Chef Roy Choi opens Best Friend restaurant at Park MGM

Roy Choi’s restaurant Best Friend, which will open to the public on Wednesday, remains shrouded in a level of mystery that’s almost unprecedented for a chef of his stature. His heavily promoted “menu reveal” on Facebook Live was less an unveiling of the menu than a cooking demo and tasting.

And although guests who’ve walked past Best Friend on Park MGM’s casino floor over the past few days may have caught a glimpse of its storefront — part bar and part L.A.-style Korean grocery — it offers little indication of what lies through a simulated walk-in cooler that serves as the entrance to the restaurant itself.

“It’s actually like a car wash,” Choi says of that journey through a “wall” of transparent PVC curtains. “You start at one place. You go through this thing. And you come out the other end a different person.”

Building an empire

Choi understands transformation. A decade ago, the down-on-his-luck, classically trained chef began selling Korean BBQ out of a taco truck in Los Angeles and launched a DIY culinary revolution that propelled him to celebrity chef status and international stardom. Over the past 10 years, he’s parlayed his food truck success into an L.A. empire with restaurants Kogi BBQ, Chego!, A-Frame, Alibi Room, POT, Commissary and LocoL. He’s also racked up a string of accolades to rival the nation’s most celebrated chefs: Food & Wine Best New Chef, TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World and Los Angeles Times Restaurant of the Year, just to name a few.

Despite the success, Choi is an unproven quantity outside the City of Angels. And he knows it.

“This is my first restaurant outside of Los Angeles, so I’m not taking anything for granted,” he says.

Moreover, Choi is determined not to simply re-create one of his concepts in a Las Vegas casino.

“I definitely didn’t take the easy route. I didn’t just re-create Kobi or A-Frame or Chego. I didn’t just take a cookie-cutter thing and just mail it in from L.A. I definitely took the hard route in creating a brand-new concept.”

That’s not to say that he won’t be bringing out his greatest hits to satisfy the many L.A. fans who will visit his new project, as well as the legion of tourists who may have read about him or seen him on TV.

“This thing is a culmination of all of (the) last 10 years. So you can sit down and have a little taste of Kogi, and a little taste of Chego. But 50 percent of the menu is going to be brand-new. And that all came from the last two years of me being inspired by Las Vegas.”

In reality, Choi has been inspired by Las Vegas for far longer than he’s been planning this restaurant.

“I’ve been coming here for a long time,” he says of the city. “As a kid, my parents used to bring me here at least twice, three times a year, when they were having their fun.”

As a young adult, Choi came to Las Vegas five or six times a year to play poker, mostly at Bellagio. After gambling “got the better of” him and his passion turned to cooking, he says he returned often to experience Las Vegas from that perspective.

“I’ve seen it in like three stages of my life: as a kid, as a gambler and then as a chef. And I enjoyed every one of them.”

Creating a bond

For the next stage, he says, he hopes to bring something to the table other than poker chips or his appetite.

“It’s almost tribal in a sense. It’s like, you go with open hands: Here’s everything that I bring. These are all the gifts that I bring. And I’d like to share these gifts with your gifts so that we come together.”

For that, Choi says it doesn’t matter whether people who walk into Best Friend are familiar with his name or reputation. And it may be better if they go in with few, or even no, expectations.

“I come from cooking tacos on the street, where we don’t have any control over who comes to your truck, and that’s really where I’m at my best,” he explains.

“And even though this is in Las Vegas, in a huge casino, part of a huge redevelopment, the restaurant’s soul is still in the streets, serving a taco under street lamp. You walking up, and me not knowing who you are. You not knowing who I am. But you eat the food and we create a bond.”

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like