Right around the corner from Little Tokyo's strip of noodle shops on First Street sits JiST Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot that opened quietly about three months ago. A quick walk from L.A. Superior Court and police headquarters, JiST is a sunny little spot, with exposed brick walls inside and an outdoor patio that sits in the front yard of East West Players.
Chef Glen Ishii has a ton of history in Little Tokyo, having grown up here working in his mother's restaurant kitchen at Tokyo Garden. Since then he's been to hotel school, lived in Japan, and held a number of high-profile chef gigs in town, including as executive chef at Noe in the Omni Hotel. He opened JiST with business partner Caroline Shin, who was one of the founders of Kogi. When you arrive at JiST, Ishii is likely to come out from the kitchen and discuss your options for breakfast or lunch — both he and Shin are front and center of the actual operation of the place.
The breakfast menu is made up of creative egg dishes, such as an egg, ham and cheese sandwich made with goat cheese bechamel, and sweeter options like French toast made with crème brûlée batter, or Earl Grey crème fraîche pancakes. Drinks include fresh-squeezed juices (orange or grapefruit) and Stumptown coffee.
The “chicken and pigs” come as a scramble — it's also available as an omelette — in a cast iron skillet, and include house-made chicken apple sausage, hickory ham, maple bacon, potatoes and “bloody mari relish,” a tangy salsa of sorts made mostly of marinated cherry tomatoes. You can get toast on the side, or for those who can't decide between sweet and savory, you can substitute coffee cake. The coffee cake is classic and moist, with a cinnamon sugar topping.
JiST's lunch menu is made up mainly of sandwiches and salads, with sides like chickpea quinoa salad. There's a more pronounced Japanese influence on the lunch menu — a tonkatsu sandwich with Kewpie mayo, a beef-and-panko patty on a bun or over rice.
During the week (Tuesday-Friday) JiST opens at 5 a.m., and you can get delivery after 8 a.m. There's obviously a lot of thought and care going into this food, as well as quality meats and far more creativity than is usually found on the breakfast plate. If I were a cop or a jurist, I'd be hanging out at JiST as much as possible.
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