It used to be that you could find a whole lotta Californians in Seoul, but not a single California burrito. All that’s changed now with the arrival of Cali Kitchen, opened by native Californian Chuck Chun. A businessman by trade but a chef at heart, Chuck was known for hosting small pop-ups in Seoul, cooking whichever hard-to-get foods he had a hankering for, be it Chipotle-style Mexican or Argentinian-style steak with chimichurri. Chuck decided to open CALI Kitchen this year to fill that Californian-Mexican hole in our hearts, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
The menu is divided into two sides: on the left, you have the Cali Burger (which Chuck describes as “the love child of a Shake Shack burger and an In-n-Out burger”) and chili fries; on the right you have the burritos, including that famous California Burrito. Loaded with your typical beef burrito fixings plus fries, it’s a hefty meal that’s more filling than flavorful, but it has its fans (San Diego surfers chow down on these after a long day out on the waves). If you like your salsa with a lot of kick, Chuck sometimes has an extra spicy batch on hand that you can ask for. The chili is well worth noting: we couldn’t stop eating it off the fries (we’ll order the chili separately next time). It’s a mildly spiced recipe that’s full of meat, including a lot of steak. “Our butcher looks at us like we’re crazy when we ask him to grind up that quality meat,” Chuck laughs.
But it’s this commitment to high quality ingredients that makes CALI Kitchen stand out. They make all their sauces in-house, from the mayo to the crème fraîche, and are extra generous with the guacamole. Even if he ends up making less of a profit, Chuck wants to stay true to his Cali roots. And he’s got a vision: ultimately, he hopes to help change what customers expect from restaurants here and help improve the overall quality of the dining scene. We think he’s on the right track.