99 Essential Restaurants 2014


photo by Anne Fishbein

Of all the restaurants and trucks operated by chef Roy Choi, A-Frame is in many ways the slickest, the most tarted up and trendy. But it also shows the breadth of Choi’s talents, which go far beyond Chego’s rice bowls and Kogi’s Korean tacos. Located in an old IHOP, the restaurant bills itself as a place to experience a “modern picnic,” and most of the food plays with that notion — this is an international feast, but a joyously laid-back one. Choi is having a lot of fun here: The fish tacos taste almost Middle Eastern, with spiced yogurt and tomato confit, while the lamb meatballs, marinated in sesame shoyu and served with salsa verde, have both Asian and Latin overtones. A “Vietnamese salad” comes as a huge pile of Bibb and Gem lettuces, shot through with copious amounts of fragrant leafy herbs, citrus and creamy hunks of avocado. The beer can chicken comes with both kimchi and two kinds of salsas; it’s one of the better juicy birds in town. Choi barges through international barriers yet nothing seems overwrought or muddled. Above all, he’s a chef who’s not afraid of flavor, and his willingness to simply smack us with that idea again and again is delightful.

-- Besha Rodell