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New Wave Modern Korean Food Is Coming to LA via NYC. This Chef Is Leading the Charge.

Kinn takes over the former Sushi One space in K-Town

Ki Kim preparing dishes
Ki Kim preparing dishes
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Ki Kim has partnered with a new restaurant group called In Hospitality, which is also behind Koreatown’s Hanchic, to open a new modern Korean establishment called Kinn inside the former Sushi One space, scheduled to open in two weeks time. Kim joins Dustin Donghyuk Lee, president of In Hospitality and co-founder of Hanchic, plus chef Justin Min, Minsoo Son, and Jeff Jun, who are together helping to lead the charge behind LA’s newfound interest in modern Korean cooking.

Previously, Kwang Uh at Baroo was one of modern Korean cuisine’s main practitioners, eventually opening Shiku inside Grand Central Market with partner Mina Park, while Perilla LA from Jihee Kim was another example of innovative dishes using seasonal ingredients and a foundation of Korean cooking techniques. Last year, Ki Kim helped operate Naemo LA, a very pretty dosirak takeout spot, then popped-up at Yellow House cafe to serve his version of gimbap.

Ki Kim started as a sushi chef at Matsuhisa in Aspen before moving to various fine dining places like Benu in San Francisco, which is helmed by Korean-American chef Corey Lee, and Kojyu in Tokyo. Kim then put in time at Jungsik, a two-Michelin star Korean restaurant in New York City; Atomix, another two-Michelin star restaurant from Junghyun and Elia Park; and finally Blanca, the tasting menu counter next to Roberta’s.

Here at Kinn, expect the kind of intricate menu served a la carte with luxe ingredients you would find at those New York City fine dining institutions, like hen of the wood with sea urchin and Asian pair; oysters with octopus, cucumber, and smoked trout roe; or a colorado lamb chop with spinach and five spice jus. There are some playful elements on the menu as well, like a Korean-style corndog with jamon iberico, blue crab, and ketchup, or a chicken ttokgalbi (a flattened, griddled patty of meat) with pickled celery and egg yolk. Finally, a bibimbap with kimchi and winter truffle brings a heady, unexpected touch to the classic rice-and-veggie dish.

Dishes by Ki Kim
Dishes by Ki Kim

Elsewhere in LA, Tokki, from chef Sunny Jang, who also cooked at Atomix and previously at Quince in San Francisco, has quietly opened at the very busy Chapman Plaza serving a sort of relaxed tapas-style modern Korean menu. Along with Hanchic, Perilla, Kinn, and Tokki, with the foundation laid by Baroo a few years ago and even Roy Choi’s Pot, there seems to be a movement of modern Korean food coming to Los Angeles. Places like Kogi and Chego also helped weave Korean ingredients into familiar taco and rice bowl formats, respectively. Spoon by H from Yoonjin Hwang spoke a language of modern Korean but at a more approachable, everyday level. One could argue David Chang and Jude Parra-Sickels (who was previously at Pot) helped install a modern Korean sensibility at Majordomo with dishes like Benton’s stuffed sausage cooked jun-style, and the smoked whole-plate ribs. Finally, chef Wonsuk “John” Kang garnered praise from Los Angeles Times critic Bill Addison for his gastropub-like Korean fare at HanEuem.

LA’s Koreatown has traditionally been considered the place for America’s best-executed traditional cuisine, though numerous other cities have been attempting to introduce Korean flavors to a wider audience, like Parachute in Chicago, Heirloom Market Barbecue in Atlanta, Han Oak in Portland, and of course the slew of modern Korean establishments in New York City.

LA, on the other hand, has resisted the sort of more upscale Korean fare that has felt overpriced or fussy. With Ki Kim, Jihee Kim, Kwang Uh at Shiku, and other younger French- and American-trained chefs, that stance seems to be changing, at least with younger Asian-American diners who are eager to see their food presented in a more polished setting, with fancier ambience and cocktails/wine to match.

Kim and the In Hospitality team hopes to open by November 17 with limited seating and hours, then fully debut on November 19 before declaring a “grand” opening on December 1. Regular hours will be Tuesday to Saturday, 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Kinn. 3905 West 6th Street, Los Angeles.