Inside corridor 109, the secret seafood dinners at Kobawoo in Koreatown
Over the past few months, Chef Brian Baik has hosted quiet tasting menus on Monday nights at Kobawoo House in Koreatown, a dinner series he calls Corridor 109. The name is a reference to the now-closed Parisian restaurant. Passage 53 and Kobawoo’s sequel number in the bustling little Vermont Avenue strip, and it’s supposed to merge two main parts of Baik’s background. This is because Baik’s family founded Kobawoo over 30 years ago, becoming world famous for its pork bossam and other traditional Korean dishes. The other part of the name is based on Baik’s experience at New York’s finest restaurants, from Eleven Madison Park, Brooklyn Fare, and Bouley to the most recent Sushi Noz.
These dinners are a bit of a test and a way to get the attention of Baik, who had considered opening his own modern Korean restaurant in New York City before deciding to relocate to Los Angeles during the pandemic. Early menus touted the potential of Baik’s cuisine, with pristine seafood sourced from Japan and Korea, as well as intricate dishes he and another cook prepare in Kobawoo’s kitchen.
The tastings only take place on Mondays as that is the only time the busy Korean restaurant is closed on weekdays. Enter through the side kitchen door to see a sparse, dimly lit dining room filled with chairs and tables blocking the main entrance. At the moment, dinners can only accommodate eight people per night, although Baik says they will eventually have two seats, doubling the number of diners to 16 every Monday.
The meal begins with a tart of chopped spotted shrimp and caviar with dried egg yolk, sweet onions, wasabi and citrus fruits, a wonderful appetizer that gives way to a moat from Jeju Island with uni in citrus jelly, ginger and shiso oil. The highlight of the introductory courses is Hokkaido iwashi toast, a nicely sliced and lightly marinated Japanese sardine placed on top of a piece of soft milk bread the size of a nigiri.
Intermediate dishes offer more of the seafood parade, Hokkaido scallops nestled in a rich spinach and clam sauce and garnished with herbaceous parsley oil. Yamaguchi’s red tile fish swims amid a puddle of dashi anchovies, seaweed and turnips that would taste perfect in a modern kaiseki meal while the saba pesto pasta has a touch of grated ginger and Pickled white kelp to bring together bright green spaghetti. Heavier carbs are a welcome course after a number of the lighter dishes that came before it.
The final phase of the tasting begins with a bouillabaisse of rock fish and blue crab, followed by an almost decadent Japanese abalone roasted, sliced, then placed on a koshihikari risotto and black truffle. It ends with a single scoop of black tea ice cream. Overall, the experience is reminiscent of Benu’s early days in San Francisco, with fine French technique and playful precision using East Asian seafood as the main characters.
And there are certainly some similarities to Providence and perhaps N / Naka, although Baik’s style and minimalism is unique to him. For now, the menu seems to be more directly influenced by Baik’s time in New York City, with more Japanese sashimi preparations and a neat presentation. Baik says he plans to make a version of his family’s famous bossam, although he concedes that even with years of professional restaurant experience, he is still unable to recreate the recipe exactly as his parents do.
As for the Korean character of the meal, Baik openly admits that it’s not quite Korean food on the plate: “I try to incorporate Korean specialty ingredients whenever I can find them. And of course I have the influence to be Korean and grow around [Kobawoo],” he says.
These first tastings of Corridor 109 are a window into the workshop period of a future gourmet restaurant. Baik has seen LA’s upscale scene rise in recent years, with the return of the Michelin Guide and talented chefs arriving in town with great success. In terms of tasting menu locations, LA appears to be catching up to New York and San Francisco, Baik seeing a lot of potential there with Kato, Hayato, and N / Naka gaining worldwide recognition.
Corridor 109 also joins LA’s burgeoning American Korean scene, with Perilla, Shiku, Kinn, Hanchic, Tokki, Yangban Society and Majordomo developing a true LA perspective on modern Korean cuisine. And Baik is clearly interested in adding to the more refined meal conversation that other young Asian American chefs like Mei Lin, Jon Yao, Zen Ong, Ki Kim, Nan Yimcharoen (from Kinkan), Minh Phan (from Phenakite) and Ryan Wong (from Needle) helped establish Los Angeles over the past few years.
Currently, dinners are held every Monday at Kobawoo. Check the Tock restaurant website for reservations. Normally, the price is $ 150 per person, excluding tax or tip, with optional glasses of wine available for purchase. Dinners updates will be posted on Instagram also. With a solid resume, a historic K-Town location, and top-notch ingredients, Baik’s Corridor 109 adds something very compelling to the LA foodie world.