On the heels of our previous post wherein the best burger truck of which I am aware was discussed, it seems only appropriate to pay homage to the guy who is credited with being the Godfather of all food trucks, Roy Choi. Roy’s claim to fame is being the chef behind the Kogi truck (which is actually now a small fleet), one of the first ever to extend beyond traditional Mexican fare, and THE first to take full advantage of social media to build a massive and ravenous fan-base. Many of you probably remember the 2 hour lines found outside that first Kogi truck immediately following a tweet announcing it’s location on any given night just a few years ago. The lengths to which people were going for Korean BBQ short rib tacos (which sounded to me like a dish with too much of an identity crisis to be particularly impressive) was staggering and still is, if you haven’t had one. However, after having tasted anything on the kogi menu, you will find yourself happily in that line every time the truck is near you. It is that good. There is nothing on the Kogi truck’s menu that I have not tried. They don’t really have a burger, but I’m going to still eventually find a way to review the truck. In any case, it stands to reason that the guy whose truck spawned and entire world of restaurants on wheels, also does a pretty good job with his places that have indoor plumbing.
A-Frame (one of 4 single location restaurants in which Roy Choi has a stake) is located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City, a bustling avenue by the measures of most, but inside is simple and inviting. Natural light, semi communal seating, and all wood everything make this place pretty and hip. If you’re an educated restaurant diner it will feel very curated, but you can’t say that they haven’t done a good job. Lunch, Dinner, an excellent Happy Hour menu, and a variety of inventive cocktails are all available, and the intention appears to be family style (meaning everyone shares everything) though the portions could just as easily serve as that of a normal restaurant. Choi made his name with street food, and while this menu does not fit that description, it can be described as familiar, done really well. I am a total sucker for chefs who take dishes that the average Joe would know, and jazz them up with complex flavors and high quality ingredients. Hence my love for bougie burgers, one of which A-Frame just so happens to have.
The “DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER” as it is referred to on the menu, is not as basic as the title suggests. Two medium cooked patties (I’m guessing 4-5 oz. each) are topped with tomato confit, pickled red onions, sharp cheddar, hot sauce, butter lettuce, and sesame mayo, all on a buttered brioche. It’s hearty, and boasts several loud flavors that play into one another delightfully. The onions are very sweet, but the tomatoes must have soaked up the hot sauce, being rather bright with spice (Serrano I am guessing). The sharp cheddar is extremely present, and if I could change anything about this burger it would have been a little less cheese. The sesame flavor of the mayo didn’t really cut the cheese ( ) but mayonnaise for texture is not ever lost on me. Any ingredient that makes a food more rich get s a green-light from this fat kid. Juicy, spicy, sharp, and heavy. I ate every bite and have hardly moved since. The sides I chose were heirloom pickles, and kitchen fries. The latter being thick cut Okinawan purple potatoes, yams, and Korean sweet potatoes dusted but not breaded before being fried, and served with Kimchi sour cream (awesome). The pickles are to share; an order for one person is a lot of pickle but you simply must get them. Cucumbers, baby carrots, potato, fennel and Asian pears comprised the assortment, and were served with blue cheese magic (that’s what I’m calling it anyway). This dip has a creamy blue cheese base, with fresh shallot, garlic, lots of olive oil, herbs and a healthy dollop of Kogi’s salsa verde. Towards the end of my meal, everything that entered my mouth was slathered in this fantastical sauce. Without A-Frame I may never have known that my favorite thing on earth is a pickled Asian pear with blue cheese magic. Claiming a condiment as the highlight of ones meal seems ridiculous when the food was all so great but I could literally drink this stuff. I want everything I eat to taste like it.
If you like Kogi at all go to A-Frame. If you’ve never had Kogi, go there, because you’ll like it. I’m proud of myself for not making this an open love letter of man-crush confession to Roy Choi, which was admittedly hard. He just does such a great job. Very creative interpretations of familiar foods provide a context wherein anyone can be a critic. If you’re going to position yourself in that situation, your food better be damn good. Roy’s is, particularly the burger at A-Frame.