I’m not usually into to trying brand new restaurants. I like to allow the reviews and word of mouth to build up before I go jump in. My stomach space is precious real estate these days! I can’t be wasting it on some bad caloric investments. But when it came to Roy Choi (Chef/owner of Kogi and Chego) and his newest venture, A-frame, which just opened a few days ago, I thought “This is a risk I’m willing to take!” After reading Grubstreet’s review outloud for Smooth Obturator and Triple T to hear, we decided it would be a good choice for a Sunday night. Smooth Obturator is really particular about eating certain foods on certain days of the week after reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I’ve learned to be wary of ordering mussels at less than reputable establishments because there is a good chance they are sitting in their own urine, and not to eat the “fish special” on Mondays.
We could smell delicious Asian aromas wafting from the restaurant as we approached, a mix of grilled/fried deliciousness with notes of tangy, sweet, savory, and spicy. The hostess was super friendly and introduced me to Roy himself, at the nudging of my brother. I got the whole “I’m a foodblogger” introduction. Somehow that seems to change things a bit to chefs. I think they understand the power of foodblogs. We can make you or break you. I probably can’t because I only have 5 readers. In any case, he seemed to relate to the name of my blog!!
I could regurgitate the concept summary from A-Frame’s menu, but in short, A-Frame = MAN FOOD. A-Frame = GRUBBIN’.
Kitchen Fries purple okinawan sweet potatoes, yam, korean sweet potato, kimchi sour cream, sea salt
Before I even got my introduction, Roy served us these, on the house! It was pretty dark, and they honestly looked like ugly black logs. Of course, they tasted just fine. A mix of sweet potatoes but I really couldn’t tell them all apart. They lacked that additional battering on the exterior but still had a light crunch. The kimchi sour cream was a nice departure from you’re regular ketchup or mayo based dip. The kimchi flavor was quite subtle.
Moooooo Kimchee cubed white radishes, pickled
We went pretty heavy on the proteins and only had these pickled radishes as our side dish/palate cleansers. They were refreshing and perfectly pickled. Smooth Obturator kept insisting there was some sort of herb or spice that added a different flavor. Cinnamon? Cloves? Nutmeg? I don’t know. I would have appreciated bigger pieces. They were hard to fork or even scoop, so I was forced to use my fingers to pop them in my mouth.
Warm Cornbread and Chicken Salad with italian sausage ragout, salsa verde, pickled red onions
I LOVED the cornbread! Marie Callender’s used to be the standard for my cornbread tastes. I don’t eat a lot of cornbread as you can tell. But now, I know what GOOD cornbread is supposed to taste like. The texture was moist but slight crumbly. It had a lovely sweetness. The best part was that it was grilled so that added a wonderful smoky flavor. That alone won me over. The chicken salad was nice, not creamy like most salads. I can’t say I tasted the ragout at all. It was too dark to see what I was eating. Smooth Obturator HATES onions but really enjoyed these pickled ones. Such a unique dish!
Cracklin’ Beer Can Chicken peruvian style, century egg, salsa roja, salsa verde
Just as our waitress finished taking our order, Roy came by with this chicken to give us, on the house, even though we ordered one already! What a nice guy! I wondered if we was giving everyone free chicken or if it was because I was a foodblogger. We dug in and were pleasantly surprised at how simple, yet how delicious the chicken was. It was moist (even the white meat), flavorful, with that perfect crispy skin. We debated whether it was fried or roasted and concluded that roasting could NOT make such crispy skin. The century egg was good, but I couldn’t see how it fit in with the dish. The salsas were great, but we all liked the verde better. Both provided a really nice heat to the dish.
Baby Back Ribs air-dried, hoisin-chilli glazed, sesame
I loved the sauce on the ribs, but I will admit it was a tad oversalted. Cut back the salt by 20% and it woulda been perfect! To my dismay, I HAD to start eating with my hands by this point. The flavor profile was finger-lickin-good. The ribs were pretty meaty too.
Wings korean-style, bleu cheese dressing, heirloom pickles
I don’t know what “korean style” wings are because I haven’t been to Kyochon, Bonchon, or BBQ Chicken. So I can’t really compare. They were tangy and spicy, but for the most part not that impressive. Unfortunately they were on the dry side too. I will say that the blue cheese dressing really kicked up the flavor and was like no blue cheese dressing I’ve had. I actually welcomed and appreciated the sharp cheese flavor that usually turns me off. I ate more wings just to get more dressing in my mouth!
Barbequed Lamb Chops korean-style, citrus gremolata, salsa verde
This was my FAVORITE dish of the night. It’s hard to pick a favorite because everything was so solid, but I love lamb chops. These were “korean-style” but they really reminded me of Vietnamese pork chops. I even told Roy that, I hope I didn’t offend him! They were perfectly cooked and went great with the salsa verde, which seemed to find their way on many menu items. I actually really liked the citrus gremolata which is traditionally made with parsely but was reinvented with cilantro instead. It was refreshing. From the lamb, to the salsa, to the gremolata, the whole dish was a harmonious interplay of bold meaty flavors and bright citrus notes. LOVE!
Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang pound cake churro, cinnamon, malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream
I’m not quite sure who the dessert is making fun of, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Korean fob accents? I’m thinking Vietnamese. I’m totally not offended because this dessert is a no holds bar homage to true GRUBBIN’. It’s delicious rich pound cake that’s fried and then sweetened up like a churro with a healthy helping of sugar and cinnamon on the outside. It was definitely SIN dressed up as the best way to end a great meal! The ice cream was forgettable, but a much needed palate cleanser for the grease.
You can probably understand why A-frame = MAN FOOD now. Meat! Meat! Meat! There was definitely some lighter fare on the menu, seafood, salad, tofu, but nothing jumped out at us quite like the above dishes. We did wish we were eating with more people because my brother wanted to order one of EVERYTHING on the menu. Triple T and I eagerly wished that were feasible. I think we did some damage, and managed to get a good sampling of Roy Choi’s cuisine here. He’s done a fantastic job reinventing Asian Fusion. His food is straight forward. No tricks or gimmicks. Just bold flavors, winning combinations, and perfect execution. On top of that, most entree dishes were in the $8-$12 range, with the lamb chops and ahi tuna being the most expensive at $18. A-frame represented some “firsts” for me: The first time I drank beer with food, and the first time I was happy to eat with my hands! Oh Roy, I think I love you, even though you told me “You can look it up online” when I asked you where you trained (he eventually answered after I repeated my question).
My real question for Roy would be “Do you have any hair under that hat??” (I’ve never seen him without a hat on!)
A-Frame (no website yet! yeah, i know…jigga wat?!?!)
12565 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066