Prolific Los Angeles chef Roy Choi has famously ventured from a food truck to restaurants exploring varying styles of food pertaining to the theme of the restaurant, like Hawaiian food at A-Frame, and even, his game-changing Korean short rib taco birthed at the Kogi food truck.
With each new restaurant — whether the entire menu oozes with traditional-Korean flavors or is more of a fusion fare — he remains perched in Los Angeles, California. Choi’s status amongst Angelenos attributes to expanding in LA county, but at the top of this year, he announced his big move of opening a new restaurant in Las Vegas where a piece of L.A. will go along with him. After much anticipation for this new restaurant, Choi finally unveiled the entrance, dining area, and the name— ‘Best Friend,’ planning to open this December.
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It is located right on the Las Vegas Strip, in the new Park MGM Hotel, and this piece of Los Angeles pertains to Choi and Angelenos themselves. For Choi, the restaurants he opened in his hometown have a place at this establishment: “It is the only place to sink your teeth into all the flavors from Kogi to Commissary and everything in between, along with fresh new ideas I’ve been cooking up for years.”
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The first step into ‘Best Friend’ is the ‘Liquor Store’, which is essentially, a small neighborhood bodega: mildly quaint and retro — the mild barred by the extravagance of Las Vegas. This remixed version of Los Angeles with bright colors and neon lights makes it as Vegas as it could get.
“It’s Koreatown in a capsule — a portal to the streets of LA, but also rooted in what makes Las Vegas, VEGAS,” says Roy Choi. From the looks of it, the ‘Liquor Store’ boasts relics and iconic figures from the City of Angels along with nods to Choi’s musical tastes: an N.W.A poster, Biggie’s quote ‘It was all a dream’ fluoresced with neon lights, and a ‘Koreatown’ neon sign, too. An early look at this entrance feels like a game of I Spy, the premise being: How LA is this LA-inspired restaurant?
In a previous interview with Foodbeast, Choi stated: “I want people from L.A. to walk in and be like, ‘FUCK YEAH‘ and ‘OHHH SHIIIT‘, you know? I want you to roll up with all your friends and feel at home. And then I want people from elsewhere to feel like they’re getting a good glimpse into what it’s like to live in Los Angeles. We’re very aware that this is gonna be a Vegas restaurant. So we won’t shy away from the big and spectacular. If they can recreate the cities of Paris and Rome in Vegas, I want to recreate Los Angeles, too, with varied levels of nuance.”
Yes, the food and the origins carry the culture of L.A., but what seems to matter to Choi more is the atmosphere. He wants to mirror L.A.’s laid-back, yet urban vibe; highlighting the quaint, corner-shops and passing cars bumping N.W.A, Tupac, and The Pharcyde (so, expect to hear all of the hip-hop classics blasting throughout the restaurant).
Los Angeles’ food in Las Vegas is a symbol of Choi extending his vision past the L.A. city limits, but beyond that, it is a creation made through collaboration with his own best friends — utilizing Sean Knibb and David Irvin’s design, Patrick Martinez’s neon art, and Travis Jensen’s photography.
As ‘Best Friend’ opens up in December, it will capture the vibe of Choi’s hometown but resonate around the culture — where diversity, is formed by the food and people— and that, is what makes this L.A.-inspired restaurant truly L.A.: “I want Best Friend to energize the minds of people looking to experience the best in life. Whether they are from Hollywood or Hong Kong, D.C. or Down Under, I hope all guests are licking their fingers with their mouths full saying ‘holy shit!’ as they reach across the table for another bite. L.A. food in Las Vegas. Los Vegas. Best Friend. Forever.”