Roy Choi, the Los Angeles-based chef, gets ready to open his very first restaurant in Las Vegas. Last week, he showcased some of the dishes he plans to serve during a Facebook Live event.
Best Friend makes its highly anticipated debut on Dec. 19 at the Park MGM, and Choi cautioned that diners should consider the first week as a test period for the restaurant. “This is a place to have fun,” Choi says. “Have like a little bit of a chuckle or a smile to yourself.”
Choi, who wore chef whites for the first time in 10 years during the menu reveal, describes his menu as a mix of Korean barbecue and his love for Los Angeles. So diners might find some of his favorite dishes from his Kogi food truck, where he got his start, or others from what he calls his favorite restaurant, Pot, now closed at the Line Hotel in LA. Some he created especially for Las Vegas.
“Really, it’s an LA restaurant, but you could be eating this barbecue, then your next plate might be a fried bologna sandwich,” Choi says.
His tamarind cod hot pot brings a large-format stew meant to share. “A lot of Korean stews are counter-intuitive to European dishes,” Choi says. But with his version, “everything starts from the same place and goes up together.” The cod comes with Korean vermicelli, a tamarind-spice broth, cod, cabbage, jalapeños, and bean sprouts, all arriving at the table in a hot pot.
Sizzling barbecue spicy pork features thinly sliced pork belly and shoulder marinated in a sweet and spicy kochujang sauce, then charred on the plancha with onions.
The slippery shrimp riffs on the classic honey walnut shrimp with Choi’s own crispy coating on the shrimp. Cilantro, walnuts, and sesame seeds join a spicy sauce in this dish.
Choi brings a taste of LA’s Koreatown with soon dubu hot pot, a vegan spicy stew with firm tofu in a spicy broth cooked and served in a clay pot. He plans to serve vegan and gluten-free dishes at the restaurant.
His cleverly named fritto misto Rogers brings a tempura assortment of fried vegetables, including shishito peppers and cauliflower, with a ponzu dipping sauce.
Finally, a Kogi food truck special, the fried bologna sandwich, makes the menu with fried bologna and Swiss cheese. Choi anticipates that item will cost less than $5.
The Los Angeles experience extends in many more ways to the restaurant. The menu is really a binder filled with photos from Choi’s past. The soundtrack features music from Los Angeles, along with a deejay booth for LA-based artists to perform. Phung Huynh, an artist from Los Angeles, painted a commanding mural in the restaurant.
And diners can get in the big, airy kitchen with its own pastry section for breads made in house if they sit at the chef’s table, an ode to chef Emeril Lagasse. The round table has a kitschy wallpaper with a patchwork of chickens and quilt patterns behind it.
• All Coverage of Best Friend [ELV]