My mom and I were hungry for an adventure today. We originally had plans to go to the LA Flower Market, so I did some diggin’ and found this Japanese cafe nearby: JiST Cafe. By the time we ended our meal, we found out that the flower market is closed on Sundays!! (what??!) But, no worries, the MOCA was literally in this cafe’s backyard – so we appreciated some contemporary art instead.
This was my first time to Little Tokyo District, and all the restaurants and shops were all oozing with history. My mom and I got here pretty early, before 9 a.m., so most places were still closed when we were walking around. We were lucky enough to find free street parking (Yay! Go Sundays!) and did not have to deal with any long lines since we were the early birds.
Restaurant: JiST Cafe
Location: Los Angeles (Little Tokyo), CA
Hours: Tues-Thurs 7AM-230PM
Overall rating: 4/5
What I ordered: Chashu hash skillet & steamed white rice (extra $1.50 but a MUST)
“pork belly chashu deeply marinated in family history, with two 6-minute eggs and breakfast potatoes” ($12)
What my mom ordered: The fancy french
“brioche soaked in crème brûlée batter and crisped in butter, with freshly whipped cream” ($11)
I went for savory and my mom went for sweet. We both got coffees and opted for the larger size, especially since they don’t do refills. At first, we thought this was a good sign because maybe their coffee was just that good — but after a first few sips, we realized — maybe we don’t want a refill at all. The coffee was bitter and was lacking any flavorful dimensions. I still drank mine black, although it was a bit painful.
I wanted to get an authentic dish and I love me some pork. The pork belly and breakfast potatoes were served in a savory soy-sauce like sauce with two 6-minute eggs in a skillet. I ordered a side of steamed white rice, which costs an extra $1.50, but I think it is an absolute must for this dish.
The eggs were absolutely perfect and scrumptious, runny and waiting to be devoured. The meat and potatoes combo is a great hearty breakfast option; however, I felt that neither the meat nor the potatoes were superstars and therefore fell a bit lackluster as a not so dynamic duo.
The meat and the potatoes were coated in the same oily sauce, therefore they looked very similar. They were diced into the same size and so at times it was unclear if you would be getting pork or potato. There were also too many pieces of fat. Yes, fat adds lots of unhealthy deliciousness and depth to a dish, but I am no fan of chewing on a cube of pork belly fat – and I did stumble across quite a few. I wanted the meat to be more tender, and the potatoes to be crisper to give it a more noticeable contrast. Very strong flavors, just not exactly balanced to compliment one another. The rice was sticky and was a necessary buffer to the meat and potatoes. Still, overall a very tasty and different breakfast meal than I am used to.
My mom’s creme brûlée french toast resembled bread pudding you want to eat for all meals of the day. The french toast came with diced pineapples and freshly whipped cream. Very sweet, cooked well and had a refreshing lemony taste. I would’ve enjoyed a wider variety of fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to along with the sweet brioche french toast.
I think the savory-sweet combo helped keep our palettes alive. Also, it totally boosted our overall experience with the restaurant after meeting this gem. She served our food, bussed tables and checked in with customers throughout their meal. She had the best customer service because it was coming from her heart. My mom couldn’t help but be weird and ask for her to take a picture with me: here it is. Well, truth is there is nothing better than for a 70-something year-old-woman who is passionate about food serving you and asking you about your day.