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Roy Choi eager to follow Best Friend with more Vegas restaurants

Updated February 19, 2020 - 4:44 am

When Roy Choi opened Best Friend at Park MGM at the end of 2018, it was his first restaurant outside his home base of Los Angeles.

It won’t be his last.

“It’s weird, because Best Friend has been so successful from a cultural standpoint, as far as people loving it, it feels like I need to do more,” he says of his plans for Las Vegas. “Whereas, in a normal situation, it would be, like, ‘Only one year, give a brother some time! Let me figure (expletive) out!’ But because the momentum and the energy is so strong, it just feels like I could do three more, four more.”

Choi, the street-savvy chef whose Korean tacos helped launch the gourmet food truck phenomenon, discussed his desire to bring additional concepts to Las Vegas during a conversation about “The Chef Show.” The Netflix cooking series will debut six episodes Wednesday, with three of them set on the Strip.

“Sometimes, as a chef, you feel like you have to continue to open the door, scrub the floor and close the door every single day, even in your 20th or 30th year,” Choi says. “And I get that. … But at the same time, you also have to be realistic so you don’t self-destruct.”

With his future Las Vegas ventures, Choi is looking for a situation similar to Best Friend, where he can be involved in every aspect of its creation, then step back and surrender the reins to someone he trusts, the way he did with executive chef Diego Echavarria.

“I think it’s a perfect situation for where I am personally in my life right now, because I can create concepts that are very intimate still and very personalized and extremely creative and thoughtful, but I don’t have to run them every day.”

Choi hasn’t decided what will come next, but he’s getting close.

“I’ve got a couple of concepts in mind right now that I want to bring to Vegas. I’m hopefully going to try to figure out the business side of all that stuff this year. If I can do that in the next six to eight months, that means I could realistically have something open maybe by this time next year if all that falls into place.”

Mention that whatever his next restaurant is, it needs to offer that decadent grilled cheese sandwich he taught Jon Favreau to make for the 2014 movie “Chef,” and Choi starts spitballing.

“Maybe that could be like another hybrid half-step. I could create little individualized smaller venue type things. Like a grilled cheese stand. Or like a taco shop. Or like a small little rice bowl shop. I’m thinking about all different ways of how I can open more stuff in Vegas.”

Comparing the work he put into Best Friend to building a low-rider — “every single thing, from A to Z, is custom” — Choi explains that, for him, opening a new restaurant here isn’t as simple as just signing a contract.

“Everything is built from scratch. And I hope that, with that approach, when I do open a second venue in Vegas, that people will react to it the same way they have Best Friend.”

Asked about the “when” in that sentence, Choi confirms his choice of words.

“It’s a ‘when’ not an ‘if.’ ”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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