“We are not closing,” said Aida Takizawa of Darling’s flower shop. The Echo Park florist has been saying that a lot recently after banners were draped across her Temple Street building announcing the upcoming arrival of Matsu, the Japanese restaurant that had been located in a nearby motel. These two long-time Echo Park businesses that have shared the same block are now going to share the same building. Matsu The Original, now operated by chef Jose Can, will be opening a 48-seat restaurant in the front of the flower shop, with Darling’s moving its business to a small back office and a work area behind the vine-covered main building, Takizawa said. The combination might bring extra foot traffic to both businesses that have operated on the southern edge of Echo Park for decades. “It will be nice for everybody,” Takizawa said.
Pedestrians are a rare sight on the block, which is also home to a motel and other businesses that operate on a strip of land wedged between Temple Street and the 101 Freeway near Edgeware Road. But it’s here that Matsu and Darling’s have remained in business by drawing most of their customers from nearby downtown office towers. Darling’s was founded downtown, opening in 1925 in the Los Angeles Athletic Club before moving to its current Temple Street location in 1978, said Takizawa, who took over the business in 1983. Down the block, the Masuda family served up bento box lunch special and teriyaki-flavored dishes for decades until they recently retired, handing over the business to Can, a native of Guatemala who worked as a Matsu chef for nearly 20 years. But Matsu was not able to stay in the same location, which is now occupied by a new Japanese restaurant called The Far East, which owner Tina Cho said offers an expanded menu of sushi rolls in addition to chicken, beef and noodle dishes.
The newly relocated Matsu, which is scheduled to open by this summer pending permit approvals, will include patio seating and some new items. But Can promises Matsu customers won’t be disappointed. “It will be the same menu.”