ISSUE 48  |  California Dreaming

Restaurant Visit: Roy Choi’s Commissary, Inside a Greenhouse in LA

December 03, 2014 11:30 AM

BY Cheryl Locke

In the middle of Koreatown’s office buildings, strip malls, and karaoke bars is Commissary, a new produce-focused restaurant, co-owned by celebrity chef Roy Choi. It’s perched on the second-floor roof deck of The Line Hotel, a stay with fastidiously curated amenities (a Poketo boutique in the lobby, another Choi eatery, Pot, custom bikes from local Linus Bikes, a roof-deck pool); and yet, Commissary manages to trump them all. Its wow factor?  A 1,700 square-foot greenhouse, impressive even for LA’s rooftop revelers. Designed by Venice, CA-based Sean Knibb of Knibb Design, let’s have a look around:

Photography by Art Gray.

Above: “My idea was to capture the feeling of a working greenhouse, without looking overly staged or themed.” Enter a masterful mix of vintage pieces (such as the potting table-turned-communal dining table) and organic materials (the driftwood chandelier and webbed John Vogel Chairs) that are punctuated with machine-age accents: industrial stools, fans, exposed ducts, and a chrome espresso machine.

Above: Commissary is the sophomore collaboration between Knibb and Choi. They had worked on transforming a derelict I-Hop in Culver City into hot spot A-Frame, which was Choi’s first restaurant after building his Kogi BBQ Taco Truck empire. 

Above: The greenhouse’s lofty ceilings are called out by the hanging ivy, ferns, and cyclamens. “The mix of plants changes monthly, as we rotate the plants around the hotel,” says Knibb. 

Above: Communal tables are surrounded by topiaries, cascading ivy, and palms. 

Above: An eight-seat bar features cocktails from Matthew Biancaniello, a mixologist who specializes in farmers’ market ingredients. Come thirsty for West Coast drinks, like the Pimp’s Cup (not a typo). It’s a mix of rhubarb, cucumber, shiso, and ginger. If you’re more of the Snoop-Dogg persuasion, get the Gin & Juice, served with your choice of fresh-pressed juice, beets, carrots, watermelon, or pineapple.    

Above: Flea-market wooden crates put barware and alcohol handsomely on display. 

Above: The concept behind this tableau: “simplicity and utlitareanism, as if the gardener left them behind,” says Knibb. That explains the straw hat, and the garden hose, at the end of the bar.

Above: The garden-fresh Tomato and Okra, is a rum cocktail made with green zebra heirloom tomato, lovage, and spiked with cachaí§a.

Above: Carnivores are welcome. Vegetables may be the star of the menu, but the restaurant, helmed by chef Diego Echavarria, also cooks up hits like French dip, scallops, and schnitzel. 

Visiting LA? Put these spots on your bucket list: