Award-winning Chef David Chang (of Momofuku in New York, Toronto, Las Vegas and beyond) needs no introduction. His restaurants have won multiple awards and positive reviews, and he’s appeared on various TV shows, including guest appearances with Anthony Bourdain and on Top Chef.
We had bookmarked and dreamed about trying any of the Momofuku restaurants when we first heard about them years ago. We finally got a chance to try Momofuku Daisho a while back, and it was… OK. Some good dishes, some so-so dishes, and it was pretty pricey. Still, we wanted to try a few more of his restaurants and various iterations, and now it looks like we can try his cooking any day of the week, as Chef Chang finally opens up his new concept - Majordomo - on the edge of Chinatown in Los Angeles.
Interestingly, while Chef Chang has gone on record saying this is not a “Momofuku” branch, the signage in front of Majordomo spells out “Momofuku” in Japanese:
Majordomo seems like it was a huge buildout and renovation, sitting in a neighborhood that’s filled with older industrial warehouses. Walking inside, it’s spacious, open and inviting.
Pacific 75 (Gin, Yuzu, Honey, Sparkling Wine):
This sounded wonderful (I love Yuzu!), but sadly this was way too boozy. Way too much Gin and Sparkling Wine, it was pretty disappointing.
Glancing at the menu, Majordomo is filled with what looks like Asian Fusion dishes (not in a bad way, just clearly like non-traditional Asian dishes, with a twist).
Bing + Benton’s Reserve Ham:
Thanks to @PorkyBelly’s recommendation, we knew we had to order a Bing, which is Chef David Chang’s take on an Asian Flatbread, sort of like a cross between a Chinese Zhua Bing and Indian Naan.
The Benton’s Reserve Ham is a specially-aged version for 21 - 24 months, exclusively for Majordomo according to our server.
Adding a bit of the Ham to the Bing (which is piping hot)…
And you get this incredible porcine flavor, pungent, aromatic, beautiful perfume of porky goodness on top of hot, slightly crisped Bing Bread! Excellent!
Bing + Eggs & Smoked Roe:
Their Bing with Eggs & Smoked Roe is lighter, but also quite tasty with the piping hot Bing Bread.
Marinated Mushroom (Pistachio, Radish, Mizuna):
The Marinated Mushroom Salad was fine. There were some nice textures with the soft of the cooked down Mushroom mix, the leafy Mizuna and the slightly crunchy Puffed Rice. The Dressing however, was a touch too sweet. It wasn’t something we felt like we needed to order again.
Jumeokbap (Seaweed, Avocado, Sesame):
This was a startling and interactive dish: A large metallic bowl arrives with Steamed Rice, topped with Seaweed, Avocado, Green Onions and Sesame Seeds. You’re then presented with plastic gloves(!) and encouraged to mix the entire bowl of ingredients yourself(!).
At first it seems weird, dipping your plastic gloved hand in a warm-hot bowl of Rice and ingredients and mixing it all together, but after that, it’s kinda fun and nicely interactive.
You’re then supposed to form “Rice Balls” out of the mixture and just eat it as is. Taking a bite…
There’s an incredible umami flavor - a crave-worthy, really fragrant, pleasing taste. It’s perfectly seasoned, creamy (from the Avocado), drool-worthy from the Seaweed blend, Green Onions and Steamed Rice, and nutty from the Sesame Seeds.
Highlight of the evening!
But more importantly, to all my Korean expert FTC’ers / Hounds, why didn’t anyone tell me about this dish before?! (@matthewkang @J_L @Sgee and others) Are there other restaurants in K-Town that sell this?
Housemade Radish Kimchi (complementary):
They were wheeling around a cart with a large vessel on it, and giving diners a sample of their Housemade Radish Kimchi. It was refreshing, lightly piquant and sufficiently funky.
Macaroni & Chickpea (Black Pepper, Black Truffle):
I was really looking forward to this dish: It sounded intriguing, having Handmade Macaroni, with a Chickpea Sauce that was supposed to be like a “Mac & Cheese” (but with No Cheese(!)).
They were serving Black Truffles from Spain, and it was shaved at the table (and it smelled relatively fragrant).
However, sadly, the Black Pepper and Chickpea Sauce was just too overpowering. It’s like eating Majordomo’s version of Cacio e Pepe, but it was a bit on the sweet, earthy side (the Chickpea Sauce), and that combined with the Black Pepper barrage just overwhelmed the Black Truffles.
It was a waste of money at $48 for this dish, but at least it wasn’t as heartbreaking and disappointing as the complete disaster of White Truffle Risotto we had at Chef Daniel Patterson’s flagship, COI recently.
