Paul Yi’s interest in food was first sparked during a trip to Thailand. While staying on a small, sparsely populated island, he got in with a family that cooked for visitors and was soon eating what they served at their own kitchen table. “Their Thai curry was three times spicier than what they’d been serving us,” he says. The family was nice enough to teach him how to make the dish, and when he came back to the states, he put his mind to mastering it. “That’s when I really started to have fun.”
Now, after a few decades, Yi has decided to get serious and open his own restaurant. The result is Ozu East Kitchen, a fast-casual concept done up with modern decor on the corner that used to house Atwater Village Farm Market on Glendale Boulevard. For the venture, Yi has collaborated with chef Joshua Han (Saint Martha, Trois Mec) to create a pan-Asian menu that includes three types of ramen (pork, vegetarian miso, and chicken), plus a selection of small plates, snacks, and bowls.
As a film producer and adviser to Asia’s leading film festival, Yi, who is Korean-American, credits his business trips throughout Asia for developing his palate over the years. “Throughout my travels, I got to try just this range of delicious food, so food has always been a part of my life and part of the adventure,” he says.
Of all the dishes at Ozu East, Yi is most excited about the Kimchi Udon Shrimp—a tangle of noodles in kimchi cream—topped with cubes of spam, rock shrimp, and a bit of watercress. “I think this is something that nobody is rocking,” he says. New moves with classic ingredients, like shishitos with smoked mayo and salted plum or avocado-topped crisped rice with yuzu guacamole and kochujang (a fermented red-pepper paste), is a theme that runs through the menu. There’s also a couple of salads, Jidori chicken karaage, and tuna omusubi.
The ramen is sold as a lighter (in salt and fat) version that most bowls in town, which Yi says caters to “the L.A. palate and L.A. lifestyle.” On that note, Ozu East also offers a range of vegetarian dishes, including a chicken-fried tofu, a veggie-based rice bowl, and the miso ramen.
Yi put considerable thought into the wine and beer list. The expected Asahi shares the taps with three Craftsman beers (including their fantastic seasonal Acorn Saison) and Telegraph Brewing’s accessible American IPA. Wines, including many from Spain, are available by the glass, 12 oz. carafe, and bottle. There’s also sake, teas, and housemade sodas.
Ozu East Kitchen, 3224 Glendale Blvd., 323-284-8773