727 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 5/3/13
The street food-slinging Kogi food trucks are undoubtedly what chef Roy Choi is most known for, but Chego may be my favorite of his restaurants (I haven’t been to A-Frame yet though). Chego shares the same in-your-face, full-flavored approach as Kogi, but primarily in the form of rice bowls and within a brick-and-mortar format. I’d been to the Westside location a couple of times and enjoyed it both times; the cross-town location just didn’t often justify a trip for me. However, the expiration of their lease a few months ago prompted a move to a very unexpected location – Chinatown.
Almost every downtown LA neighborhood has seen some sort of revival within the restaurant industry in recent years, from the financial center (Drago Centro, Bottega Louie, Mo-Chica) to Little Tokyo (The Spice Table, Lazy Ox Canteen) to the Historic Core (Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, The Gorbals, The Parish) and to the industrial area (Church & State, Bestia). However, Chinatown has largely remained quiet…until now.
The restaurant just opened this past weekend, with some friends & family and media dinners towards the end of last week. I attended one on Friday to find the restaurant packed with patrons eager to get their first taste in months (if not longer). Current regular hours are 11-11 daily excluding Mondays and they offer delivery to the downtown area. Portions are generous and pricing is very reasonable; everything on the menu is $10 or less.
3PM Meatballs Korean-fried, w/ shaved green onions, sesame and fried polenta patty
Ooey Gooey Fries beer-battered, w/ sour cream sambal, monterey jack and cheddar cheese, cotija, chillies, cilantro and pickled garlic
Chubby Pork Belly kochujang-lacquered Kurobuta rice bowl w/ fried egg, pickled radishes, water spinach, Chinese broccoli, cotija and peanuts
Steak in the Heart prime rib sandwich on grilled ciabatta w/ wok-seared onions, roasted garlic Irish butter, cheese and salsa verde
Tiny’s Prime Rib Rice Plate w/ fried egg, water spinach, Chinese broccoli creamed horseradish, roasted garlic paste and shallots
The Chego Burger: Exhibit A 1/2 pound grass fed burger, cheese, mayo, chili sauce, fried shallots, wild arugula, Thai basil
Piña Krackalada sweet coconut rice, caramelized pineapple and puffed rice
Tres Leches devil’s food cake soaked in cayenne-cinnamon-infused leches w/ tapioca milk pudding and spiced peanut brittle
One of our favorites (and from what I can tell, a general favorite) is the ooey gooey fries. The batter lends an addicting crunch; I’d recommend making sure to mix up all the ingredients right when they’re received so that all the flavors can blend together – spicy, salty and savory. The chubby pork belly was also a highlight and almost a misnomer; the belly was relatively lean (at least, as pork belly goes) with a very nice balance of meat to fat, lacquered in Korean chili sauce. Asian greens and a fried egg really make a meal out of it. The prime rib rice plate is a personal favorite, as is the exceedingly simple tres leches cake (which is the same one served out of the Kogi truck).
I hope Chego can begin to draw people to Chinatown (which can be so quiet at night) and, if successful at doing that, convince others to open up in the area. Roy Choi definitely knows how to start a movement.
Note: This was a hosted meal.