As the unofficial liaison for Las Vegas in Los Angeles, I have to offer an apology: We have a Fukuburger sit-down restaurant. You do not. It isn’t fair.
One of the most successful of the gourmet food trucks in Vegas, Fuku should by all rights be planting stakes in that town. But Harry Morton, owner of the Vegas-based Pink Taco chain, convinced owners Colin Fukunaga and Robert Magsalin to open instead in a funky-fun space on Cahuenga Ave. between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, at the epicenter of an already-fierce battleground of gourmet burgeries. Similarly Asian-inspired (but much less “fun”) Umami Burger is barely a bun’s throw down the street, and also within a GPS click are Tim & Liza Godell’s 25 Degrees, Juicy Burger, Burger Factory, Hollywood Burger Bar and Stout, among others. With spray-painted logos on surrounding sidewalks and a customized Fuku Fiat scooting around the ’hood, Fuku’s arrival is the culinary equivalent of Teen Wolf busting onto the court at a Lakers game. As Liza Minnelli used to bellow about New York, New York (the real one, not ours), if they can make it here, they can make it anywhere.
Like the Fuku truck, Fukuburger Hollywood’s menu offers only five teriyaki burger variations (all ground in-house and heaped with various forms of colorful decadence) and a panko-crusted chicken katsu. But chef Magsalin also offers nearly twice as many “secret menu” items, including the spicy Nagadogs (still made by Larry’s Great Western Meats in Spring Valley), reminiscent of Hawaiian-style linguiça, and served either slathered with kimchi, nori and chipotle mayo or Loco Moco-style with sticky rice, fried egg, unctuous gravy and bonito. There’s also macaroni & cheese or mac salad with furikake, a poutine riff of crispy fries with gravy and wasabi mayo and loud ’n’ proud sake bombs. After sampling them all, I started losing count of the comfort-fusion slam dunks. If LA food guru Jonathan Gold doesn’t anoint the complex and satisfying Kinoko mushroom burger and perfectly crispy-tender katsu, I may have to #Occupy, though between the unbeatable $7 menu pricing and Vegas-style 4 a.m. closing time, they hardly need a critic’s nod.
Fear not, Vegas. Fukunaga and Magsalin insist you’re still in their hearts: They did their first pop-up restaurant at Emergency Arts during this month’s First Friday, and Harry Morton has promised a stationary Fukuburger in Vegas by 2013, they say. Meanwhile, the one-time Hard Rock scion has drafted corporate executive chef Scott Linquist (late of the Palazzo’s Dos Caminos) to oversee a showcase Pink Taco on the Sunset Strip, clearly betting that “what happens in Vegas” will be even more happening in LA.