Maybe it's because he spends a lot of time contemplating the seemingly permanent lines at Eggslut, his egg sandwich stall at Grand Central Market, but chef Alvin Cailan has been thinking about what it takes to wait for a restaurant to open. It takes time, staff and training, and a kitchen to explore and test concepts. Which is why, while he waits for those things himself — Cailan is currently expanding Eggslut to both Venice and Las Vegas — he decided to open a kitchen incubator.
Unit 120 is Cailan's latest project, a culinary incubator that he's about to open in Chinatown's Far East Plaza. It's a location the chef is familiar with, as it's where he opened Ramen Champ last year, before selling it to Yoshimasa Kasai, the former director of the Ramen Yokocho festival. Unit 120 is named for the space it occupies, and is on the ground floor of the plaza, a few doors down from Andy Ricker's Pok Pok Phat Thai and across the patio from Roy Choi's Chego. Lots of chefs, in other words, come to the spot anyway, so it makes sense for Cailan's new project.
"I wanted to have a place to call home," said Cailan. He's painted the interior, which was previously a pho restaurant, all "art-gallery white," and is envisioning it as an experimental event space. "Like CBGB was for rock and roll," says Cailan, referencing the New York City music club that helped launch bands in the '70s and '80s.
Cailan says he'll book chefs to come in and do pop-ups and residencies. "They'll be able to showcase their food without having to lease a space or jump into a food truck." The events, which Cailan hopes to start by the end of January, will also operate "like an open mic night."
Cailan says his first event will feature brothers Chad and Chase Valencia's Filipino pop-up restaurant project LASA, which has had a number of dinners around town over the last year.
"We'll be testing out food and having fun with our friends in L.A.," says Cailan. "A lot of people ask me, should we go to Chinatown? I say, you know what, come and do a night and see."
Unit 120, 727 N Broadway, Los Angeles.
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