A Feast of Funky Fermentation
Claim to fame: LA’s king of fermented fandangos, Kwang Uh, staged at Noma, Piazza Duomo and Quique Dacosta.
Reason to go: Get cozy with mold, aka say hello to your new friend, Fermentation
To look out for: Rare grains, organic and sustainable ingredients and the feeling of wellbeing that comes with eating them
One could be excused for thinking this is a college dorm kitchen. Cookbooks litter an area by the cash register, a few of them open to random pages, as if someone was in the middle of studying for an exam. Shelves are lined with “science projects”, jars filled with pickles in the making and gremlin-like substances in cloth-topped beakers. There’s a communal table, a sliver of a dining counter along one wall and a few seats in the bar where you order and pay for your food. Lighting is operating theater-bright and even though the clientele is of the grab-a-bite-and-go type you will make friends here, Baroo is a convivial, (very low-key) frat house. Beyond the mess that clutters a freezer chest you can see straight into the steaming, snarling kitchen. A kitchen where Seoul native Kwang Uh and his partner Matthew Kim crank out dishes that’ll make you feel healthy and almost smug about your dining choice. Vegans and vegetarians will have a field day here, but even staunch carnivores walk away content and well fed.
The short menu is listed on a blackboard, with every ingredient dutifully jotted down, it’s a lot to take in at first glance. Definitely go for the noorook, it contains some of the aforementioned gremlin stuff, noorook being the Korean version of koji, or Aspergillus oryzae, that funky fungus used to ferment sake and makgeolli rice wine. It’s a risotto of sorts, made with kamut, farro and Job’s tears, crimson-colored with beet cream, umami-punchy with dashi and a certain whiff of stale beer and dank basement. Trust us on this one, it’s nutty, slightly sour, satisfying and even pleasing to the eye with its topping of sprouts and pickled red onions. Kimchi fried rice is another must; it contains slender, fragrant amira basmati rice and pineapple kimchi, roasted seaweed, gremolata and jalapeño salsa. This unorthodox creation is crowned with a 63° sous-vide egg (nothing new, we know, but perfect here), micro greens as well as toasted buckwheat and purple potato chips for texture. If you’re into it, order this with slab bacon for some smoky depth, then stir things around and get to work. Handmade pasta is served with a spicy oxtail ragu, a rich concoction with its own parmesany umami jolt.
The beverage selection is comprised of gloriously tart house-made kombuchas and a fermented tepache that teeters on too sweet. Dessert on a hot summer’s day was a cold melon soup with pistachio milk, there were also some grandma-quaint shortbread cookies.
A meal at Baroo is a delightfully adventurous culinary exploration, you’re going to encounter new flavors and nuances, and you’re going to leave feeling wonderfully California beach body-wholesome.