The final ingredient, according to both Goodyear and Choi, is a certain L.A. looseness—a less hierarchical approach born of financial necessity and made possible by L.A.’s landscape, climate, and economy. After the crash of late 2008, many chefs—including Choi, who was working at a megarestaurant called RockSugar—lost their jobs. So they started food trucks, pop ups, or underground supper clubs instead. Parking wasn’t the same sort of problem it would have been in a less horizontal city. Storefronts were available for short-term lease. And L.A.’s vast creative class—“the graphic designers, the post-production guys, the grips, the editors, the animators,” as Choi puts it—had the flexibility and inclination to experiment.
And there is nothing in New York quite like the endless Chinese expanse of the San Gabriel Valley, or the roadside al pastor spits that appear and then disappear alongside Olympic Boulevard, or the fiery strip-mall Thai joints scattered throughout the San Fernando Valley, or the delectable, alien food that can be found on every block of the city’s “league of little nations”: its Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, Little Brazil, Little Ethiopia, Little Arabia, Little India, Little Russia, Little Persia, Little Phnom Penh, Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Little Osaka, and so on.