Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Chairman (Los Angeles, CA)

The Chairman Restaurant
1200 E 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Sat 04/02/2016, 02:30p-03:55p

The Chairman Exterior

The story of The Chairman starts with Chi Hang "Josh" Tang, a former DLJ media banker who sold his online photo agency WireImage (and parent MediaVast) to Getty Images for over $200 million back in April 2007. After getting a taste of Mark Manguera and Roy Choi's Kogi, he found his next inspiration and started Mobi Munch in September 2009 with industry vets Aaron Noveshen and Ray Villaman (brother Lawrence Tang would eventually join the team as well). The idea behind Mobi Munch was to provide concept development and support for food trucks. However, the team first wanted to really learn the business and thus started two trucks of their own.

The first was the popular LudoBites Fried Chicken truck, while the second was Chairman Bao, which debuted in May 2010 in San Francisco (it was renamed in October 2011, ostensibly due to complaints by Baohaus' Eddie Huang). Just a few months later, Mobi Munch brought on board Hiroo Nagahara, former CdC of Bar Charlie in Las Vegas, to run the show. The Chairman was largely successful, and spawned multiple trucks as well as a brick-and-mortar in S.F. in April 2015, followed by this location in the Arts District, which dropped at the end of February. Nagahara, for his part, had left the company by July 2015.

The Chairman Interior
The Chairman Patio
The Chairman resides in a building that was previously used for Mobi Munch operations. The interior space is pretty compact, though the action's in the back patio anyway.

The Chairman Menu
Menu-wise, you get a choice of four proteins, each available in four vaguely Chinese-y formats, along with some sides. Click for a larger version.

Miso Glaze Pork Belly Steamed Bun
Miso Glaze Pork Belly Steamed Bun [$4.00] | turmeric pickled daikon
We began with the signature belly in gua bao form. It made for some tasty bites, the pork imbued with sweet, spicy flavors while the pickles provided a necessary brightness and crunch.

Spicy Chicken Cold Noodle Salad Bowl
Spicy Chicken Cold Noodle Salad Bowl [$10.00] | Potato noodles tossed in sesame puree, housemade pickled vegetables / sesame puree, panchan pickled carrots and cucumbers
The chicken showed off a welcomed depth and spice, and went well with the cool, slick noodles and pickle-y veggies. Lovely earthiness from the mushrooms as well.

Fennel Salad
Fennel Salad [$4.00]
The fennel salad had the crunch and astringency you'd expect, but the lemon-miso dressing went overwhelmingly sour.

Cola Pork Steamed Bun
Cola Pork Steamed Bun [$4.00] | garlic mayo, cabbage claw, mustard seed vinaigrette
The cola pork also delivered, with a somewhat deeper, more robust savor than the miso preparation and a great counterpoint from the slaw.

Ginger Lemonade
In terms of beverages, the Ginger Lemonade [$4] was a crowd-pleaser with its sweet-n-sour lemon notes layered with zesty, refreshing hits of ginger.

Miso Glaze Pork Belly Baked Bun
Miso Glaze Pork Belly Baked Bun [$8.00] | turmeric pickled daikon
The baked buns aren't exactly like what you'd get at dim sum. Rather, they make for an almost sandwich-like eating experience.

Miso Cured Tofu Cold Noodle Salad Bowl
Miso Cured Tofu Cold Noodle Salad Bowl [$10.00] | Potato noodles tossed in sesame puree, housemade pickled vegetables / tofu mayo, bok choy salad, miso vinaigrette
The tofu was a pleasant surprise, with a nice depth of flavor and a wonderfully crisp crust. It definitely held its own in a noodle bowl.

Seasoned Fries
Seasoned Fries [$5.00]
Double-fried Kennebec fries were thick-cut and hearty, with a nice textural contrast between their crisp exteriors and relatively pillow-y insides. I found 'em strongly seasoned, which made them quite delish on their own, but also a good pair with the various condiments available.

Spicy Chicken Baked Bun
Spicy Chicken Baked Bun [$8.00] | sesame puree, panchan pickled carrots and cucumbers
Compared to what we saw in the noodle bowl above, the chicken in the baked bun seemed to be more char-forward, which wasn't a bad thing. And again, the veggies were key.

Miso Cured Tofu Steamed Bun
Miso Cured Tofu Steamed Bun [$4.00] | tofu mayo, bok choy salad, miso vinaigrette
The steamed bun did a nice job highlighting the tofu, as well as the accompanying bitterness from the bok choy.

Seasonal Fresca
Today's Seasonal Fresca [$4] was a sweet-to-spicy chile-pineapple.

Spicy Yuzu Honey Wings
Spicy Yuzu Honey Wings [$8.00]
Wings (and drums) were super crispy, with a sweet-hot flavor profile and a nutty kick from the sesame.

Miso Cured Tofu Baked Bun
Miso Cured Tofu Baked Bun [$8.00] | tofu mayo, bok choy salad, miso vinaigrette
Here we see the tofu once again, a particularly crispy example that made sense with the slight sweetness of the baked bun.

Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl
Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl [$10.00] | Housemade pickled vegetables / sesame puree, panchan pickled carrots and cucumbers
My favorite item was actually the chicken rice bowl. I found it the most balanced, the most well-integrated, and the most gratifying, with an array of tastes and textures that really came together. A bit Chego-esque.

Rice Pudding
Rice Pudding [$4.00]
We closed with the rice pudding, a dense, thick preparation loaded with sweet spice and notes of what I believe was coconut.

I think we were all pretty pleased with The Chairman. The food was generally quite tasty, and the concept seems to have translated well from its origins as a food truck. A fun addition to the Arts District's casual dining scene.


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