Pikunico is the highly anticipated first standalone passion project of
Chef Kuniko Yagi, open at the mixed-use ROW DTLA complex in Downtown LA (on Alameda and 7th street). Borne from the acclaimed chef’s best childhood memories of eating Japanese-style fried chicken with her grandmother on the weekends, Pikunico offers house made karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) served in a sandwich or basket along with market-driven salads, sides and desserts. Like its name (a playful combination of “picnic” and “Kuniko”) suggests, the shop offers large-format, family-style baskets ideal for large groups and gatherings.
Kuniko forged a unique path to a bright culinary career, growing up in Maebashi and embarking on a traditional route to the structured world of banking. This brief but telling stint in finance led to the realization that her rebel heart yearned for a true creative outlet.
She departed her native Japan for Los Angeles, seeking inspiration that swiftly struck. One day, while working as a server in a Japanese noodle house, she unwittingly began a passionate discussion on ingredients with Chef David Myers of the Michelin-starred Sona. Myers, moved by Kuniko’s zeal, suggested she test her culinary aspirations in his kitchen. Not only did
she rise to the challenge -- an untrained cook in one of the city’s most famed restaurants -- she blossomed.
With a natural artistic drive and nurtured affinity for gastronomy, Kuniko quickly unearthed her unmistakable talent and determined drive. She rapidly advanced through the ranks of the storied Sona kitchen in a few short years, from the amuse station to Chef de Cuisine. Kuniko later served as Executive Chef of Myers’ brasserie, Comme Ça West Hollywood, opening its second location at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas before heading up the kitchen of the award winning Hinoki & the Bird in Century City.
Kuniko appeared as a contestant on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” was named StarChef.com’s Rising Star in 2010, and has earned a number of critical accolades for her work with Hinoki & the Bird, including best new restaurant nods from Esquire, Bon Appetit, Los Angeles Magazine, Los Angeles Times, and more.
When not at the stove, Kuniko spends her time surfing, knitting and walking her German Shepherd in Venice Beach.