The Chairman, a food truck and restaurant from San Francisco that specializes in Chinese-style steamed and baked baos, has opened a branch in the downtown Arts District.
The brainchild of Josh Tang, the Chairman was a concept launched from Tang’s Mobi Munch, a one-stop solution for the modern food-truck operator that assists in renting, operating and developing mobile culinary concepts -- originally from the Bay Area and now based in L.A.
Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s LudoBites fried chicken truck in Los Angeles was one of Mobi Munch’s first rollouts, along with the Chairman truck in San Francisco.
After talking to Kogi BBQ truck founders Roy Choi and Mark Manguera in 2008, Tang was inspired to dive into Mobi Munch, a start-up he created after selling his previous venture, WireImage, to Getty Images in 2007. In 2010, upon recruiting a talented chef named Hiroo Nagahara, the Chairman truck began selling baos on the streets of San Francisco. Once the truck gained popularity, Tang opened a storefront in the Tenderlion district.
Signs leading into the Chairman L.A. are deliberately weathered, giving the restaurant an aura that it’s been in the neighborhood for a long time. In its previous incarnation, the space was a tow yard and, although gutted completely, the rough exterior remains, as interpreted by architect Stephen Zwick of Ztecture Inc. The parking lot serves as a storage area for some of Mobi Munch’s trucks.
Red, black and white are the main colors represented within the bold propaganda-style artwork created by visual artist James Jean. The Chairman himself alludes to Mao Tse-tung if Mao were a panda bear. A hand extends forcefully out from the L.A. skyline holding a bao before a billowing banner.
Those baked bao are custom-made from Rockenwagner Bakery and resemble brioche. The steamed versions are puffy and fold over the fillings, resembling a taco. Rice and a cold noodle salad are also base options to support selections such as miso-glazed pork belly with house-made turmeric daikon pickles, Coca-Cola-braised pork atop pickled mustard seed slaw and garlic mayo, spicy chicken with sesame puree and panchan pickles, or the vegetable option of miso-cured tofu with baby bok choy.
For sides, there are double-fried Kennebec fries, yuzu-glazed chicken wings, fennel salad, and a cinnamon-and-rice cardamom pudding. Wash all that bao down with a rotating selection of season aguas frescas such as ginger-lemonade.
Beer and wine are coming soon, and if the Chairman's Arts District location does well, a new truck will be added to the mix.
The Chairman is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
1200 E. 5th St., Los Angeles, www.hailthechairman.com.
For the record:
Feb. 25, 12:20 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Stephen Gordon is the architect. The architect is Stephen Zwick.