A Peek Inside Commissary, Roy Choi's Rooftop Restaurant And Greenhouse
Between his consulting gig on the wildly successful "Chef" film, opening POT at The Line Hotel in K-Town, the continued success of his memoir, and the announcement of his new show "Street Food" on CNN, it's fairly safe to say that 2014 is Roy Choi's year. The cherry on top of it all is the opening of Commissary at The Line Hotel. The rooftop restaurant is situated inside a poolside greenhouse, and it couldn't possibly be more SoCal in its sensibility.
Choi has said that the restaurant was meant to be a b-side to POT, but it seems like more than that. He said humbly, "It's just our place for everybody to eat well."
And you will eat will eat well. Really, really well. This is the type of deeply satisfying and deceivingly simple food chefs cook on their night off or for a showy staff meal. They're comforting and expertly-prepared dishes that do justice to great produce and draw on eclectic international influences. And those who've worked in kitchens will find comfort in the fact that their drinks are served in delis. (Chefs drink ice water from the plastic take-out containers while working the line because they are readily available, hold a lot of liquid, and won't shatter if they're dropped in the heat of service.)
Each dish at Commissary is plated with a smattering of five different types of sauces, Choi's mother sauces, if you will: red (chiles, garlic, onion), green (garlic), brown (chiles, soy), yellow (onion, soy), and rainbow (nuts, garlic, chiles). Though the emphasis is on vegetables, there are hearty meaty options too, like thinly pounded pork schnitzel, succulent scallops, and steak served with hearty dose of brown sauce mixed with A1.
Choi's charred carrots served atop tomatillo, cilantro and garlic "green" sauce give Ludo Lefevbre's famed barbecued version a run for their money. And his grilled corn done in a mash-up style combining the grilled goodness of elotes and the flavors of Southeast Asia might make you wish you had enough room to plant rows with the corn seeds you'll take away as a parting gift at the end of the night. The veggie-heavy menu serves as a testament to the trend of chefs placing a premium on produce.
The one snafu at Commissary is the menus, which are a bit confusing in their multi-card presentation and read like one of those root word match games from SAT prep. They require you to match base ingredients from a particular price point on one card with their seasonal preparation on another card. There's yet another card decoding the sauces that go with each dish. The reasoning behind this format is that it allows for fluctuation in seasonality and gives the chef and his team creativity in day-to-day in preparation. Which is all well and good, unless you're a few delis of mezcal cocktails deep.
So whether this was meant to be some heady departure from all the Korean fusion that Choi is known for or just a chance for change in pace, Commissary definitely puts most "secondary" restaurants and quick-serve cafes at hotels to shame. And like most albums' b-sides, it gives us a little peek into where Choi's head is at when he's not crafting fusion hits on the Kogi truck and hanging out with Jon Favreau.
He's at the farmers market with his family (we frequent the same neighborhood Sunday market, actually), cooking honest food that lets the Cali sunshine sing. Bathing in the golden hour at Commissary with a deli in hand, you can't help but listen.