'Top Chef' alum Shirley Chung wants to change the way people think about Chinese


#21

Even worse.


#22

The LA area is pretty bloblike and pockmarked with what is and isn’t politically LA. LA area? Northern SoCal? LA adjacent? Semantic-free LA? Shrug.


#23

No need for shrugging, I agree, it’s all “L.A.”, no matter what folks in the comments section claim. The SGV fits as metro or “Greater Los Angeles.” Just because they are incorporated cities doesn’t remove them from the metro area. My comment was with tongue firmly in cheek, due to the number of times “that’s not L.A.” turns up in the comments section.


#24

i get the sense that’s how she hopes her menu will be viewed but personally her menu makes me think more chinois on main. don’t get me wrong; i’m impressed that she’s worked with andres, keller et al. but given that even a place like bouchon didn’t last in LA, i’m not sure her expertise qualifies her to be an educator/ambassador. i’ve never perceived that roy choi ever sought to educate people on korean food as much as try to blend culinary cultures in his own neighborhood. if anything, he’s allowed mexican members of his staff to tweak menu items to incorporate more of their culture. finally,substituting one barbecued meat for another in a taco isn’t really that much a stretch.

one last thought. from what i know of chung’s background, it’s immersed in european traditions which really don’t have much traction in LA. i’m pretty sure it was choi who made that observation, and that that was the only reason kogi has been successful here; if i were going to emulate something like a beef roll and try and make it accessible, i’d consider doing something like a pita wrap or maybe a mini “pizza” you’d be encouraged to roll yourself. if i were to try and make dong zi, i’d present them as chinese tamales. maybe dongpo pork as chinese carnitas. rather than using some european-based construct as a vehicle for asian flavors, i’d try to find commonalities in items in ethnic cuisines that can readily be found in the southland. but that’s me.


#25

I agree; I remember once convincing one of my Chicano friends to try the beef roll at 101 Noodle by describing it as “like a Chinese burrito” and “make sure you try their pickled green salsa.” :grin:


#26

I don’t agree that’s the only reason why Kogi was successful. I think Kogi was successful for 5 main reasons:

  1. Korean food and Mexican food can be fairly easily assimilated with one another. Some of the flavors can make sense together and the ingredients can be easily integrated (replace carne asada with bulgolgi in a burrito).

  2. The combination of these 2 cuisines was novel to many. However, there are Korean and Mexican populations in proximity to each other in several LA neighborhoods, so the combination of the cultures’ foods seems sensible.

  3. The concept of a destination food truck was not only novel to many, but also very intriguing because it was for those “in the know.”

  4. To wit, Kogi was a “guerrilla pop-up” that had to be tracked, so Kogi caught the twitter/social media hype train. Long lines early on contributed to the hamster effect.

  5. Choi was somewhat of a celebrity chef persona - he had some fine dining pedigree but he would proudly disavow it. (He would parlay this narrative at the MAD Conference and was seen as a “disruptor” of sorts, so he got cred in the foodie world for doing something different and for shunning high-brow concepts with his later projects).

Shirley, just a thought - if you want to educate people about authentic flavors, give us a damn good traditional rendition of these seemingly misunderstood foods. Win people over with excellent cooking and show them what they’re missing.

I’m skeptical that a redone avocado toast will move people away from orange chicken when they think of Chinese food. I’m scratching my head to name a dish in the Chinese food vernacular that features avocado, or any textural or flavor corollary for that matter.


#27

Nailed it.


#28

FWIW it was choi himself who thought the lack of european traditions made his success possible. you are free to disagree with him.


#29

really?

i’d rather spend that money on lottery tickets than open a restaurant serving ethnic chinese cuisine in a neighborhood with insufficient expat demand. and even FTC-ers balk at driving to the SGV.


#30

You obviously have not been to this part of town in a long time. I know your bias against the area is legendary as well. The Chinese Asian population has steadily increased over the years. When Silicon Beach became relevant, the Chinese Asian population boomed. The number of more legitimate Chinese cuisine eateries in the area now is another sign. The Westside will never be the SGV, nor will the SGV have what the Westside offers. But it is getting much easier to find legit Chinese food in the Westside than it is to find a legit Italian pasta or decent cup of coffee in the SGV.


#31

Nobody said EaterLA was the pinnacle of journalism.


#32

To be fair as a person of partial Thai descent and a chef who has cooked Thai food, Andy Ricker wasn’t wrong. Most people have a very narrow view of what Thai food can encompasse but can anybody truly know another cuisine they aren’t born into or study extensively for a decade? A chef’s job is to educate the consumer to help them appreciate the food but how you say or do it does matter.


#33

ok. then who would she be educating if she’s drawing mainly ethnic clientele?


#34

than open a restaurant serving ethnic chinese cuisine in a neighborhood with insufficient expat demand. and even FTC-ers balk at driving to the SGV.

I think you might be missing your own point at hand. I personally don’t find her fusion-y menu to be educating anyone on Chinese cuisine. I’m in the group who would prefer more legit Chinese dining options. And this hope continues to be fulfilled lately.

Going out to the SGV can be pretty rough - even worse going home. But I used to go about once week for a few years. My life style has changed since - now it is more like once every month or two. So yes - the drive can be a barrier.

If you don’t understand the dynamics that are changing the Westside’s food scene, you may have been MIA around here for quite a few years. I know you display disgust for the area - why, I don’t know. But IMO, that’s not my issue. That’s something that at least in this case, left you with a very dated opinion.


#35

I used to refer Moo Shu whatever as the Chinese burrito.


#36

Frontera is indeed solid but I had one of the worst high-end meals I’ve ever had at Topolobompo.


#37

Well, there are still the good old Italian restaurants and shops in San Gabriel and Rosemead, ones that have been there since the 1950s.

What is deficient in the SGV is Jewish delis and restaurants. We need a Lenny’s Deli or a Langer’s east of the 710.


#38

I’ve eaten at her Twenty-Eight restaurant in the OC. It wasn’t good enough to make me want to drive out there again. I’m curious to see what she will offer in Culver City.


#39

I’ve never eaten at these places that you mention, but I suspect we have different interpretations of what pasta I am referring to.


#40

i think your own feelings are more in play than anything else. if good authentic cuisine is enough on its own to guarantee success, pok pok would still be in business. i’m done.