Where once there was nothing, now there is light. At the very least that’s true for the marquee above the former Baroo space off Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, where for years there was no real signage to indicate the incredible mix of fermented Korean flavors happening inside. Now there’s a big glowing bit of business, done up in black and yellow, showing the all-caps words BBQ + Rice.
In-the-know local diners will recognize the name from the company’s first location in a strip mall off Sunset Boulevard, right next to Chibiscus and near the Rock & Roll Ralphs. That outlet, as well as the one that has taken up inside the old Baroo, focuses on simple Korean rice bowls, topped with things like bulgogi, kimchi, galbi, and gochujang-marinated chicken. There are dumplings and drinks as well, but it’s all very simple — except for one serious surprise.
Running the kitchen for this BBQ & Rice is none other than Matthew Kim, the longtime partner and friend to Kwang Uh of Baroo. Kim is more than just one half of the two-man team that made Baroo so impossibly famous; he actually ran the place almost entirely alone for months when Uh moved back to Korea to spend time at a monastery in 2016. He’s still working the same stove (and the same dining room, basically) as those old solo days, just now with his wife alongside him as they cook casual Korean comfort food for a much broader audience. Kim has personal and business connections with the team that opened the original BBQ + Rice, hence the expansion of the name and menu.
Kim tells Eater that he unlocked the doors to BBQ + Rice just a couple of weeks ago, though he’s been mostly keeping a low profile and working limited hours. The plan is to expand into more standard lunch-through-dinner hours once the holiday season washes away, but in the meantime — just as in the old Baroo days — keep in mind there could be some funky timing and long-ish waits for food, particularly when the place gets busy. After all, as Kim knows very well, it’s hard to keep a two-person restaurant running smoothly all the time.
BBQ + Rice. 5706 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA.