Tuesday, March 24, 2015


After Roy Choi's big success with Kogi and Chego, A-Frame was his next attempt at bringing his style of Korean meets LA, street, soul, all the while keeping it real, to Angelenos.  I was supremely impressed at his offering during my first visit in 2010.  I had been back maybe 2 more times since then with each visit impressing me just a little bit less.  I've accepted that maybe I cannot be impressed by the same trick pony?  Maybe other Angelenos have been feeling similarly about A-Frame, possibly driving Roy Choi to change things up.  A-Frame made the recent change from "modern picnic" to "modern Hawaiian picnic."  The menu feels like they took some of the old menu items and reinvented it with a Hawaiian twist.  So of course I had to call up my Hawaiian buddy, Luau Bear, to get the low down on A-Frame's Hawaiian authenticity.  The other bears joined in of course, Panda Bear, Mani Bear, Buff Bear, and Farm Bear.

Big John Chili Rice Cakes beef chili, crispy korean rice cakes, white cheddar, sour cream, chive, pineapple
I don't remember there being chili on the previous menu, but this looked interesting enough.  It was pretty heavy between the hearty chili and the chewy rice cakes.  The cheese and sour cream didn't help offset the big load here.  It was tasty, but maybe had too much going on.

Poke Sampler
Shrimp, citrus, blood orange
Tuna, wasabi mayo, cucumbers, edamame
The tuna with wasabi mayo was also heavy and needed some restraint.  I'm not a fan of overly mayo-ed foods.  We all preferred the citrusy and lighter shrimp poke.

Eight-Legged Duck baby octopus terrine, seared foie gras, crispy rice, crispy shallot, sweet chili sauce
OK, this was frankly the oddest dish of the night.  I'm not sure where they got the idea of pairing octopus and foie gras.  It made no sense.  The octopus had no taste.  All the random other components made for a really confused dish.  On the upside, the foie tasted fatty and unctuous.
Pork Belly Lechon Ssam bibb lettuce, cucumbers, chilies, fresh herbs, island chimichurri, green sriracha
Out of all the dishes, this dish was the cleanest, simplest, and therefore the strongest dish.  It felt the most true to the original flavors and concepts of the first iteration of A-Frame's menu.  It felt like they took the beer can chicken dish and reworked it into this pork version.  The pork skin was so perfectly crisp, and all the accouterments made for delectable little wrap.  I passed on using the perilla leaf when the bibb lettuce ran out.  Yuck! Perilla.
Yakisoba Noodle seasonal vegetables, pickled red ginger, fresh herbs, yakisoba sauce
I honestly cannot remember much of this dish, so that probably speaks for itself.
Huli Huli marinated rotisserie chicken, cilantro, huli butter sauce
The next few dishes all were pretty tasty in a similar way.  Some tasty sauces carried home these proteins.  This chicken dish felt particularly Indian in some way.  I couldn't pinpoint the exact spice, but everyone agreed.
North Shore shell-on shrimp, garlic, butter, bird's eye chili, pineapple
The shrimps were meaty and sweet, but that sauce, while quite flavorful felt a little too goopy and monotonous after a while.  The dish seemed to lack the refined simplicity of the lechon ssam.
Loco Moco hambagu steak, rice, curry gravy, sunnyside egg, pickled pearl onion
I'm quite partial to curry sauces, so this might have been the best loco moco I've eaten and probably my favorite of the goopy trio of dishes.  I wish I could order this at my local Curry House.
Butter Mochi Cake dulce de leche, pickled cara cara oranges, candied orange peel, mint
I thought this was gonna be more cake than mochi, but it really was like a sweet square of chewy slightly buttery mochi.  The tops and bottoms were crispy, which was nice for the texture.  I'm not sure the masses are gonna gravitate towards something like this, probably opting for the more familiar texture of cake or custard.
Chu Don't Know Mang pound cake, cinnamon sugar, malted chocolate milk, vanilla ice cream
I was very happy that this dessert was one of the few items that survived the revamp.  It was pretty spectacular the first time I had it.  On subsequent visits, as with this visit, I felt the pound cake was a bit too fried and not cakey enough.  Still though, the idea of making marrying pound cake and churro is still genius in my book.
The food was tasty, but didn't really knock my socks off like it did on my first visit.  Many of the dishes felt heavy and lacked the refinement and wow that brought Roy Choi his fame.  Also, Luau Bear commented that the food wasn't really Hawaiian either.  But I guess you can't fault them on that because they were probably aiming for Hawaiian inspired rather than Hawaiian authentic.  I mean, let's be frank, real Hawaiian food is actually not that great in my opinion.  It is heavy and one dimensional, a la Pine Tree Cafe.  Two thumbs up for the pork belly lechon ssam, their loco moco, and of course the Chu Don't Know Mang, but the other dishes didn't really feel like Roy Choi's food.  I wonder if Chef Choi is spreading himself too thin with all the many projects he's involved in?  This is probably not an uncommon occurrence for your brand to get diluted as your grow and expand.  In any case, I'll probably still follow his projects and stay a fan for now.

10 - You NEED to eat here 
9 - Awesome! 
8 - Very good
7 - Good 
6 - OK
5 - Average
4 - Not bad
3 - Not good
2 - Terrible
1 - Do NOT go here


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