Cecelia and I grabbed two seats at the bar at Baroo to celebrate her recent birthday. The East Hollywood gem, respected for its strangeness as much as its deliciousness, was the perfect spot for the occasion. If we can all age as well as Baroo’s expert pickles and kimchi, the world would be a better place for it.
Here at his 19-seat restaurant, Chef Kwang Uh serves a Korean- and Italian-inflected, fermentation-forward menu. Prior to opening Baroo with his business partner and friend Matthew Kim, the chef attended the C.I.A. and spent time in the kitchens of Daniel in New York, Nobu Bahamas, Piazza Duomo in Alba, Quique Dacosta in Spain, and Noma in Copenhagen.
Our court-side seats offered partial views of the kitchen and an unobstructed look at the chef’s impressive cookbook collection, staple pantry items, and freshly made pasta. The dining room felt comfortably lived-in, like a friendly neighborhood incubator for culinary creativity.
Baroo’s kimchi fried rice ($11) is truly like no other. Imagine this: a bowlful of basmati prettied with fermented pineapple kimchi, a sous-vide egg sprinkled with toasted buckwheat and quinoa, a quenelle of gremolata, pineapple jalapeño salsa, purple potato chips, nori strips, spices, and a microgreens garnish. Bacon is optional but highly encouraged. Every spoonful is deliciously familiar yet somehow completely novel. Fun fact, Bon Appetit named it the dish of the year in 2016.
One of the specials this evening was the “Xotoall (funky fungi formaggi arancini).” Priced at $5 a piece, the arancini were comprised of porcini and mushroom risotto enrobed in fresh shiitake mushrooms with endive, Granny Smith apple, preserved lemon, Picholine olives, doenjang (fermented soybean paste), and a raclette dip. These deep-fried umami powerhouses were good, really good.
The most challenging dish was the Noorook ($12), beet cream-stained grains spiked with roasted koji (a kind of mold). While we ordered with an open mind, the flavors were just too damn earthy for our tastes. It wasn’t love at first, second, third, or fourth bite. But hey, we tried.
And then there was a duo of house-made noodles. First up was “Baroo’s Ragu Style” ($15), a tomato-based oxtail sauce topped with airy tendon puffs, cherry tomatoes, krout powder, and aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
The pasta boasted bounce and bite, while the sauce was complex and deeply flavorful.
My favorite noodles ($12) featured plenty of celeriac with pickled mustard seeds, celery ash, and crispy Jerusalem artichoke. While the ragu was a bit predictable in its composition and flavor, the celeriac took me by surprise with its subtle charms.
While the pacing of the dishes this evening left something to be desired (read: fast), our dinner at Baroo was truly excellent. Every dish that came out of the kitchen was thoughtful, interesting, and with the exception of the Noorook, beyond tasty. I’ll be back for exciting eating at Baroo.
5706 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038
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