Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food and Booze Pairing: Chego One Year Special!

Pairings Continued: Chego!

Congratulations Chego, you've made it one year!!!!!

So while many people know of Kogi, the first and still clearly the best, of the Korean fusion taco trucks, less people know that chef Roy Choi has a pair of sit down restaurants. Well, that was likely the case until the Beard awards this year when A Frame was nominated for best new West coast restaurant. Before A Frame, and it's fancy cocktails and curated beer, came that tiny place called Chego. 

Chego took the Kogi Korean fusion experience to a whole new level, and for those in the know (and had the good sense to catch the irony in the elaborate statement about the large number of assorted ways NOT to bring booze to their restaurant) you could finally have that beer you've always wanted while downing your kimchi quesadilla in the parking lot. I mean, this is Korean food, which has been described to me as an entire food culture based around two types of food: food to eat while you drink and food to help you recover from a hangover. 

Roy's palate is balls-to-the-wall favor. More than any other chef I've ever food from, his recipes are like going to see Sleep or Orange Goblin. Massive, loud, fun. Even the music is bass-heavy old school hip hop. But instead of clouds of pot smoke, those are clouds of the most fragrant scents of Korean BBQ. 

At Chego, even the roasted asparagus has like 15 different things on it, including blueberry-habenro sauce, cheese, nuts, and god knows what else. Sour-cream chicken and tofu chicharones bowl with sauces and bitter greens and… and… and… The food is at a real-world PG-13 spice level. Hot for people that don't like spice. (For reference, Jitlada is Uncensored NC-17, and mild Japanese curry is G in Callie and I's proprietary rating system).

So your beverage needs, well, whatever the Korean word for cojones is. But, it can't be too alcoholic or you'll muck with the spicing. Too mouth-filling otherwise you'll OD on flavor. No Napa Cabs (I'd make an exception for the Steak in the Heart sandwich, which would rock with a big juicy Napa cab), no dank Imperial Stouts. 

Okay, you need a beverage with some funky boldness, but the refinement not to brag.

I would nominate as a first choice a sparkling full red wine from Italy or Australia. Either a good Labrusco or Syrah. Rich, off-dry, with those palette-cleansing bubbles. Bold and full and totally decadently unexpected, this wine with Roy's food would get you to at least second base with your date as long as they halfway liked food. These are the best BBQ wines in the world. 

Of course, a nice full off-dry or even semi-sweet Riesling would go well here. As would it's near neighbor, Viogner, as long as it was of the more smokey, dried fruit and honey persuasion. These are both wines that know how to love food, but still be fun themselves. (Wines like Sauv Blanc are too herbal and vegetal to play nice with the food - though to be fair, a Sauv Blanc might be nice with stuff like the Sour Cream Hen House bowl, just not with much else). 

Of course what is korean food without soju? Well, less of a hangover, that's for sure. But in the spirit of fusion, why not bring a bottle of good Japanese shochu (thanks for the correction Nicole :) and drink it neat on ice? Preferably a richer kind, made with sweet potatoes or some such. The reason these low ABV asian spirits go well is that they serve to highlight the flavor of the food, to clean away between each bite so you are constantly re-experiencing the flavors of the food. 

This is rare asian fusion food that would also pair well with red wine! What you're looking for will be a medium bodied wine a little on the ripe and sunny side (no Bordeaux!) Things like Zinfandel, or Syrah/Grenache blends  are perfect compliments to the food. As are many unorthodox blends from Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. 

Malbecs and even a warm-blooded tempranillo would be happy to rock out along side this food. Many of the fine Portuguese wines making their way to market now would be great too,! Or for that matter, even a glass of the funky white port from Prager Port Works in Napa! Ohhhhhh… Now I must go eat one of their weekly specials! 

PS: The only rule Chego has is that you have to bring your own glasses, openers, etc to drink booze. They don't mind if you're open about it, but bring everything you'll need. 

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