photo credit: Matt Gendal
For those used to a certain version of LA’s Koreatown—the smoky dens of Soot Bull Jeep, Dan Sung Sa’s all-wood tavern, or Magal BBQ, where K-pop plays all night—Tokki might at first feel unremarkable. There are neither Hite beer towers, as there are under Dddong-Ggo’s rambunctious tent, nor the traditional Korean architecture found at Kobawoo House. Tokki is instead shiny and smooth, like a Tesla parked at an old-school body shop.
Fine, we’ll say it. Tokki is trendy, with all the weird baggage that comes with that term. It’s a place where you’ll see friends taking selfies and hear acoustic Jay Park songs. Not everyone is going to be into it. That’s OK. But if you’re in the mood for something new, need a bite before a Wiltern show, or desire something beyond the world of mayonnaise-smothered cheese corn for just a second, Tokki is worth considering.
Self-described as a Korean tapas bar—which here translates into "serves small, shareable plates"—Tokki looks like something spit out of a modern restaurant generator. There’s a palpable rabbit theme (“tokki” means rabbit in Korean), which you’ll see reflected in neon signs, bathroom decor, ceramic teacups, and amazingly, zero menu items. You will hear bottles being popped, as men with handlebar mustaches woo their dates dressed in the latest streetwear. Friends chat excitedly while phones are passed around the table, presumably showing off a new boyfriend/pet dog/evil arch-nemesis. Most everyone is in the 20s or 30s (according to their agent at least) and they’re all having a blast. Parking is a nightmare.
Tokki’s menu is split between many small plates and four to five big ones. Small plates tend to be provocative, gussied-up versions of staple Korean dishes. Raw Hokkaido scallops are dipped in a delicious warm brown butter sauce then smeared judiciously with black truffle pate. The panko-encrusted arancini are fine, if a little boring. Uni toast feels like an excuse to throw the high-cost urchin onto something, anything. It kind of works, if you’re obsessed with uni.
The larger (or, as they’re labeled on the menu, “less small”) dishes are somewhat hit-or-miss. Focus on the dae-chang, or large beef intestines, made glossy with a soy glaze. You will be surrounded by tables topped with truffle-spiked kimchi fried rice, so trust their lead and order it. Whether you’re in the mood to add on imported Miyazaki wagyu blowtorched at the table (which costs an additional $21), is up to you.
There's a liquid offering for everyone, from bottles of Dom Perignon to sweet plum liquors. Natural wines are poured alongside Korean lagers, sake infused with rum, and soju with a satin-y gingerbread finish. Are they a Korean tapas restaurant with excellent alcohol? Or a bar serving great food? We’re not sure, but in game theory, this is what is called a “win-win.”
In a neighborhood where all the best restaurants are mom-and-pop shops or decades-old institutions, Tokki is an anomaly. But that's not a bad thing. In fact, it can often feel like a breath of fresh air—a serendipitous option to pull out of your pocket whenever the same ol' soondubu-galbi-bibimbap routine isn't hitting the same. In a world of classic cars, it's a Tesla. And, as our memory serves us, the last time we snagged one of those on Uber, we liked it.
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Chairman Liu Noodles
No, this isn’t an ode to the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. After careful investigation (Instagram stalking), we discovered that this immensely sticky dish was named after Tokki’s co-owner. Fresh noodles—as slender and slurpable as chow mein—are doused in a scallion soy sauce and topped with fried onions and more scallions. It’s the perfect carb-heavy comfort dish, where the sweet lacquer-like sauce clings onto each and every noodle, like a mom who’s in denial that her kids are growing up. Eat this after a long day of wistfully looking at far-away Airbnb rentals.
As it turns out, chewy tteokbokki and cream-laced gochujang go pretty well together. It’s a slight twist on the simmered rice cake dish found at snack bars and late-night street vendors. A bright orange sauce acts like gravy, smothering the entire thing in a heavy, rich blanket. Order this.
Dae-Chang Over Rice
A surprise hit! Its name may not jump off the page, but the large beef intestine at Tokki shouldn’t be written off. The intestine itself, sliced into bite-sized pieces, is much less elastic than the ones you’d over at Ahgassi Gopchang or other KBBQ spots. The soy glaze is almost syrupy, a wonderful blend of salt and umami, which brings out the meat’s tacky, stick-to-your teeth consistency, like caramel corn sold at the state fair.
A fun idea but a bit of a snooze on the plate. There’s just too much going on here: a button mushroom and sticky rice filling, various semi-melted cheeses, and a thick panko crust that leaves your mouth dry.
Genuinely one of the best bites we’ve had in recent memory. This dish is pure sumptuousness, splendor, and other words that make us feel like we play polo on the weekends and own beachfront property. Brown butter seaweed sauce is as luxurious as a bed of roses. Pickled ramps add some needed acidity, and they don’t overdo it with the black truffle paste. Bravo.
Truffle Kimchi Fried Rice
Arguably Tokki’s signature dish, we almost didn’t order it the last time we ate here, and the server was like, “Are you sure?” She was right. It’s served in a shallow cast-iron base not unlike paella, filled with crispy rice, smoky truffle-brushed bulgogi, and a freshly cracked egg. Want to up the table drama? For an additional $21, you can tack on premium Miyazaki wagyu and have the whole thing blowtorched tableside.
We love uni, but we don’t need it on everything. Particularly, this toast. It feels like it was thrown on, either to impress people or to hike up the price, but the uni’s viscosity along with the mountain of trout roe and avocado crema it's served with overwhelms the poor piece of bread. Unless you’re an uni freak of some kind, skip this.
Tokki’s drinks never feel like an afterthought. Fancy a cocktail infused with Korean pears, vanilla soju, or milky sparkling rice wine? Try the White Rabbit or Jeju Sunset. Non-alcoholic options are less impressive, with just a handful of sodas and hot teas. Note: Tokki only serves cocktails made with soju or sake.