Definitely the worst dish of the evening. Avoid.
Crispy Pork Belly (Green Papaya, Bibb Lettuce, Chili Sauce):
And the controversial Crispy Pork Belly that was brought up from @PorkyBelly’s first review, yes, it is only 5 slices of Pork Belly, and at $22 it seems pricey, but in actual size, these are very thick slices of Pork Belly, easily 200% the thickness of, say, the Bossam at Kobawoo.
The outer edge was indeed crispy and crunchy and the Pork tasted very fresh. Ultimately adding a bit of the condiments together with the Bibb Lettuce, and it tasted like a very good cross between Chinese Roast Pork Belly and Korean Bossam.
Smoked Cabbage & Macadamia:
Their side of Smoked Cabbage and Macadamia was quite smoky and surprisingly tasty.
On our 2nd visit, we noticed that Chef David Chang wasn’t in the house. We were worried, but hoped for the best. We started with…
Kaleidoscope (Cognac, Amaro, Raspberry, Hibiscus):
This was really potent and boozy from the Cognac.
Bright Eyes (Gin, Muscat & Orange Blossom, Rio Red Grapefruit, Tonic):
Their Bright Eyes Cocktail, however, was wonderful! Beautifully floral (Orange Blossom), sweet (without being overpowering), balanced, and really sippable, this was one of the better Cocktails I’ve had in a while.
Bing + Eggs & Smoked Roe:
I think it was @PorkyBelly who was wondering what would happen to Majordomo if Chef Chang wasn’t actually in the house, overseeing / cooking? Well, this happened:
The sublime, wonderful Bing that @PorkyBelly and we loved from the first visit? This was nothing like it: It arrived lukewarm, almost cold! As a result, it was kinda doughy, and unappetizing.
The Smoked Roe & Egg itself was still tasty, but the dish was ruined by this.
Bing + Smoked Pork Neck & Fried Eggs:
This was a new Bing flavor they just added on the menu, and it sounded wonderful. Like the previous dish, it was ruined by lukewarm / cool Bing Bread.
Besides that, the actual taste was actually like an elevated McDonald’s Egg McMuffin? You had Egg, and the “Smoked Pork Neck” was really like a thin slice of Ham, and on doughy, lukewarm Bread, that didn’t help.
Bounty Bowl (Green Goddess, Domojang):
This was basically like a plate of Crudités, but with a gorgeous selection of Farmers Market Vegetables; something that definitely feels appropriate for California and all of our wonderful fresh Produce.
Besides being visually stunning, the Green Goddess Sauce, and especially their “Domo-jang” (their Housemade Sauce with Dried Shrimp, Chili and Fish Sauce) really elevated the veggies.
That Domo-jang Sauce tasted like Chef David Chang’s version of Hong Kong X.O. Sauce, and it was addictive and excellent.
Raw Sugar Snaps (Horseradish, Radish, Shallot):
This was stunningly delicious! The Raw Sugar Snap Peas were crispy, crunchy and so bright, and with the Horseradish and the Snap Peas inherent peppery / “spiciness” it tasted like Wasabi and so much more. Definitely one of our favorites of the evening.
Rice Cakes (Spinach, Seaweed):
This was a good example of the Fusion aspect of Majordomo: They use Korean Rice Cakes - doughy, chewy, tender - sauteed with Spinach and Seaweed in a Brown Butter Sauce. So the Korean Rice Cakes feel familiar from the Korean cuisine angle, yet the Brown Butter Sauce and Spinach makes it feel French / European.
Ultimately, it was fine, not bad at all, but not really compelling either.
Spicy Bo Ssäm (4-6 people) (Glazed Pork Shoulder. Served with Rice, Bibb Lettuce & Condiments):
We were excited and curious to see how Chef David Chang’s version of Bossam might compare to the ones we’ve tried around Koreatown.
Suffice to say Majordomo’s version is definitely not traditional, but it captures enough of the original, while also venturing into other cultural tastes.
Instead of being Pork Slices, you’re presented with one giant hunk of slow roasted Pork Shoulder, glazed with a spicy-sweet Sauce.
They provide tongs, and it’s so tender you can just press it and tear off pieces easily:
The Pork Shoulder itself is tender, moist and delicious. However, the condiments and preparation make it feel like this weird hybrid of… Shanghainese Pork Pump (Ti Pang), with Hainan Chicken (due to the Green Onion & Oil Sauce option), or something Northern Chinese with the Hoisin Sauce.
It’s not bad at all, quite tasty, but it’s also very familiar, and in some ways not really a traditional Bossam. Just set your expectations and you’ll have a tasty meal of Roasted Pork Shoulder.
