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F&W's Kate Krader gets the scoop on Roy Choi's upcoming restaurant, Commissary.
I hate to be envious of another city’s food scene. But right now, I’m very jealous of what’s going on in L.A.
One big reason is that I’ve been hanging out with Roy Choi, the guy whose Kogi BBQ made him a 2010 F&W Best New Chef and whose L.A. empire now includes restaurants and room service for the awesome Line Hotel in K-Town. Now I have more deets on his upcoming restaurant, Commissary, opening on the second floor of the Line.
Commissary, slated to open in mid-August if not sooner, is set in a greenhouse. It’s a collaboration between Choi, landscape architect Sean Knibb (who gave the Line Hotel it’s fab, streamlined aesthetic) and designer David Irvin.
Here, Choi lets us in on a few things to look forward to at Commissary, including the vibe, his vegetable menu—which is going to be unconventional on 100 different levels—and the awesome cocktail program:
On the vibe: “It’s what if The Royal Tenenbaums met hip-hop; the Soho House was free; if a country club was for everyone.”
On the menu: “It will arrive in an envelope, folded up a like a letter. No words, just pictures of vegetables, fruits, whatever we’re inspired by: a hand-drawn sketch of an artichoke, a watermelon, a pile of green beans. The check will come with seed packets that you can take with you.”
On the restaurant’s emphasis on vegetables: “I’m looking at the country’s entire population. In the past 15 years, organics and farmers’ markets have had a big movement, but most of America eats hardly any fresh vegetables. I’m going to use plants as a base, but I’m going to try to build a bridge and layer fruits and vegetables from all kinds of places. I could use vegetables from a can, I could use raw vegetables, or I could braise them like they just came off a Chinese menu.
“For example, maybe I’ll get the best corn from a farmers’ market, make a corn stock with the husk, serve it with the kernels. But maybe I’ll make creamed corn using canned corn and throw that on top. Or maybe I’ll get farmers’ market haricots verts and then braise canned beans, collard green–style, and serve it with hot sauce, with fresh ones mixed in. I’m just trying to take a fresh look at it, to make it more relatable to the people. Right now, a lot of restaurants aren’t approachable except to a small percentage of the country.”
On the cocktails: “I’ve been thinking about the juicing movement here in L.A., and how it feels to drink a big ice tea in the South or an ice-cold Gatorade on the streets when it’s hot. I’ve got this great eat-your-drink bartender, Matt Biancaniello. Instead of building a bar program based on spirits, we’re going to base it on fruits and vegetables. We’re going to have 5 to 12 base juices, and we’ll muddle in different herbs and aromatics. The drinks will be big and delicious and filled with ice, served in big deli cups. They’ll be fun. They won’t be like a punch or sangria; they’ll be what an agua fresca would be if it were spiked with alcohol and extra fragrant.”
A few sample Commissary cocktails that I can’t wait try:
Tomato and Okra: cachaça, green zebra heirloom tomato, lovage
Yellow Nectarine: mezcal, yellow nectarine, blended