When Kenneth Choi gets off the set of 9-1-1 on the Paramount lot, he can’t wait to get through the Sepulveda Pass to his home in the hills of Sherman Oaks. “I love living in the Valley. It just feels quiet and calm, more relaxed,” the actor says.
And when he wants to “just chill and eat great food,” he is equally decisive. He heads down to the Boulevard to get a table at Pearl District. “Everything is delicious. I order the salmon entrée a lot. And my favorite drink is the Wildwood. It’s made with vodka, cold-pressed cucumber and green apple.”
Spend an afternoon with Kenneth at the eatery and it’s easy to tell he’s a regular. Waiters and bartenders call him by name and when the owner, Peyman Afshar, spots him, he gives the actor a big bear hug.
Peyman Afshar and Kenneth Choi
“We’ve known each other for 20 years!” the longtime restaurateur exclaims. Before Kenneth’s career took off, he waited tables at an eatery Peyman owned in Portland, Oregon.
Both men started out their careers in Portland, home of the Pearl District, the downtown area filled with eateries and cafes that inspired the name of Peyman’s current restaurant concept. He opened the first outpost in Westlake Village. “It’s very successful and I just felt like the concept could work in the Valley. When this spot (formerly SOCA) became available, I grabbed it,” Peyman says.
The menu, described by Peyman as “eclectic American,” includes both meat and seafood. A diver scallop entrée has an Indian masala sauce; an ahi tuna appetizer is drizzled with a lemon-spiked truffle oil and topped with shards of Parmesan cheese. In a move away from the current trend, waiters don’t lobby for you to order multiple small, shared plates; appetizers and entrées are traditionally sized. Some appetizers are even large enough to be an entrée. The sophisticated setting, with one of the most handsome bars in the Valley, and the retractable street-facing windows—remnants from the SOCA days—are delightfully intact.
“And it’s just comfortable,” says Kenneth, leaning back on one of the leather pincushioned banquette benches.
After years of steady work, Kenneth saw his career take off after snagging a role in The Wolf of Wall Street and then playing judge Lance Ito in The People v. O.J. Simpson. Raised by strict first-generation Korean parents who weren’t originally thrilled at his career choice, Kenneth says he’s grateful to be playing a paramedic on 9-1-1. It is currently Fox’s most-watched and highest-rated scripted series.
He takes equal pride when it comes to his former boss’ success. From its debut earlier this year, Pearl District has seen healthy crowds. “I usually sit at a table, but it’s getting so busy that soon I’m going to have to sit at the bar!” he chuckles.
Voodoo Doughnut, the Portland brand from Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon, brings kooky fried dough creations to Universal CityWalk.