Living in a city like Los Angeles, restaurants come and go without your ever knowing about most of them. It’s the bittersweet thing about the industry. People with good intentions and good ideas decide to open something and it just never clicks- and then there is the reverse. Certain places open and catch like wildfire. The hotspots.
What makes a restaurant popular or not is a formula that only few are truly successful at. Even places that get a lot of press in the beginning won’t stick around unless they have that je ne sais quois. There is a magic combination that’s hard to put your finger on. Through my own experience working in the industry what best I can tell is that the places that truly stick around create the perfect mix of innovation and familiarity. People return repeatedly to places where they find a sense of comfort all while having it kicked up a notch higher than what they can accomplish at home. At least that is my assessment living here in Southern California.
Molecular gastronomy and more fussy techniques don’t really seem to fit the Socal vibe. True there are chefs who thrive on art and innovation- and that’s beautiful– but we are a kale eating green juice sipping community with a side of avocado toast or grain bowl. Throw in a grass fed burger on top of that with a house cured lox plate and you’ve struck gold. Something for everyone. When it comes to culinary art, to disregard what is happening in the health and wellness scene is a mistake. Organic, local, gluten free, and sustainable isn’t just a fad. I believe chefs have an obligation to the culinary landscape to contribute something that is considerate. This isn’t Paris in the 80’s. People are waking up and making healthier choices.
Baroo is absolutely the perfect merge of both worlds. Chef Kwang Uh is modestly leading the way to what the future of food looks like.
Kwang is a culinary talent who is mindful. He has an extensive resume, having worked in some of the top restaurants in the world- think Daniel, Noma, and Quique Dacosta to name a few, but he’s so incredibly humble I almost hesitate to mention. He incorporates a philosophy of organics and sustainability into all menu items, and focuses on using low impact, healthful culinary techniques like fermentation into his dishes. When I asked Kwang about fermentation, he passionately responded. Fermentation creates a natural umami flavor – it’s actually the same chemical compound (only natural) version of MSG. Not only does fermentation enhance flavor, but of course it also provides many health benefits by contributing amino acids and beneficial bacteria to help satiate us, and boost digestion. The history of fermentation is almost as old as the human species and has a place in virtually every culture. Adding it back to menus’ is sort of a reverse innovation. The walls of the restaurant are lined with interesting fermentation projects. A little culinary science laboratory without anything artificial. It’s really cool.
This old meets new vibe is what Baroo is all about. Kwang is a chef who undoubtedly recognizes that the future of food is in sustainability. Gone are the days where high impact cuisine is truly something to get excited about. Preservation, affordable ingredients (like grains) , and plant based product make up the future of food.
Their moto sums it up-
“To serve food with respect & love to nature and people,
we try to use local, sustainable, and organic ingredients
with wit, open mind, free spirit and fermentation as much as possible”
Baroo is where you find that warm, cozy, satiating dish with an artful, interesting culinary approach applied. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had, but everything you’ve wanted. I’ve been lucky enough to sample almost every dish on the menu all while sipping on a house made kombucha or tepache (a fermented beverage made from the peel and the rind of pineapples). The kimchi fried rice is made with pineapple fermented kimchi, amira basmati rice, gremolata, pineapple jalapeño salsa, purple potatoes, roasted seaweed, a 63 degree sous vide egg…and more. It is completely out of this world. I could eat it over and over again. The Noorook (Koji) with mixed grains, roasted koji beet cream, kombu dashi and toasted steeds was as beautiful as it was delicious. Like nothing I’ve ever had before. The pickle sampler, Gim (Seaweed Bowl) , Celeriac Pasta- all of it tasted truly amazing. Unique and familiar all at the same time. Umami indeed.
Baroo means a bowl that Buddhist monks are allowed to possess and use for their meals until their last breath. If Baroo was in my bowl until my last breath, I might die happy.