Baroo is located in the heart of East Hollywood, right in the middle of strip mall country. The strip mall restaurant isn’t unique to Los Angeles, but inspiring, world-changing strip mall food is something we both invented and perfected, with variations such as the original Nozawa to Trois Mec immediately coming to mind. Even the original Spago on Sunset Boulevard was in a strip-mall like space above the Budget Car Rental. The latest strip mall wonder that’s about to take the city by storm is Baroo, which is slightly complicated to find, considering there’s no sign and it’s next to a partially vacant, soon-to-open 7-11. Once you get inside, however, there’s nothing nearby that matches the magic happening in this little room.
The chalkboard menu welcomes you with detailed descriptions of their offerings. It’s hard to decide on what to order since everything looks and sounds so intriguing. Luckily, every dish is innovative and flavorful, so there’s no way to go wrong. One constant is the use of fermented ingredients (all organic and sustainable, by the way), which are present in every plate.
While you’re contemplating your order, next to the counter there is a fridge which holds a selection of house-made kombuchas. You can pick from rose, lemon verbena, or raspberry flavor. If you like kombucha, you’ll appreciate how the tart, not too sweet concoction pairs perfectly well with Baroo’s food. They also offer cold brew Bicycle Coffee if you need some caffeine.
It’s a nice-sized menu, but there are popular items that will get your attention first. Once you order, you may wait a while, but that’s because everything is carefully cooked and prepared. Every dish is flavorful, well thought out and planned almost perfectly. While you wait, you’ll gaze at the fermenting jars full of vegetables which are all over the place. It’s an interesting sight because everything is homemade, so you’re actually watching future ingredients get funky their brine, something which is usually relegated to a dingy back corner of the kitchen. Whether for lack of space, as homey decoration, or to prove a point, Baroo exudes personality by placing fermentation front and center in both cooking and decor.
The Bibim Salad is one of Baroo’s most popular items. It’s a dish made with oats, quinoa, bulgur, vegetable crudite with fennel, celery, baby radish, asparagus, heirloom carrot, toasted seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), gochujang San Marzano tomato dressing, herbs coulis, passion fruit powder, baby kale, and Asian pear. Yup. That’s a mouthful. A lot of love goes into making these plates, but you can definitely taste the nuances in every bite. The freshness and quality ingredients are present both in sight and taste. It’s a slightly sweet and citrusy dish that’s the most refreshing on the menu.
The Kimchi Fried Rice is without a doubt the must-order dish. The perfectly cooked, 63 degree Celsius sous vide egg, amira basmati rice, pineapple fermented kimchi, pineapple jalapeno salsa, purple potato chip, roasted seaweed, toasted buckwheat and quinoa, and micro greens create a perfect lunch meal. You can also order this with bacon and Spanish chorizo for an extra $2. There’s no shortage of “rice bowls” in town, but this dish is something special, with flavors you’ll be hard-pressed to find at any nearby restaurant. Yes, Koreatown is right next door for all your fermented kimchi needs, but Baroo’s execution is unique and hard to replicate. You’ll be craving these plates after trying them for the first time.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want something like you’ve probably never had, go for the Noorook (Koji). It’s a bright red dish made with Jobs tears, kamut, farro, roasted koji beet creme, concentrated kombu dashi, toasted seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), macadamia nuts, finger lime, and rose onion pickle. With every bite you get a crunchy, chewy, and extremely flavorful taste. The beet creme is very satisfying and not heavy like you’d expect a “cream” dish to be.
Once you finish your meal, feel free to take one of their Asian treats on your way out from their free candy bowl. This time around they had Japanese strawberry flavored Kit-Kats, Korean Choco Moon Pies, and a slightly savory rice cracker.
There’s no doubt that Baroo will soon be a top LA dining destination. The good thing is, it’s still a hidden hole-in-the-wall with few patrons who are “in-the-know,” so you can always plan a second trip to try the entire menu. After all, Baroo means “a bowl that Buddhist monks are allowed to possess and use for their meals until their last breath.” You’ll want to keep coming back for more until then.
5706 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038