Roy Choi seems to have a different approach than other famous chefs when it comes to opening a restaurant in Las Vegas.
“I have to be respectful and aware it’s not LA,” he says. “I can’t just come in with my LA food to Vegas and think you’re all going to love it. I have to think about what the Vegas lifestyle is. You have a culture, and it’s different between locals and visitors. It’s something of a party environment, but you’re also searching for good food as well. I need to mix all of that in.”
Choi, plenty of his fellow Southern Californians and lots of Las Vegans are surely excited after last week’s announcement that the chef behind LA’s Kogi BBQ food trucks and hip restaurants like Chego, A-Frame, Pot and Locol will open an eatery at Park MGM. It’s the first expansion outside California for Choi, who can’t wait to get his food in front of a new audience. And his yet-to-be-named Vegas restaurant will bring an interesting element of cool to a resort that, so far, has only announced fancy food options.
“Right now I’m just absorbing everything I want to express from here in LA to Las Vegas, thinking about every single interaction there,” Choi says. “My mood board is ‘Los Vegas.’ That’s the feeling. It’s LA and its Vegas, but together it’s this new thing, which is like the type of food I cook. Tacos and Korean barbecue is definitely this and that, but when you eat it, it becomes its own thing.”
Choi has been soaking up vibes in LA’s Koreatown neighborhood surrounding the Line hotel, where he operates several restaurants in a collaboration with the Sydell Group (the same company partnering with MGM Resorts to create Park MGM). In the coming months, he’ll spend a lot of time in Las Vegas absorbing the culinary culture on and off the Strip.
“I could take the easy road and make a real cookie-cutter restaurant, but I decided to do something that takes it to the edge,” he says. “When we signed the deal I spent a lot of time studying the Strip and the flow, seeing who’s eating and what they’re eating, and now I’ll be going to Spring Mountain Road and North Las Vegas and all the neighborhoods. I’ve got some good friends there, not just chefs, and I’m going to get to know everyone. It’s what I do, just part of my DNA.”