Chingu brings LA's K-Town to Kakaako

This place puts pop rocks in watermelon soju and bone marrow in corn cheese
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Chris Oh, the self-proclaimed unofficial mayor of Los Angeles’ Koreatown, just expanded his California restaurant empire to the Aloha State with Chingu in the former Cafe Maru space on Kapiolani Boulevard. If the name sounds familiar, Oh was on the Seoul Sausage team that won season 3 of Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race." In quick succession he opened several restaurants in Los Angeles, helped bring a Seoul Sausage pop-up to Hawaii in 2016 and got Seoul Sausage's kalbi sausage into a sandwich on the menu at Zippy's.

Chingu, which loosely translates as "friend" in Korean, feels like it was lifted from Wilshire Boulevard with quintessential K-Town food and fun to boot. Think over-the-top watermelon soju with pop rocks and sparklers, chicken sizzling under a mound of bubbling cheese, and private karaoke rooms, enough for all your chingus.

Chicken n Cheese
The chicken n cheese ($22) is a must get. It feeds about four people with a sweet, mellow heat tamed by Instagram-worthy cheese pulls. 

 

bone marrow corn cheese
Not all bone marrows are created equal, so we have a hard time justifying the $14 pricetag of this bone marrow corn cheese. When it's full, it's good. Otherwise it's just corn cheese, which is usually free anyway. 
Ahi tamahawk
The ahi tamahawk (market price) is a statement piece. Sweet, crispy, meaty, fatty, salty – it hits all the notes. 

 

Pork belly bao buns
If you're a fan of jajangmyeon, you'll love these pork belly bao buns ($14). A playful update on the Korean-Chinese black bean noodle dish, these have that familiar earthy, sweet-savory taste with pops of green onion and pickled daikon. 
Rockin roe
The rockin roe ($18) is Oh's take on the poke bowl. Instead of cubes of fish, you'll find a rainbow of tobiko (flying fish eggs) with pickles and seaweed salad over a bowl of sesame oil-seasoned rice. 

 

Watermelon soju
An unconventional take on watermelon soju. Instead of drinking it, you're encouraged to eat it with a spoon. For $30 it wasn't our favorite item, but the show, complete with sparkler and shower of Pop Rocks, Fruity Pebbles and chamisul, was "so LA."

Chingu
1035 Kapiolani Blvd.
Kakaako

Daily 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.