Starry Kitchen began in 2009 as an unassuming part-time restaurant run from Nguyen and Thi Tran’s North Hollywood apartment, but thanks to the enigmatic dishes—and even more enigmatic patrons—it quickly landed on Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants list and became Yelp’s top rated Asian Fusion restaurant. After it was shut down because of legal complications a year later, and the inaugural brick-and-mortar shuttered shortly after that, the operation became a whirlwind of semi-permanent pop-up stints. When their January Kickstarter campaign failed to raise $500,000, it looked as if Starry Kitchen was left for dead.
But now, L.A.’s favorite illegal pop-up-turned-legit restaurant-turned-marijuana infuser-turned-crowdfunding maven has finally awoken from its seven-month nap donning a new label: tofu ball delivery pioneer.
Starry Kitchen first teamed up with Uber Eats back on July 7 to bring some if its signature pan-Asian dishes to Angelenos who happen to own a smartphone and live south of Sunset and west of the 5. On Tuesday July 28, they’re returning for round two. From 5 to 8:30 p.m. you can get an order of their crispy green tofu balls with Sriracha aioli and and Malaysian chicken curry with Okinawan sweet potatoes delivered to your doorstep for $12.99.
According to Nguyen—the guerrilla restaurant’s co-owner and banana suit-wearing hype man—the first attempt was not only successful, it was too successful. Uber was hit with such a massive flood of Starry Kitchen requests that some people wound up deprived of tofu balls and curry. Though Nguyen feels bad about the loyal fans who went to bed hungry, he’s also flattered by the demand.
“We had no idea people still loved or remembered us which was honestly, incredibly, and surprisingly touching,” he says. Emotional gratification and unexpectedly high sales numbers are why Nguyen and co-owner, executive chef, and wife Thi decided to come back for a second stab at the delivery pop-up game.
Aside from Starry Kitchen, Uber Eats has also been delivering food from Fundamental, Birch, Goldie’s, Bay Cities, Phorage, and other L.A. institutions. The demand for enjoying a first-class meal in the comfort of your own home (probably not wearing pants) only seems to be growing, and Nguyen thinks that can be a good thing.
They’re doing real numbers and giving restaurants real exposure to an even wider base of customers,” he says. “It’s an incredibly mutually beneficial relationship for both Uber and the businesses.”