In late October of last year, one of the most innovative and surprising restaurants to be found in an L.A. strip mall (a competitive category to say the least) closed after a nearly four-year run. With its bare bones business model (it had no sign, wait staff, alcohol, or anything besides the necessities) Baroo felt more like a lab than a restaurant — a sentiment that was echoed by Jonathan Gold in his November 2015 review for the Los Angeles Times: “There are a couple of long, shareable tables, a couple of counter seats and a few awkwardly placed stools. One wall is taken up with the room-length blackboard on which the menu is scrawled. Shelves by the open kitchen hold plastic containers and cloth-topped jars; clumps of fermenting pastes, berries and vegetables that look less like tomorrow’s dinner ingredients than they do like scientific projects.”
Speaking to us about that moment right after Gold’s review catapulted Baroo from a under-the-radar East Hollywood gem to one of the most revered restaurants in Los Angeles, Chef/Owner Kwang Uh tells us: “At that point I was also pushing myself to cook more, because I never thought of myself as a cook, I was not qualified to receive this reputation, so I was pushing myself to prove myself more.” We are sitting with Uh and his wife Mina Park at one of five two-tops adjacent to Baroo Canteen — the new takeaway counter inside the Union Swapmeet, which is otherwise populated with stalls selling knockoff designer handbags, plastic kids toys, discount jewelry, and dried chile peppers.