Konbi, the Japanese cafe and bakery, will close both its Echo Park and newly opened Culver City locations this weekend. The restaurant announced the closures in a statement posted to Instagram Friday.
“For a variety of reasons the business cannot continue to operate and we will be closing our doors,” read the statement. “Let’s not be sad about the end. Konbi had its moment and its time and place.”
Konbi Ni in Echo Park will stop service Friday evening while Konbi in Culver City, open since August 2022, will close at the end of service on Sunday.
A representative for Konbi confirmed the closures via email.
Chef and co-owner Akira Akuto said that he and partner Nick Montgomery started negotiating the lease for the Culver City restaurant in February 2019, expecting the office building above to provide a steady stream of customers.
“It was a very different time and context pre-pandemic,” Akuto wrote in a statement to The Times. “Without that density of people upstairs and the nearby offices we had planned for, it is not possible to make our model work.”
He added that a variety of other factors contributed to the closures including “scarcity of ingredients, steep rise in the cost of goods with no relief in sight, and California mandated labor policies for small businesses which drove up our operating costs to a totally untenable degree.”
The eggplant katsu sandwich at Konbi in Echo Park has the demure looks of a high society English tea sandwich: crustless slices of springy white bread, tidily filled with fried eggplant and finely shredded cabbage.
The celebrated restaurants are known best for Akuto and Montgomery’s konbini-style sandwiches and chef Kiyoshi Tsukamoto’s pastries, garnering national recognition for their egg salad sandos, egg omelette sandos filled with crab and excellent croissants. The restaurant was recognized on multiple Los Angeles Times 101 Best Restaurants lists.
The closures come shortly after the team renamed and retooled the Echo Park restaurant as Konbi Ni. After operating as a takeout-only, walk-up window during the pandemic, Konbi Ni reopened in December with a return to dine-in service and prices inclusive of service charges, all intended to create a more sustainable business model and the ability to offer employees health insurance and competitive pay.
“It feels like what it is and what it should be,” Montgomery told The Times in December. “We put an incredible amount of time and effort into making the restaurant what it was, and is. Coming to the realization that we should more or less bring back as much of what it was before the pandemic made sense, while also evolving a little bit.”
Every hungry friend and travel food writer to visit Tokyo comes back with the same not-so-secret secret tip: Eat the meals between your meals at a convenience store.
Konbi also launched the Konbi Supper Club in late 2022, a $50 monthly club that offered members seasonal menus for home dining.
Though the restaurants will close, Akuto said he and Montgomery are open to one-off pop-ups in the future.
“The Konbi brand may evolve into something else in the future but for now there are no plans for new brick-and-mortar locations in California,” he said. “We have found it simply unworkable while offering the quality of product and service that we have always aspired to.”
Konbi Ni, 1463 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 278-0007
Konbi, 10000 Washington Blvd Unit 104, Culver City, konbi.co
This content was originally published here.