baker in Alhambra on developing this croissant, constantly telling the baker, “More butter!” So it’s homemade, just not at their home. The result is good for sandwiches, but despite its good looks not great as a regular French croissant. Its huge size is great for their gigantic sandwiches, but I think it results in insides that are a bit dry.

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Here’s the lovely patio. Hopefully they cover it soon to give some shade.

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Cool handmade wood wall, reminiscent of a remodel on Restaurant Impossible.

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And the original brick wall. It’s a beautiful space.

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And a fun lighting concept with cheap swing desk lamps clamped above.

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I also had the breakfast burrito but didn’t photo it. It’s seriously gigantic, like the size of your forearm. They are using Prime Meats ham inside, black beans, eggs, potatoes, and some green chile salsa. It was good but not a standout. I’ll get it again in a couple weeks and hope they are working things out. If my opinion counts (it doesn’t), I would say use bacon instead of ham, put a bit more salt on the potatoes, put the salsa inside the burrito, and make it smaller and charge $2 less.

Anyways, JiST is a good addition to the neighborhood. We had Aloha Cafe and a couple of the Japanese diners serving cooked breakfast, but nothing like what JiST is trying. Cafe Dulce and Demitasse brought good coffee and pastries to the neighborhood, but sometimes you want eggs and pancakes and JiST may hit the spot. My fear is that this neighborhood is not going to be excited about a $12-15 breakfast. Let’s wish them luck.

One last comment on price, at $2.50 for the coffee cake and $2.75 for a small Stumptown, JiST may turn out to be a secret competitor to Dulce and Demitasse. Judgment reserved until they get their drippers up and running.

JiST Cafe
116 Judge John Aiso St,
Los Angeles
213-628-3017.

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