A Sequel Better than the Original
Status Kuo comes roaring back with craft cocktails and elegant dishes
By Jessica Koslow
David Kuo has been anything but idle these last few years. He’s welcomed two sons into the world and opened his restaurant, Status Kuo, twice.
Running a restaurant had been a lifelong dream for Kuo. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he sharpened his chef skills at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. After graduation, he spent time working under Charlie Palmer at Hotel Bel-Air and at Jean-Georges in New York. Picking up techniques and tricks at every turn, Kuo returned to L.A. with a plan: save money and open his own place.
His first attempt to make his dream a reality came on July 4, 2011, when he signed a lease on what is now the Vietnamese restaurant East Borough in Culver City. But construction was slow and more than a year slipped by. He almost walked away, but at the urging of his wife, he kept looking.
And then La Petite Crêperie shut its doors on Grand View Boulevard in Mar Vista, right in front of the popular Sunday farmers market, and Kuo seized his chance. The first time he opened Status Kuo (a play on his last name, pronounced “Ko”) was in December 2014. The space was small, the investors few (just Kuo and his wife) and the alcohol absent.
“We learned a lot,” he says definitively, glancing around his newly opened restaurant that’s now double its original size. “It was casual, fun, mom-and-pop. But we’re
better, leaner, stronger.”
Kuo opened his eatery for the second time on Grand View this past July. Summer is usually a slower time for the industry, and Kuo picked the season on purpose. Micro-adjustments are still in the works, such as adding a new sign, incorporating local artwork and installing a drink rail. But, in general, business has been good and the feedback positive.
If Kuo (and his wife) are the heart of Status Kuo, for this second time around he has assembled a team to be his right and left arms.
“I want to give opportunities to fellow chefs,” Kuo says. “A lot of chefs work really hard in this city and never get the opportunity — or they do get an opportunity and they end up on the wrong side of the stick. So now I can provide a platform for a really talented person to be creative and give them all the support and greatest cooking equipment.”
The man in charge of the menu is Andrew Betita, who jumped from Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach to Aestus in Santa Monica before landing at Status Kuo. His dishes are elegant and a delight to eat.
“I have a fine dining background, but that’s not where I want to go,” Betita says. “But I do maintain that aesthetic.”
Resting against one side of a white bowl is his yellowtail aguachile: marinated yellow tail cured with lime juice, mixed with mouse melon cucumbers, baby radish, lime crema, cilantro and diced red onions, and served with sweet potato chips to scoop the pieces up to your mouth.
His chicken adobo fritters are a take on a national dish of the Philippines, inspired by his uncle.
“The dish says a lot about me as a chef and my history,” Betita says. “My style is Asia meets the Americas.”
His pork collar is, by his claims, made from the best pork he’s ever eaten.
“This dish is inspired by my time in Thailand this past year,” explains Betita, who serves the tender meat with fennel and pickled watermelon rind, a play on a Thai papaya salad.
If Betita is Kuo’s left hand, general manager Aaron Siak is his right. Having relocated last year from Philadelphia, where he worked at the four-time James Beard-nominated Franklin Bar, he’s setting his sights on making Status Kuo one of the best bars on the Westside.
“The drink menu is reflective of our bar space,” says Siak. “I call it simply sophisticated.”
There are only five drinks on the menu, including the Town Menace, which uses fresh honeydew juice. But that’s only the starting point — ordering off the menu is encouraged, too. Happy hour, including half-off all whiskey, happens daily until 7 p.m. Draft beers, ciders and Taiwanese soda are also options.
Status Kuo currently serves food and drink from 5 to 10 p.m. daily, with bar hours lingering till 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch service kicks off Sept. 10 to coincide with football season.
Kuo says he’ll eventually open for lunch, but these days he’s busy heading up the catering division of the business, which services local tech companies like Tinder, Uber and Google.
“I love cooking, serving people and seeing how happy they are eating your food. I want people to eat here once a week, not once a month,” Kuo says.
“A restaurant is like a child that learns and grows and takes steps,” he says — and, step by step, Status Kuo is truly becoming part of the fabric of Mar Vista.
Status Kuo, 3809 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista (310) 574-7610 statuskuo.la