WHY’s principals, Kulapat Yantrasast and Misa Lund, share their go-to Asian-owned creative businesses in Los Angeles
WHY’s mission has always been one of unity through diversity, and we’ve been lucky enough to pursue that mission in projects such as the transformation of the Asian Art Museum, the Galleries of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and The Americas at The Met, and the Northwest Coast Hall at the American Museum of Natural History. Sometimes the best way of fighting hate is simply to celebrate what you love.
Our team at WHY has been deeply moved by the global expressions of support for the AAPI community, and we stand in solidarity against discrimination of all kinds. As a minority-owned business, WHY is proud to represent the AAPI community within the field of architecture and design – our practice is a meeting of Thai and Japanese cultural influences, equally at home in LA and New York.
Below, Creative Director Kulapat Yantrasast and COO Misa Lund share a selection of their local go-to Asian-owned restaurants and creative businesses in Los Angeles – places where anyone can feel at home.
For both Misa and Kulapat, home is a complex idea. Kulapat was born in Bangkok and trained as an architect in Tokyo. Misa grew up in the Kansai area of Japan, spending vacations with her father’s family in Mumbai. Home is something which all of us have to locate and taste for ourselves – in the meantime, it’s the task of designers to envisage a world of radical hospitality. Imagine the built environment modeled on the experience of lunch at Otomisam, or dinner at Mapo Kkak Doo Gee…
Misa: “I love Otomisan in Boyle Heights – the teishoku set menu reminds me of lunchbreaks working in Osaka, where you’d quickly be served a line-up of a daily special, miso, rice, side dishes, and pickles. Otomisam is one of the last Japanese restaurants in that area of East Los Angeles and it’s a real family-run place – I used to go there regularly when I lived nearer to Downtown, and I always knew what I would choose. The fish teishoku, or the saba shioyaki grilled mackerel. Just what I would have if I were back in Japan”
Otomisan, 2506 1/2 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Kulapat: “Keiko and Taku Shinamoto started Tortoise General Store in Venice in 2003, and it immediately became one of my favorite neighborhood spots. They source the most beautiful home gifts and stationery from Japan, and also represent artists and craftsmen from Japan, California, and elsewhere – all of whom share their simple wabi-sabi sensibility.”
Tortoise, 12701 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Kulapat: “One of my savior moments during the pandemic has been enjoying Southern Thai delights from Noree Thai, another superb restaurant run by Chef Pla and Chef Fern (of Luv2Eat fame!). Thai food in the US has often been relegated to the cheap-eats category – but Noree Thai changes all that, while also being very affordable. My go-to dishes are the Phuket-style Crab Curry and their only-here-in-LA Chicken Ko-Lae.”
Noree Thai, 7669 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Misa: “I have been going to Hashimoto Nursery for many years. Last year we started our own vegetable garden which includes varieties that are essential to the food we make at home – varieties like shiso and Japanese cucumber, which aren’t sold at our local grocery store.”
Hashimoto Nursery, 1935 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Misa: “Another of my favorite restaurants is Mapo Kkak Doo Gee in Koreatown. Korean soups and stews are my adopted comfort food (by marriage) and the menu takes me right back to my mother-in-law’s home cooking. It’s a small place, very friendly, and run by a group of older ladies – the name refers to the special radish kimchi served with the dishes. I recommend the dry cabbage soup and the delicious fish stew.”
Mapo Kkak Doo Gee, 3611 W 6th St Los Angeles, CA 90020
This is just a starter selection of the many hundreds of creative businesses we love in Los Angeles – an American city and a global city, where good design has always been about diversity and difference. We’re proud to add to the mix, and to celebrate what we love – life’s better that way, and so is design.