Smelling the morning desert air. Looking at the sky at dusk. Smoking, drinking and playing Blackjack.
These are a few of Chef Roy Choi’s favorite things about Las Vegas.
The chef is a relative newcomer to Sin City, having opened Best Friend at Park MGM in late December.
In Los Angeles, though, he’s an institution and king of the food truck movement, even appearing on Time’s 100 list of the world’s most influential people. He and his gourmet Korean-Mexican taco truck, Kogi BBQ, inspired the Jon Favreau film Chef.
Now Choi is collaborating with Favreau on a Netflix cooking show, The Chef Show. He’s also producing and hosting the television series Broken Bread, where he explores complex social justice issues in L.A.
“Food is community,” explains Choi, who is very proud of the show. “I was approached by KCET and Tastemade to go deeper into the things that matter to me, and see if we could amplify the philosophy that food is a catalyst for change. So, we went on a quest to find good people doing great things against all odds.”
Choi describes Best Friend as a portal to his hometown, serving up a remastered collection of L.A. food, music and culture on the Las Vegas Strip. To enter the open-kitchen Korean barbecue joint dining room, you first pass through a Koreatown-inspired bar/liquor store (with plenty of neon) selling quick bites and Best Friend merchandise. The vibe is loose and laid-back L.A. merged with vibrant Vegas.
Choi recently shared some of his thoughts with BestOfVegas.com about Best Friend and what he calls “sibling cities,” Vegas and L.A.
What makes Best Friend different from other Vegas restaurants?
Roy Choi: Maybe the kimchi. Maybe the subwoofers. Maybe the hip hop. Maybe the smiles. Maybe the team. Maybe the uniforms. Maybe the design. Maybe the vibe. Maybe the BBQ. Maybe the fermentation. Maybe the love.
Why did you decide to venture into Vegas?
RC: They asked, and I was in a good mood that day. Plus, I know that so many people from L.A. go to Vegas. So, I wanted to honor L.A. for them, but at the same time show the world a bit of our L.A., because Las Vegas is the world’s stage.
What are some of the differences and similarities between the L.A. and Vegas food scenes?
RC: Differences are budgets, prices and amount of large parties. Similarities are the flavors and hard work. Most of the produce in Vegas comes from California, and the town is a hospitality town, and I like the work ethic – it is what I’m used to in L.A. We are sibling cities.
How is Las Vegas embracing Best Friend?
RC: I am humbled by the love we have gotten from the city and the locals. So, I would say that we have been embraced as family and I will never forget that and will do my best to keep the restaurant fresh as it grows to honor that love.
Where do you like to eat in Vegas?
RC: Noodles at the Bellagio and the Bally’s buffet.
What is your favorite thing to cook and why?
RC: Rice, because it’s my foundation.
Will we be seeing more of you here in Vegas?
RC: I wanna do more stuff in Vegas. More bars, entertainment, restaurants. I feel this is the place where imagination can truly become reality. And I got a lot of imagination.
Best Friend is open from 5 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Promotions include All-you-can-eat Mondays, Taco and Tallboy Tuesdays and Vinyl Thursdays, which include free admission to neighboring nightclub, On the Record.