Since opening six months ago, Ozu East Kitchen has attracted steady crowds hungry for its pork ramen bowls, bone marrow noodles, Bento boxes and Jidori chicken. But there's another reason to visit the Atwater Village hot spot, and it has nothing to do with its Japanese- and Korean-inspired menu and everything to do with its modernist architecture. 

Ozu East Kitchen is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles' 2016 Restaurant Design Award, which was announced during a ceremony at the Dwell on Design Expo at the L.A. Convention Center on Saturday. The 12th annual competition, which seeks to highlight design as an integral aspect of the dining experience, is hosted by the L.A. chapter of the organization but accepts submissions from restaurants across the country and around the globe. 

Ozu East Kitchen, which tied for the top prize with Palo Alto–based restaurant Bird Dog, was selected by a jury that included restaurateur Bill Chait, architect Frank Clementi, designer Alexis Readinger and food writer Valentina Silva. In the category for cafes and bars, the judges named San Francisco restaurant Craftsman & Wolves Patisserie. In the lounge/nightclub category, the award went to West Hollywood's own Bootsy Bellows, an art deco, 1960s-inspired burlesque bar co-owned by actor David Arquette. Last year's winners included Odys + Penelope, Terroni, Idle Hour, Verve Coffee Roasters and Harlowe. 

Movies projected on the wall of Ozu East Kitchen's dining room; Credit: Photo by Anne Fishbein

Movies projected on the wall of Ozu East Kitchen's dining room; Credit: Photo by Anne Fishbein

Not only was Ozu East Kitchen chosen for the Restaurant Design Award by the experts but it also was picked for the top prize in the People's Choice Awards, which tallied more than 2,000 votes nationwide. The minimalist space designed by ANX/Aaron Neubert Architects features exposed light bulbs that hang neatly in geometric patterns from the ceiling and rows of shared wooden tables accented with metallic golds, perfect for sharing small plates such as crispy rice cakes and spicy tuna omusubi. Added bonus: It might be the only restaurant in the neighborhood where you can catch a free movie projected on the wall alongside your meal.  

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