Hello Kitty fans are a voracious bunch, and her creators, the Sanrio company, are out to satiate fans in more ways than one for her 40th Anniversary. Kitty-themed cuisine is here — in conjunction with the highly anticipated Hello Kitty Convention, coming to MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary on Oct. 30, and the Japanese American Museum's Hello! Exploring The Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibit celebrating the colorful character running now through April 26.
Starting this Friday, Oct. 24, restaurants in L.A. are getting in on the feline fun and festivities in a big way, with the Hello Kitty Hungry Hunt, a hop-around-town scavenger event featuring food and drink items inspired by the colorful cat. To participate, people can simply go to each of the eleven restaurants and order their Kitty items. Each dish or drink comes with a collectable pin of Kitty holding the representative food from that restaurant.
And the dishes are as adorable and creative as you’d expect. The menu at Plan Check will feature a burger with pink dashi cheese. The special Hello Kitty bento box, created by chef Ernesto Uchimura, will also have fries and spicy tuna salad, accompanied by a green tea latte (kitty's face will be powdered on top) and one of their much craved cruller doughnuts with strawberry flavor and ice cream.
While a younger palate seems to be target with many of Hungry Hunt’s items, Plan Check decided not to over-simplify their offerings.
“We had fun with it. But the flavor profiles and the experience of coming to the restaurant for this are the same,” says Plan Check's co-owner Terry Heller. “We love what Hello Kitty represents. We love to do collaborations. Plus, our menu has always taken inspiration from Japanese culture. “
Plan Check’s dishes offer a good sampler for grown up diners who may not have tried their food before and according to Heller, kids too. “This Hello Kitty project has inspired us to create a kids menu, which we've never had at the new restaurant. “
Plan Check has the most options, but sweet and savory bites are available throughout the Hunt for varied tastes.
Xlixe Pizzeria will have specially made slices of pie. Zip Sushi will serve an exclusive roll. Chado Tea Room (inside the JANM) plans to bake scones to serve with a new sweet tea. Cafe Dulce is doing limited edition doughnuts.
Other offerings include Daikokuya serving ramen bowls, Lollicup with a boba drink and Dylan’s Candy Bar (at the Original Farmer’s Market) scooping up extra embellished Hello Kitty sundaes. The price of each item includes the corresponding pin, and they’re expected to go fast.
While not every item will incorporate Kitty’s image onto the food itself, most of the chefs and restaurateurs involved seemed to have been influenced by the Kitty aesthetic with flavor profiles referencing her, if only in subtle ways. Seoul Sausage's gourmet sandwich has spicy red sausage (recalling Kitty's red bow) and an apple slaw (Kitty is said to “weigh three apples and be five apples tall”). Visually, its about the packaging for this snack, which features Sanrio-style wrappings.
“It’s as pretty as a sausage can be, “ say Yong Kim, of Seoul’s handmade creation. “It represents our company which is not a traditional restaurant. We use traditional Korean flavors, but we have a street food sensibility.”
Seoul, which won the Food Network’s The Great Foodtruck Race (Season 3) challenge, relies heavily on social media for promotion, especially since moving to the area known as Little Osaka in West L.A. “A lot of our customers are Hello Kitty fans,” says Kim. “Partnering up with this was a no-brainer.”
The Hungry Hunt provides a great marketing opportunity for all involved obviously. But for the crew at Duff Goldman’s Charm City Cakes, it was the design sensibility behind the project that seemed to excite most.
“The graphic identity of Hello Kitty really resinates with our staff,” says Charm City West's general manager Mark Muller, adding that they take orders for Hello Kitty cakes all the time and the see her often at their DIY cake shop, Cakemix next door. “ We employ artists here and they’ve all grown up with and are very aware of the rich history of the character. “
Known for their elaborate mega-cakes via Goldman’s old TV show, Ace of Cakes, the Charm City pastry chefs went for something simple with their cupcake's look and flavor: chocolate cake topped with Swiss vanilla buttercream and Kitty's famed rounded red bow made from gum paste. Red nonpareils and glitter-dust like sprinkles add a whimsical final touch. The accompanying pin for this one has HK holding a slice of cake.
While not part of the Hungry Hunt program (or the pin presentation), other establishments around town also seem to be inspired by the excitement surrounding the iconic cat/girl right now.
The Line Hotel, named “the official hotel of the Hello Kitty Con 2014 Fan Convention” kicked off the Kitty themed city feasting when chef Roy Choi unveiled a Spam musubi snack in her honor earlier this month at Pot. Hotel guests can order his creation via Pot-provided room service, which comes with napkins and bibs with the bow’d one’s image on them. If you're not planning on staying at the hotel, you can get Choi's recipe right here.
For the over-21 set, North Hollywood Tiki bar The Tonga Hut has its own tropical pretty-in-pink drink. Tonga bartender Syd Thomas came up with the creamy cocktail (ingredients include: rum, raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice) without knowledge of the upcoming convention, but recently decided to embellish it with a pink Hello Kitty umbrella and a pink sugar rim for the hardcore hordes who’ll be in town the next few weeks of the convention. Ask for his “Aloha Kitty” during Happy Hours on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Kitchen 24 has plans to get in on the Kitty excitement too. Co-owner Dave Dickerson says their “secret shake” (available at their Hollywood location only) is a bright pink frosty off-menu treat born when a kid “dropped a cupcake into one of our milkshakes.” 24’s cupcakes are creamy bliss, so expect the drink to be rich and super-sweet. Just like Hello Kitty herself!
By the way, if you’ve been off social media the past month, you may not have heard the revelation: Hello Kitty is in fact, not a cat, but a human girl. The proclamation made for much controversy among Kitty fans and online discussion leading up to the exhibit — and great advance buzz for all of the H.K. activities that taking over Los Angeles right now.
See Sanrio.com/hungryhunt/ for the full list, locations and a printable map of the all the participating Hungry Hunt restaurants.