If David Chang’s aim was to set himself apart from the wave of New York chefs landing in L.A., he certainly succeeded. Hidden in an industrial zone north of Chinatown—a gritty patch of real estate that developers are likely pitching as the new Arts District—Majordomo occupies a rust-colored warehouse on a dead-end street, lit by a strip of neon Japanese characters amid the darkness. It’s an odd oasis, but at least you won’t spend long looking for parking.
A cavernous 180-seat dining hall with walnut countertops and a broad charcoal mural by artist James Jean, the bustling restaurant is the latest addition to Chang’s growing Momofuku empire. And though the baos and ramen bowls for which Momofuku is most famous are absent, the cooking here represents Chang at his most resplendently Chang-ian: an uninhibited postmodern hodgepodge that nods toward the city’s sprawling Korean enclave a few miles west without being hemmed in by tradition.
And though anyone who’s spent time prowling Koreatown’s sul lung tang parlors might catch homages in the tiny bowl of pickled pear dongchimi that starts the meal—or, for that matter, in the cauldron of braised beef kalbi jjim paved with a sheet of molten alpine cheese—the cultural context is hardly required reading for Chang’s raucous L.A. love letter.
Consider the bing, a puffy, naan-like flatbread that functions as house appetizer: warm from the griddle and paired with such luscious spreads as runny eggs and smoked trout roe layered over onion soubise, it’s a brilliantly simple concept that’s familiar yet inventive. There are crisp Korean peppers stuffed with sage-scented pork sausage and fried tempura-style that resemble the offspring of a jalapeno popper and the homey Korean snack gochujeon. Jiggly slices of pork belly, the skin rendered as crunchy as gas station pork rinds, become almost invigorating bound up in lettuce with fermented chile paste and threads of unripe papaya. If it were possible to resurrect wasabi peas from their dehydrated slumber, they’d probably taste like the plump Santa Barbara sugar snaps Chang brightens with shaved horseradish and lemon.
You can assemble a superb meal from small plates, but Majordomo champions the large-format splurge. Two can take down a cream-topped mountain of horchata shaved ice. For the $190 rack of smoked short ribs? Consider forming a posse.
Majordomo, 1725 Naud St., Chinatown
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