American cuisine

Meet two LA restaurants that are reinventing Asian-American cuisine for a new generation

hipbone and Holy Basil are modestly sized restaurants in Los Angeles, but their collective impact makes them feel much bigger. In May, during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the two restaurants did pop-ups across town while working on aggressive expansion plans. In the process, they made it clear that they were the future of Asian-American cuisine in Los Angeles.

Hanchic, where chef Justin Min serves irresistible mashups like kimchi tagliatelle, bulgogi risotto and mandu with a doenjang-based riff on bolognese, is a 1,200-square-foot space with seven tables in a mall on the outskirts of Koreatown. But that limited footprint hasn’t stopped Min and his partners at In Hospitality Group from using it as a test kitchen for several concepts. Chimmelier, In Hospitality’s fried chicken restaurant that started as a pop-up after Min created sauces at Hanchic, has just opened a brick-and-mortar location a few blocks away.

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In Hospitality, run by Min, Dustin Lee, Kevin Son and Jeff Jun, has also teamed up with Instagram sensation baker Jiyoon Jang to open moody Mil Bakery at All Good Things Market, in the same building as Chimmelier. In addition to serving up lovely pastries like black sesame mochi cake bars, miso-garu cookies, and ssuk marbled pound cake, Jang is creating a new bun for Chimmelier’s fried chicken sandwich.

The group’s portfolio also includes Kinn, where a former of New York’s two-star Michelin Korean restaurants Jungsik and Atomix serves a $72 six-course tasting menu. Chef Ki Kim’s summer prix fixe features his versions of a Korean corn dog (with Dungeness crab), Pyongyang naengmyeon and elegantly plated chicken tteokgalbi topped with herbs and edible flowers. And a perfectly cooked piece of octopus with gochujang (a $20 extra on the tasting menu), crispy yet soft without being mushy, has become a signature dish at less than a year old Kinn.

And while Kim says he’s happy at his current price and comfortable space with a tasting counter and a few small tables, Lee says he’d like to find a larger location that would be more optimal for Kim’s dining ambitions. .

Holy Basil's Bangkok street food inspired dishes - Credit: Holy Basil

Holy Basil’s Bangkok street food inspired dishes – Credit: Holy Basil

holy basil

To Holy Basil, which operates from a 700-square-foot location in the downtown Santee Passage food hall, chefs Deau Arpapornnopparat and Joy Yuon cook up uncompromising, gloriously herbal, habit-forming Bangkok street food with top-notch ingredients. . There’s green curry with chicken Jidori and gra pow (a dish powered by the Thai herb known as Holy basil) with Wagyu or Crispy Pork. Mushroom larb is a vegan dish bursting with sour, spicy, and contrasting textures. Arpapornnopparat and Yuon also run The Base, which makes sweeteners and beverage starters and has popped up at the Smorgasburg Food Market. And Yuon is a drink magician who might have a tea bar, with a production team dedicated to her drinks, at the next location of Holy Basil.

Arpapornnopparat and Yuon are working on opening this new restaurant in Atwater Village later this year. They will have outdoor seating and plan to add a children’s menu and a market with Asian produce, some of which they grow themselves. After that, the biggest project on Holy Basil’s horizon could be a location near Koreatown, a 3,000 square foot space that would include a Thai omakase bar with curries, noodles and rice bowls.

“Joy and I talked about it recently,” Arpapornnopparat says of the omakase bar. “Why would we stay in this hut? We can totally cook anything to make Thai food out of it. A tasting menu only pushes who we are as chefs. Just open your mind, whether you’re cooking up a really old recipe or raising a new one. I feel like there aren’t many people doing Thai food like this, so why not us?

Even in their small downtown digs, Arpapornnopparat and Yuon served tasting menu dinners, including a special pop-up feast for AAPI Heritage Month. This dinner, featuring traditional rice flown in from Thailand, fried barramundi and fermented pork, took place the same month when Holy Basil cooked on both days of The Infatuation’s Eeeeeeatscon LA festival and appeared at Mama’s Night Market.