Thriller (Mescal, Strega, Passionfruit, Cardamom, Lime, Ginger):
This was a fun Tiki drink in looks. The actual taste was fine if you’re a fan of Mezcal. It didn’t taste very balanced.
Boneless Chuck Short Rib (2-4 people) (Braised with Asian Pear & Daikon. Served with Rice Cake, Potato & Melted Raclette):
This was essentially Chef David Chang’s interpretation of his favorite (and oft-talked about) Galbi-jjim / Korean Braised Short Rib dish from Sun Nong Dan. We were definitely really excited to try this, because of how much the chef has posted / talked about his love of this dish at Sun Nong Dan in Koreatown.
And like Sun Nong Dan’s version (where you can add Cheese!) this version is served with a twist: Topped with gooey, melting Raclette Cheese. It’s slightly pungent / funky, and adds a strange creaminess to the dish.
Ultimately it was OK. It looked like Korean Galbi-jjim, but it tasted like a classic French Short Rib dish, tasting of a familiar European Stew, having flavors hinting of Mirepoix, Red Wine, but with funky Raclette Cheese as well.
All of our friends and us agreed that for Galbi-jjim, we preferred Soban’s awesome Galbi-jjim, and Sun Nong Dan’s as well over Majordomo.
Looking at it as a Fusion / alternate interpretation doesn’t change our opinions either: It’s just not as satisfying. It lacks the deeply fulfilling, wonderful flavors of a traditional Galbi-jjim.
It’s also less quantity than a standard Galbi-jjim at Soban or Sun Nong Dan, and it’s roughly 200% of the price ($85).
Hotteok (Dates, Pistachio, Sesame):
They only offer 2 Desserts on the menu so far, and we went with the Hotteok, which is Majordomo’s version of the Korean Hotteok Dessert, which is like a stuffed Pancake.
This was served lukewarm, and the outside dough lacked any crispness.
It tasted OK, but not something we’d order again.
One of our good Korean friends mentioned that the Hotteok she’s had at a few street vendors in Seoul were “much better” than Majordomo’s version at a fraction of the price.
Service was fine, no complaints. Their prices range from $6 - $48 for most of the menu, with their large format Meats ranging from $85 - $190.
Overall Majordomo feels like a solid example of Asian Fusion done right: It’s not overly excessive or trying too hard to meld flavors. They delivered some truly stunning dishes like the Raw Sugar Snap Peas and the Jumeokbap (the interactive Make Your Own Rice Balls) (do not miss this!).
However, there are quite a few OK dishes that don’t really excel: Besides the overly boozy, unbalanced Cocktails (except the Bright Eyes), their Marinated Mushroom Salad, Sauteed Rice Cakes, and their most expensive items like the Spicy Bossam and Boneless Chuck Short Rib dishes are all fine, but none of them made us feel like “We have to come back soon!”
For the conversations around value brought up by some FTC’ers previously, it’s a valid question: The Spicy Bossam was $125 (+ tax & tip), and while it is a big chunk of meat, it was only slightly more meat than most Pork Pump / Roasted Pork Ti Pang dishes at Shanghai restaurants around the San Gabriel Valley. Except those dishes usually run about $30 - $35.
And sure, there’s something to be said for the quality of the meat, but when it’s slow-roasted and heavily sauced like this version, you can’t really taste the difference (unlike, say, a cleanly grilled Pork Chop or Steak).
The Short Rib dish (their interpretation of Galbi-jjim) was $85, and it was definitely less food compared to Soban or Sun Nong Dan’s versions, and Soban’s sublime version is $35 and tastes better (our Korean friend and everyone else agreed as well).
And the prices probably aren’t due to the neighborhood (it’s not like this is Beverly Hills), as Majordomo is in the very end / sketchy part of Chinatown. This is what the rest of the street looks like when you walk out of Majordomo to your car:
In the end, I think we’d be glad to return for the simpler items on the menu - the Sugar Snap Peas, the Jumeokbap, and we really hope their Bing is more like the first visit, when Chef Chang was in the kitchen, vs. our 2nd visit, which was lukewarm / cold, and much worse (when Chef Chang wasn’t there).
If the Bing Bread is like our first visit, then you have the makings of a great meal, choosing to stick with the smaller dishes and the great Bing variety. The markups on the large format meat dishes feel too high, and the flavors are good, but not great. But for everything else, Majordomo feels like a great place to visit when in the mood for good Korean Fusion cuisine.
(Note: Whole Plate Short Rib is only available at a Table, not at the Bar.)
1725 Naud St.
Los Angeles, CA, 90012
Tel: (323) 545-4880
Update 2: Brunch debuts, more revisits.