3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Date of Visit
December 22, 2010, approx 8:15pm
Chego is a tiny, parking-devoid strip mall houses this Kogi-inspired (and owned) Korean-influenced, upper-scale, lower-cost snack shop. The space is rather small – my guess is there is a capacity of no more than 30 people, with seating split amongst two long, communal tables (one for sit-down, one for ‘stand and eat’) and one small counter.
The decor is rather charming for the limited wallspace; there is an elevated shelf full of chotchkies from the 90’s and early 2000’s, including a Tupac “All Eyes on Me” record, a Power Ranger toy, some miscellaneous vinyl, throwback lunchboxes and various other American and Korean items. Aside from that, a mirror graces the one full wall, which leads into a self-serve area, where customers can get their own drinks, napkins, plasticware, ice-cold water & Sriracha.
The music was a definite plus; a little Deadmou5 mixed in with Tiesto & Oakenfold might not be the prototypical ambient-while-I’m-eating music, but the energy and the demographic are entuned to the sounds, and it does add a good buzz.
The bathroom is worth noting as it is a single (boys & girls unite!), with a basket of thick chalk that encourages messages, writing and cutsey sayings: “Leggo my Chego,” “I Lovett,” “This place is damn good,” etc.
There is one line that leads to a register close to the entrance, where customers are provided a number based on order, which the pleasant servers bring pretty expediently. We did not have to wait particularly long (five minutes in line, five minutes for food), though the cafeteria-seating is more conducive to say, a New York eatery. Though this setup encourages socialization, it is my belief that Los Angelenos are very accustomed to their own ‘space,’ much more so than most cities, as we spend more time in our cars (our own personal box) than any other metropolis in the U.S. That said, my friends rather enjoyed it and if I weren’t so socially unorthodox it would probably be a wonderfully social & diverse experience. Now on to the
Ooey Gooey Fries – They were ooey, they were gooey, but aside from that gratuitous use of sour cream and the two cheeses (monterrey jack, cheddar), there wasn’t much flavor. I figured with cilantro, chilies, and fries they couldn’t go wrong. Now don’t misunderstand – they were good, but just not bursting with the devilish goodness I’ve come to expect from even a simple cheese fries platter.
3pm Meatballs – I was anticipating these as much as anything on the menu; my personal philosophy is that you just ‘cant go wrong with a meatball unless it’s too dry.’ Well, these meatballs might have been made at 3pm as they definitely were dry. Additionally, the habanero/blueberry salsa tasted of neither, which was a real disappointment to this habanero aficionado.
Charred Baby Bok Choi & Portabello – Delicious. Well-prepared, tasty, fresh and the perfect amount of garlic. Nom Nom.
The Beefy T – Solid, not spectacular. Again, very well-prepared but the ‘rice bowl’ sort of muddles the variety of flavor, especially with the limited ingredients in the dish (steak, chili fried rice).
Chubby Pork Belly – Pork Belly is wonderful in any iteration, and this is no exception. Wonderfully prepared – notice a theme here? – with a charred outer cube leading to a tender, buttery interior. . .but the dish itself was lacking, despite the array of ingredients (watermelon radish, peanuts, kurobuta, fried egg, cilantro). I was wondering how this could be possible then concluded that perhaps the rice bowl concept is the exact aspect of this restaurant that actually detracts from the overall goodness of the dishes.
Sriracha Bar – A curiosity for sure, a handmade candy bar featuring Sriracha flavor. . .how distinct and original! The problem, however, was none of us at the table detected even a hint of the delicious spicy sauce. Was a darn good candy bar, though.
Doughnuts (special) – The highlight of the meal, these not-too-sweet doughnuts were sugared perfectly, yet the dough was somewhat savory – creating a great package that we gladly gobbled.
In short, both entrees tasted a bit too similar for my taste and neither had the WOW factor, even to the extent of the standard Kogi fare. As a whole, I would not go out of my way to return, though I would not complain if I were in the neighborhood and the restaurant was suggested.
In L.A. Terms: Drive 11 minutes OFF THE FREEWAY to eat at Chego.