Hanchic describes himself as a

Hanchic describes itself as a “not-so-Korean restaurant”. – Credit: Jesse Hsu Photography

Jesse Hsu Photography

Hanchic also cooked at Eeeeeeatscon. And the night Chimmelier served his excellent fried chicken and sauces at Mama Night Market, Min cooked several dishes for an AAPI collaboration dinner alongside dessert sensation Domi at Chinatown’s Steep tea house. And somehow, In Hospitality took Chimmelier to Smorgasburg every Sunday and opened up their physical locations of Chimmelier and Mil. And then Min, who was also part of a Sundae School Roundtable in Smorgasburg in May, and Hanchic took part in the June 5 Taste of the Nation event.

If you ask Hanchic and Holy Basil why they say yes to so many things, they will give you similar answers. They are not there to have a restaurant of the moment. They each want to create a successful Asian-American hotel group. And there was no way they were turning down important events during a month that celebrates the AAPI community.

“First of all, our priority is to get our name out there,” says Lee. “And especially with AAPI month, there were a lot of great events trying to support companies like us. We didn’t want to miss any opportunities. You just had to say yes to everything.”

“The main thing for us, because we’re still small, is that we want to advertise ourselves,” says Arpapornnopparat. “Any good opportunity that comes our way, we take it. It’s just to get constant momentum. And with something like Mama, it’s cool and it’s also Asian, right? We have to be there for our brand.

Another thing that powers Hanchic and Holy Basil is their belief that there is so much room for, respectively, Korean and Thai food to thrive.

Korean Corn Dogs, done beautifully with Dungeness Crab, at Kinn - Credit: Jesse Hsu Photography

Korean Corn Dogs, done beautifully with Dungeness Crab, at Kinn – Credit: Jesse Hsu Photography

Jesse Hsu Photography

Lee recently visited San Francisco and ate at San Ho Won and Benu with Kim.

“I was amazed at how far Korean cuisine has gone this far,” says Lee. “It motivated us to move forward. We want to approach Korean food in different ways because there are so many great traditional Korean restaurants in Los Angeles. We thought it would be better if we put our own style into it.

Lee says the idea for In Hospitality was born from a trip to New York, when he ate at Cote, Jua, Take31 and Nowon and realized he wanted to help create a new scene of the Korean cuisine in Los Angeles. He knows that he and his partners run as fast as they can and often just figure things out while they sprint. But after opening Hanchic in September 2020 and surviving a pandemic that still isn’t completely over, Lee is energized by the possibilities In Hospitality sees.

“Last year we were racing, but we were hitting the wall,” Lee says. “Now I can see where we are going.”

When I tell Lee that there’s still no such thing as Jungsik and Atomix in LA, he nods and says, “That’s why we have to hurry.” Lee sees a chance to do something for his culture, so his goal is simply to put himself and his partners in a position where they might be able to change the conversation about Korean food in Los Angeles.

Mushrooms and uni de Kinn - Credit: Jesse Hsu Photography

Mushrooms and uni de Kinn – Credit: Jesse Hsu Photography

Jesse Hsu Photography

Meanwhile, when I tell Min that it’s good that small independent restaurants like Hanchic are still standing and climbing now, he laughs.

“More like getting ready to climb,” Min says. “It’s only the beginning, now that things are back to normal.”

When you’re running small independent restaurants, it’s often about the day-to-day: staff, kitchen, pandemic challenges that still linger. But it is also important to look to the future.

Chimmelier is something In Hospitality hopes to become a quick service chain. Beyond fried chicken, Chimmelier serves kimchi fried rice and street food like corn cheese and shrimp toast.

“It’s kind of like the Korean Jollibee,” says Lee.

And In Hospitality is not limited to Korean cuisine. Min, who previously cooked Vietnamese dishes at Little Sister, prepared a pop-up menu for lunch with pho and other Vietnamese dishes at Hanchic.

Holy Basil Thai Chicken Wings - Credit: Holy Basil

Holy Basil Thai Chicken Wings – Credit: Holy Basil

holy basil

Holy Basilfor his part, is ready to put it all in an adjacent restaurant in Koreatown that could open in late 2023. Arpapornnopparat and Yuon want this space to be a hub for experimentation, where fast-casual dining and elaborate tasting menus coexist. with food and wine pairings. , where they constantly test new ideas and develop new concepts.

“The plan is to have a group of Thai restaurants and Thai products, like in Thailand but grown in Los Angeles,” says Arpapornnopparat.

He and Yuon explored several spaces all over Los Angeles. As always, they are ready to say yes quickly if they see a good opportunity.

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