The Changpire strikes west
Claim to fame: Celebuchef David Chang’s first LA restaurant
Reason to go: Endless, Asian-accented Changian fun
To look out for: The fierce, handcrafted Nankai sugarcane shochu from Okinawa
“Left Coast – Right Coast” was every other New Yorker’s snide LA-insult, until recently, when they started moving out west in droves, having figured out that theirs is actually the wrong coast. NY-Chefs are also branching out to LA: team Guidara-Humm, Dominique Ansel, Jean George Vongerichten, and now, David Chang; Master of Asian Mash-Ups, Supreme Leader of Quirky-Inventive Dining.
Majordōmo is purely, unmistakably a Chang operation, both in concept and cuisine––irreverent, decadent, imaginative, and street smart. Adding a frisson of not-next-door destination dining, it occupies a commodious, warehouse-chic structure on the chapped side of Chinatown and serves straight-up conversation-fueling food, though certainly not without its own type of brilliance, after all, Chang is the inventor of hozon (a miso-like paste of fermented legumes, seeds and nuts) and bonji (a soybean-free soy sauce of sorts).
To the initiated it might all seem a smidge predictable, but only in the way that it is indeed purely, unmistakably Changian. Some dishes are new and exciting, some merely reflect the general style of Chang’s Momofuku empire. To newbies it’s sure to be intriguing.
Unlike many other restaurants in the Changpire, Majordōmo features a healthy selection of Cali-friendly, vegetable-forward dishes, the menu is also rich with fish- and seafood options, but massive meat dishes, ceremoniously carved tableside, inevitably take center-stage. This encourages crowd-sized eating, so make sure to visit with a handful of your hungriest friends.
Maybe start with a few of the Bings; fluffy, warm riffs on Chinese flatbreads, paired with things like runny eggs, smoked trout roe and onion soubise, or (underwhelming) spicy lamb, or cut straight to the stuffed peppers, a creative take on gochujeon, or perhaps the pedestrian jalapeño popper, plumped up with sage sausage, and tempura-fried into a crispy, fiery fiesta. Consider the oysters with kimchi consommé and the kombu cured diver scallop with apple dashi if you keep dainty company. Spring for the macaroni and chickpea, it’s a super-charged mac and cheese, with hozon-funky umami-attitude. The Bounty Bowl, a Cali-trendy crudité with green goddess dressing and Dōmojang (Chang’s answer to Korean doenjang) will keep everyone feeling righteous before attacking the aforementioned paleo-unctuous section of the menu. Boneless chuck short ribs could feed an average-sized family, the dish is a perfect illustration of Chang’s and Majordōmo’s Executive Chef Jude Parra Sickels’ mastery at blending American- and Korean BBQ cultures. It’s a splendid mess of meat, incongruously served with melted raclette for extra umami-punch.
The somewhat judicious cocktail menu contains nuggets such as the Cloak and Dagger, a sultry affair with scotch, smoked tea, Drambuie and cherry notes, while the wine list is a riot of delightful pét-nats, skin-contact whites and personality-driven reds, with an impressive collection of prestigious labels thrown in for gravitas.
Reservations are highly recommended, though best of luck booking a table online, it’s notoriously hard. The alternative is to wing it and wait for walk-in seats at the generous bar.