A Thai-Japanese Takeout Favorite Turns Into a Fine-Dining Mecca

A Thai-Japanese Takeout Favorite Turns Into a Fine-Dining Mecca
Courtesy of The Infatuation

Kinkan has evolved from pandemic takeout to a tasting menu restaurant under the direction of chef Nan Yimcharoen.

As a result of the pandemic, Los Angeles chef Nan Yimcharoen made multi-layered bento boxes and chirashi bowls at Kinkan that became underground takeout sensations. Yimcharoen's artfully constructed and memorable food stood out during a time when sushi slingers offered beautiful to-go meals throughout the city.

Even if it was a Wednesday night, and you were watching Tiger King on the sofa while you had dinner on the sofa, opening and eating one of the jewel-box creations she assembled with pristine raw fish, uni, wagyu, crab and ikura felt like a special occasion, even if it was only a three-course meal on a Wednesday night.

Despite no longer being underground, Kinkan remains a DIY enterprise that simultaneously feels like a startup and an art project at the same time. With her savings and inheritance from her grandmother, Yimcharoen opened a restaurant in Virgil Village in June. At the new Kinkan restaurant, the chef uses the same premium ingredients, but the main event is a Thai-Japanese omakase that celebrates her Bangkok roots.

The restaurant only accepts reservations from customers who have already ordered takeout. Before guests sit down for a 10-course, $150 tasting menu at Yimcharoen's 25-seat restaurant, she wants to develop relationships with them. The menu features madai, bluefin tuna, and salmon that Yimcharoen dry-ages.

As part of her first omakase, Yimcharoen prepared a crab curry called Homage to Grandma. The sauce is made from female stone crabs and innards and roe. In season, she adds a sawagani, a tiny soft-shell freshwater crab, as an exclamation point. She uses female stone crabs and uses the roe and innards for the sauce.


One of Yimcharoen's most remarkable dishes is tuna larb, which she refers to as “the rose of Kinkan” because she layers bluefin tuna in such a way that it seems to resemble a flower. The purpose of her presentation is to dispel stereotypes regarding Thai food.

She wants her guests to realize that Thai food can be just as elegant as fine dining. She also wants them to understand that Thai food does not have to be overly spicy. I enjoyed her omakase very much because it had the perfect balance of sour, sweet, salty, and umami notes, but I didn't feel as if my face was melting from the food.

Courtesy of Eater LA

It was her grandmother, Chaleam, who cooked for dignitaries as well as run a dinner cruise business, while her grandparents traveled with Thai ambassadors. During her time at home, Chaleam taught Yimcharoen proper table manners and insisted that the whole family ate at 7 p.m. Every night, she planned meals with Yimcharoen, and he enjoyed spending time with her.

The inspiration for a Kinkan omakase dish with lobster-topped rice crackers alongside a spring roll came from Yimcharoen's grandmother, who used to make sun-dried rice crackers that she fried and served with shrimp and pork as an afternoon snack.

As one of LA's hottest new chefs, Yimcharoen Yimcharoen has become one of the city's hottest new chefs, despite taking a rather unusual path to get there. When she first arrived in the U.S. a decade ago, Yimcharoen had every intention of living a domestic life.

She showed me a notebook filled with recipes from that restaurant, Mango Tree, where she was able to learn techniques from a friend who had gone to culinary school in New York. Yumcharoen spent a couple weeks at a Bangkok restaurant learning techniques from a friend who had gone to culinary school in New York. Suddenly she smiles and tells me that she recently had her ex-husband come to Kinkan for a meal since her marriage has ended.

Courtesy of The Infatuation

Yimcharoen is a self-deprecating person by nature. When I DMd her about takeout for the first time, I mentioned I had heard so much about her from my friends that I wanted to know more about her. Although she had established a buzzworthy to-go business, she replied, “I’m nobody.” Even though Matthew Koma, Hillary Duff, Joey King and Albert Hammond Jr. frequented the business.

She didn't know what to expect when she opened her fine dining restaurant that offered Thai food with ingredients usually found in expensive sushi bars. Yimcharoen wasn't sure how guests would react, but when I recently went to dinner at her seven-seat counter, she received some important validation from a couple of other guests.

As well as the relationships she has built with other local businesses, Yimcharoen has also been strengthened by the relationships she has developed with the neighborhood's other businesses. In Virgil Village, Kinkan and Courage Bagels share a backdoor alleyway, and they send each other food. Ken’s Ramen is another partner in the village. When Yimcharoen visited Melody Wine Bar and saw how lively it was, she decided to take a chance on the area. She has now enlisted in a group chat with Courage, Melody, and Rick's Produce, and is now on a group chat with the three of them.

During my visit to Kinkan, I had dragon fruit desserts from Rick's Produce, which is right around the corner and she is given a discount for buying dragon fruit there. It is a pleasure for Yimcharoen to be a part of an independent food community after spending the past year cooking at home.

It appears she will keep the underground vibe going, although she is in the middle of a soft opening, but perhaps she will keep it that way indefinitely. Her staff includes friends and someone who works at Courage during the day, so she might just keep things that way. It's not uncommon for Yimcharoen to start making 60 to-go orders at 10 a.m., and then she has to prepare for her omakase, which is a ten-hour dinner. She usually stays at Kinkan until midnight before she unwinds. The fact that she limits her omakase to previous customers helps keep Kinkan under control.

Yimcharoen is always happy to explain about the origins of the fusion of Thai and Japanese food to those who are still learning about it.

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