"There were three things I was known for: short rib taco, beer can chicken, chubby pork belly bowl. Can't believe the chicken is gone."
Roy Choi is no stranger to waxing poetic on Twitter, but the above tweet caused a particular wave of nostalgia to ripple through his followers' feeds last week after A-Frame, Choi's Culver City restaurant that dabbled in Hawaiian fare but never fully committed to it, went full-on tropical. That beer can chicken is now a remnant of the old A-Frame, the one that gave way to poke and baby octopus and macaroni salad. I attended a friends, family and media dinner last Thursday, where the chef circled the restaurant, placing leis on diners with his trademark quiet grin before the lights dimmed and hula dancers glided through the space, now decorated with flower stencils and island decor.
Executing this change in the kitchen is A-Frame's new chef, Johnny Yoo, who encouraged Choi to embrace the aloha spirit (and food). So what should you order at the revamped restaurant? I have to talk about the Loco Moco first, namely because it embodies what might be the perfect stoner food while remaining a respectable dish your mom could order. Hambagu steak is piled on sticky rice and topped with curry gravy and a sunnyside up egg. One bite conjures up comparisons to meatloaf, green curry, stroganoff, and then again, something else entirely. Order it.
Other standout dishes include the ribs—both the O.G. baby back ribs doused in a hoisin chili glaze, and the oh-so-tender dried Korean shortrib—as well as the Big John Chili Rice Cakes, which feature crispy rice cakes swimming in a bowl of beef chili, white cheddar and pineapple. The poke at A-Frame is outstanding (a sampler is available for $16), as is the housemade spam, which comes by the piece or a full plate.
Choi isn't getting rid of all his hits, though. Chu Don't Know Mang—A-Frame's trademark dessert made of pound cake sticks dusted with cinnamon sugar—is still on the menu, and for that, I am thankful. Change is good, but really great desserts are better.
While the menu is still evolving, you can check out the new Hawaiian A-Frame now—and seriously, get the Loco Moco.