EDIT: Chego has relocated to Chinatown. Perhaps someday it will get a review of its own.
With the resounding success of the Kogi BBQ trucks and the Kogi location at the Alibi Room, the people behind Kogi are looking to revolutionize the foodscape of LA once again, with rice. Well, not just with any rice, but with fanciful rice bowls from a real location in Palms called Chego! Their website describes their food as “Chillax peasant food from the soul” and while the word “chillax” sends shivers of discomfort down my spine, I had to see if Chego! carried on the Kogi magic.
Since the place just opened last week and I went on Friday, I expected to find a long wait. After all, people still wait in line for an hour at the Kogi trucks and they have been around for over a year. It appeared we were in luck, though, for although every table was taken, there was no wait to order. The menu wasn’t terribly big, but did seem to have a little something for everyone. Except unvegans. Aside from the meatball appetizer, every dish was tainted by some sort of vegetable. Of these, Tiny’s Prime Rib Rice Bowl looked to fit my needs the best. The menu said it came with fried egg, creamed horseradish and water spinach. I ordered it without that spinach and also decided to get their meatballs as an appetizer. These were called the 3PM Meatballs and were made with beef and pork on top of a polenta patty.
I paid up my 14 bucks and then began the search for a seat. Chego!, like too many places, only does self-seating. While this could seem nice, it really just creates an uncomfortable situation where you have to hover around people hoping that they will be leaving soon. If you bet on the wrong horse, someone who arrived 10 minutes after you could end up sitting first. Fortunately, just as our food came out of the kitchen, a table opened up for us.
I ate my meatballs first, which were pretty good. They had a sauce on them that was very similar in taste to other Kogi foods I have had, which is really good, but nothing new. The meatballs themselves were a good meaty blend. They fell apart a little too easily, but overall were quite delicious. Then it was on to my rice bowl. Unfortunately, my request for no spinach had fallen on deaf ears, as I found leafy greens atop my dish. I did my best to avoid these as I ate, but it was kind of difficult. Aside from that, the rice bowl was quite good. The egg was perfectly cooked and runny and the creamed horseradish added some nice flavor. The prime rib itself was cooked to a solid medium, but hadn’t been cut up at all, which meant that I needed a knife to eat my rice bowl. Sporks were available, which was amazing and made me wonder why more places not named Taco Bell don’t have them, but these sporks could not help me cut through that beef.
Midway through the dish, the nice little hostess lady asked how the food was. I gave her a thumbs up, since my mouth was stuffed, and then she told us that chego actually means thumbs up in Korean. It’s actually a great way to describe the restaurant. It certainly deserved a thumbs up and although I don’t think it will have a Kogi BBQ-esque affect in LA (especially if they can’t give me rice without spinach), it will definitely be a good place to have in walking distance of my apartment.