Review: Jonathan Gold finds strong flavors and a splendid bar at Here’s Looking at You in Koreatown

Restaurant Critic

In a Times op-ed a few weeks ago, the architect Thom Mayne suggested Koreatown as a candidate for future hyperdensity, doubling the population of what is already the most densely populated neighborhood in Los Angeles. If you have ever tried to find a parking spot anywhere around dinner hour, you might think that maximum density has already been achieved.

But with its explosive growth, Koreatown has already become the locus of a certain kind of restaurant, even if the area hasn’t yet achieved Hong Kong-level residential density, and not all the restaurants are necessarily Korean. Beer Belly is the model of a modern Los Angeles gastropub. At Le Comptoir, Gary Menes prepares vegetables with kaiseki-like precision. The Walker Inn serves its cocktails in tasting-menu flights. Roy Choi chops and channels the idea of hotel food at the Line. Post-Koreatown cooking tends to be spicy, nimble and adept at crossing cultural boundaries; quick to reference street food traditions but with farmers market ingredients; and look back to an idealized agrarian idea of California. Post-Koreatown restaurants are also alcohol-friendly, consistent with the model of social drinking in an era of Uber and convenient mass transit.