Caffe Concerto, as it stands, seems completely out of place. The restaurant is all white with black accents; a stone pavement leads into the main lobby, there's a chic balcony on the second floor and curly, wrought-iron fences line the outdoor seating area. It looks as if it belongs in a ritzier part of town -- a secluded corner in Beverly Hills, or perhaps somewhere with a beach view.
But its locale is in stark contrast to its furnishings. Concerto is smack in the heart of Koreatown, perched on an industrial street over by Wilshire and Western.
During the day, the restaurant is an airy brunch place with lots of open space and wide windows; at night, it's a romantic dinner destination with a piano-themed staircase leading up to the second floor. There you'll find a dim dining room with hushed waiters, couples on first dates and Korean ladies, dolled up, sharing a bottle of wine.
The Korean-owned restaurant markets itself as a fine-dining destination but really, the food is only secondary to its charming atmosphere and marvelous desserts.
Keith Lee, a former pastry chef at Bottega Louie, is at the head of the confectionery. Walk into the main lobby and a rainbow of macarons will greet you to your left. The selections are quite diverse, among them, olive vanilla, walnut praline, mint, and strawberry cheesecake; they're similar to Bottega Louie's selections but a buck and some cents cheaper. Plus, unlike Bottega, there's not much of a crowd; for some people, that makes all the difference.
Fruit tarts are plentiful, as are cupcakes and cheesecakes. They all come in miniature forms and are a perfectly portioned addendum to any meal. Every dessert is topped with a flourished "C" for Concerto. No, the logo is not edible.
Lion Kim and Erin Jeong are the owners, a husband-and-wife team who also own Yen Sushi. They brought their head chef, Chang Heong Kim, over to Concerto and he's been there since their opening in June 2012. Heong Kim is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and his menu is primarily New American food with a heavy Asian influence.
Pizza and pasta grace the lunch and dinner menu and there's an entire section dedicated to Latin-meets-Korean tapas. Original cocktails are available and, of course, an abundance of soju and sake selections. There's a full bar, and Intelligentsia coffee (as the restaurant makes sure to emphasize on all its signs) is readily on tap.
The clientele is mainly Korean-Americans. Although it has only been open for a year, the restaurant has attracted quite a following among locals. Korean pop singer PSY paid the eatery a visit in September and it's no wonder: Concerto is a hidden gem in Koreatown and, if we may, the embodiment of Gangnam style.
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Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page. Clarissa blogs mostly Asian food at clarissawei.com. Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.