MTN, Travis Lett's Japanese restaurant in Venice, has closed permanently

Garrett Snyder
Chefs Pedro Aquino, left, and Travis Lett at MTN in 2018.  (Ashley Randall)

MTN, the Japanese-California izakaya opened by former Gjelina chef Travis Lett in 2017, has closed.

Since early May the restaurant space on Abbot Kinney has been home to Valle, a Oaxacan pop-up run by longtime Gjelina group chefs Juan Hernandez and Pedro Aquino. The closure of MTN is permanent, with Valle now offering dine-in lunch and dinner.

Erika Aoki, a former sous chef at MTN, said the departure of Lett from the Gjelina group last year was “a huge loss” when it came to maintaining the restaurant’s ambitious Japanese menu, which at one time featured house-fermented natto and buckwheat ramen made from scratch. Financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic only complicated matters further.

In his 2018 review of the restaurant, Jonathan Gold expressed his fondness for the sweet potato with miso butter and Dungeness crab ramen.

“Japanese cookbook writer Nancy Singleton Hachisu, who knows more about these things than practically anybody, recently told a friend that she thought MTN was the most Japanese restaurant in the United States,” Gold wrote. “Still, I think if MTN were mysteriously transported to Harajuku, it would be the most Californian restaurant in Japan.”