Roy Choi may be the Led Zeppelin of street food: the father of a truck-based restaurant industry that hadn't existed just 18 months ago; the chef who draws huge numbers of people to deserted parking lots; the architect of a new, popular cuisine. He was the only Los Angeles chef to be named one of Food + Wine's best new chefs this year, and at food-industry events, CEOs of multinational corporations hang on him like custom Loro Piana worsted.
So what is Choi's second act? Rice bowls! And not the skanky, stringy underseasoned rice bowls you may remember from hundreds of now-dead Yoshinoya restaurants, but multifaceted, soulful things, utterly un-Korean in concept but Korean to their core, things like ultrafunky kimchi bowls tossed with buttered rice; chile-rubbed prime rib rice bowls with horseradish, and a rice bowl highlighted by a slab of pork belly that has been burnished as lovingly with Korean chile paste as a '64 Impala show car has been rubbed with lacquer. At Chego, you can start with charred asparagus, fluffy Korean meatballs or a "$12 salad'' if you like, but the only dessert is a deconstructed Rocky Road sundae with caramel, brownies and marshmallow fluff.
The restaurant proper is a tiny place in an obscure Westside mini-mall, personalized with small collections of books and toys — it looks like the kind of hidden Tokyo jazz bar that can take three sets of cabbies to find.
CHEGO: 3300 Overland Ave., Palms, (310) 287-0337, eatchego.com. Open Tues.-Sat., 6 p.m.-mid. MC, V. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. Appetizers, $4-$7; rice bowls $7-$9; dessert $5.