Hanchik and sacred basil They are medium-sized restaurants in Los Angeles, but their collective impact makes them feel much bigger. In May, during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, both restaurants are making pop-ups across town while working on aggressive expansion plans. In the process, they made it clear that they represented the future of Asian-American food in Los Angeles.
Hanchic—where chef Justin Min serves up popular fusions such as kimchi tagliatelle, bulgogi risotto, and Mandu with a doenjang-style hoof in Bolognese—is 1,200 square feet with seven tables in a mall on the edge of Koreatown. But this limited space didn’t stop Maine and his partners at In Hospitality Group from using it as a test kitchen for multiple concepts. Chimmelier, the fried chicken place in Hospitality In Hospitality that started as a pop-up after Min made some sauces at Hanchic, just opened a brick-and-mortar location a couple of blocks away.
In the hospitality, run by Min, Dustin Lee, Kevin Son, and Jeff Jun, they also teamed up with Instagram sensation baker Jiyoon Jang to open the moody, chic Mil Bakery at All Good Things Market, in the same building as Chimmelier. In addition to serving up lovely pastries like black sesame mochi cake slabs, miso jaro cookies and sock marble cake, Jang makes a new bun for Chimmelier’s fried chicken sandwich.
The group’s portfolio also includes Kinn, where New York’s two-Michelin-star Korean restaurant Jungsik and Atomix offers a $72 six-course tasting menu. Chef Ki Kim highlights at the Summer Prix his version of Korean corn dog (with Dungeness crab), Pyongyang naengmyeon and elegantly painted chicken tteokgalbi topped with edible herbs and flowers. A perfectly cooked octopus with gochujang (a $20 complement to the tasting menu), crunchy but yielding without being mushy, became a signature dish for under-year-old Kinn.
And while Kim says he’s happy with its current price point and in its comfortable space with a tasting counter and some small tables, Lee says he’d like to find a larger location that would be more suited to Kim’s fine dining ambitions.
in sacred basilOperating on a 700-square-foot location in the downtown Santee Passage food court, chefs Deau Arpapornnopparat and Joy Yuon create uncompromising, gloriously herbal and habit-forming Bangkok street food with first-class ingredients. There is green curry with chicken Jidori and gra pow (a dish supported by Thai herbs known as sacred basil) with Wagyu or Crispy Pork. Mushrooms are a vegetarian dish full of acid, spice, and contrasting textures. Arpapornnopparat and Yuon also run The Base, which makes sweeteners and drink appetizers and has been featured at the Smorgasburg food market. And Yuon is a beverage witch who might have a tea bar, with a production team dedicated to her drinks, in the next location sacred basil.
Arpapornnopparat and Yuon are working on opening this new restaurant in Atwater Village later this year. They will have outdoor seating and are considering adding a children’s menu and market with Asian products, including some that they develop themselves. After that the biggest project in holly valiant horizon It might be a location near Koreatown, a 3,000-square-foot space that would include an omakase Thai bar along with curries, noodles, and rice bowls.
“Joey and I talked about this recently,” Arpapornnopparat says of the omakase bar. “Why stay in that box? We can cook absolutely anything to make it Thai food. The tasting menu always enhances who we are as chefs. Just open your mind, whether you’re cooking a really old recipe or upgrading a new one. I feel like there aren’t many people doing the food.” Thai is like this, so why don’t we do it?”
Even at their small downtown digs, Arpapornnopparat and Yuon served up a dinner from the tasting menu, including a special pop-up feast for AAPI Heritage Month. That dinner, with heirloom rice flown in from Thailand, fried barramundi and fermented pork, was during the same month when sacred basil It was cooked on both days of Eeeeeatscon LA at The Infatuation and featured at Mama’s Night Market.
Hanczyk has also cooked at Eeeeeatscon Restaurant. And on the night that the Chimmelier served up great fried chicken and sauces at Mama’s Night Market, Min prepared multiple dishes for an AAPI collaboration dinner alongside dessert Domi at Chinatown Steep Tea House. Somehow, In Hospitality moved Chimmelier to Smorgasburg every Sunday and opened its traditional locations in Chimmelier and Mil. Then Min, who was also part of a panel discussion at Sundae School in Smorgasburg in May, and Hanchic participated in the Taste of the Nation event on June 5.
If you ask Hanchic and sacred basil Why say yes to many things, they will give you similar answers. They are not into this just to have a restaurant right now. Each wants to create a thriving Asian American hospitality group. And there was no way to dismiss the highlights of a month that celebrates the AAPI community.
“First of all, our priority is to get our name out there,” Lee says. “And especially with the AAPI month, there were a lot of good events that were trying to support companies like us. We didn’t want to miss any opportunities. We just had to say yes to everything.”
“The main thing for us, because we’re still young, is that we want to advertise ourselves,” Arpapornoparat says. “Any good chance possible, we’re doing it. It’s just to get steady momentum. And with something like Mama, he’s cool and he’s also Asian, right? We have to be there for our brand.”
Something else feeds Hanchic and sacred basil It is their belief that there is plenty of room for Korean and Thai food to grow, respectively.
Lee recently visited San Francisco and dined at San Ho-won and Bino with Kim.
“I was amazed how Korean food got this far,” Lee says. It motivated us to move forward. We want to eat Korean food in different ways, because there are many good traditional Korean restaurants in Los Angeles. We thought it would be best to put our own style into it.”
Lee says the idea for In Hospitality originally arose from a trip to New York City, when he dined at Cote, Jua, Take31, and Nowon and realized he wanted to help create a Korean food scene for a new school in Los Angeles. He knows that he and his partners run as fast as they can and often find things out while running. But after opening Hanchic in September 2020 and surviving a pandemic that isn’t quite over yet, Lee is energized by the possibilities you see In Hospitality.
“We’ve been running for the last year, but we’ve been running into the wall,” Lee says. “Now I can see where we’re going.”
When I told Lee that there was no such thing as Jungsik and Atomix in L.A., he nodded and said, “That’s why we have to hurry.” Lee sees an opportunity to do something for his culture, so his goal is just to put himself and his partners in a position where they can change the conversation about Korean food in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, when he tells Maine that it’s good that small, independent restaurants like Hanchic are still standing and climbing now, he laughs.
“It’s more like getting ready for a climb,” Main says. “It’s just the beginning, now that things are back to normal.”
When you run small, independent restaurants, it often comes down to the day-to-day matters: hiring, cooking, and the challenges associated with the pandemic that remain. But it is also important to look to the future.
Chimmelier is something In Hospitality hopes to grow into an express service chain. In addition to fried chicken, Chimmelier offers kimchi fried rice and street foods like corn cheese and shrimp toast.
“It’s kind of like a Korean Jollibee,” Lee says.
And in hospitality it is not limited to Korean food. Min, who previously cooked Vietnamese food at Little Sister, was making a lunch pop-up with pho and other Vietnamese dishes at Hanchic.
sacred basilFor their part, Arpapornnopparat and Yuon want this space to be the epicenter of the experience, where casual fast food and elaborate tasting menus coexist with wine pairings. They are constantly experimenting with new ideas and developing new concepts.
“The plan is to have a group of Thai restaurants and some Thai merchandise, like in Thailand but growing in Los Angeles,” says Arpapornoparat.
He and Yoon were exploring multiple spaces throughout Los Angeles. As always, they are willing to say yes quickly if they see a good opportunity.