The Fastest Way to Make Friends, Foster Connection, and Be Happy

Feature image for post on food in LA

Everyone knows that everyone is busier these days. But at the same time, more people than ever are feeling disconnected and burned out. In an age where we’re supposed to be more connected than ever, what gives?

I don’t have a neat answer for that unfortunately, but I do have a solution that will at least temporarily make you feel alive and whole and in sync with everyone else around you. And that is to get your hands dirty, share food with the people at your table, and EAT like there’s no tomorrow.

I’m not talking about going to a nice restaurant to eat nicely plated food that is nicely served in front of you. Nope. I’m talking about eating with your hands, getting intimate with your food, and having everyone at your table pitch in to help put together and distribute delicious morsels to each other. There’s just something about being interactive and getting up close and personal with your food even before you eat it that changes the whole vibe and synergy of the table.

During Labor Day weekend, my boyfriend and I went down to L.A. for a mini vacation. We stayed with two of his friends (who are also a couple) and as much as I liked them, I was a bit nervous. I’m not much of a people person to begin with and unless I know someone very well, I tend to start feeling drained after spending a prolonged period of time around them. Still, they never gave me any reason to think there would be issues and I went in hoping for the best.

Prior to going on our trip, I’d already made a mental list of L.A. restaurants I wanted to check out the next time I was in town. Among them was David Chang’s Majordomo, which I’d heard rave reviews about from a food podcast I listen to. I wasn’t exactly sure whether our friends would like or fully appreciate David Chang’s style of Asian fusion food, but they didn’t seem particularly picky either. Throwing caution to the winds, I went ahead and made a Sunday lunch reservation for the four of us.

After sleeping off the Korean barbecue dinner we had the night before (at Magal BBQ in Koreatown, which was delicious and I would highly recommend), we made our way down to the edge of Chinatown where the restaurant was located. When we first got there, we thought we were lost, despite expertly following Google Map directions. We were out in the middle of what looked like abandoned warehouses with graffiti and urban murals painted everywhere. There was no sign of a restaurant or even other people around.

Momofuku, in katakana characters.

“Is this the right address?” my boyfriend asked skeptically, and I immediately pulled my phone out in a panic, thinking that I might have somehow gotten the location mixed up. But just as things were looking dire, a few hip-looking dudes in Ray-Ban sunglasses strutted past our car. I watched them disappear into a corner and decided we should follow them. Hip-looking dudes don’t just randomly show up near abandoned warehouses, so I felt like I was onto something.

Once I made a left into the same corner those guys disappeared into, I was immediately transported into a modern hipster paradise with street murals, string lights, and artfully planted greenery outside an industrial-chic building. A sign jutted out the side with momofuku on it in Japanese katakana characters. And as anyone who knows David Chang knows (or should know), Momofuku is his flagship restaurant-turned-business-turned-brand that he’s arguably most well-known for today. I breathed a sigh of relief and opened the doors, letting out a welcome blast of AC.

The lunch menu at Majordomo was short, but each item sounded interesting and enticing. After asking our server for recommendations, we opted for one appetizer, one salad, and two entrees all to share. Our appetizer, the Jumeokbap, was a shrimp-based rice dish that came with all the ingredients in a big metal bowl and plastic gloves on the side. Our waiter encouraged us to get our hands in there to mix everything together. Not being one to turn down the opportunity to play with food, I eagerly grabbed a pair of gloves and stuck my hands in.

Now, I’m sure there are people out there who would think this is ridiculous and just a bit gross, even with the gloves. But honestly, this is how you get all the flavors to meld properly! This is how you get a better appreciation for the food before you eat it! And it’s fun!

I tried making rice balls for everyone, but the shrimp pieces were a little too big and unwieldy to sit nicely. Still, I tried my best and doled out a slightly misshapen rice ball to everyone at the table before sitting down to eat my own. It was deliciously warm and comforting, with the rich aroma of sesame accenting each bite, no doubt a result of the sesame seeds and sesame oil that were all nicely mixed in by yours truly.

In the middle of our rice ball-making party, our salad and first entree arrived— Tomato Salad with stone fruit and Korean-style Fried Chicken. The fried chicken came with rolls, lettuce leaves, and Korean-style pickles, all of which we were encouraged to mix and match with the chicken. (Make a fried chicken sandwich! A lettuce wrap! A lettuce wrap in a sandwich! Eat everything separately! It’s all good.) Thus began an exciting, meandering eating journey through hot, cold, spicy, tangy, and refreshing tastes as we alternated between trying to fit ginormous pieces of chicken into our mouths and soothing our spiced-out tongues with everything else on the table.

Halfway through chowing down on all the goodness, I remembered that we were still due for our second entree. Crap. I was starting to get full by this point and there didn’t seem to be any immediate regions of empty stomach that I could stuff more food into. Still, the show had to go on. Finally, our second and last entree came— the Grilled Dduk Galbi, which was essentially an oversized skewer of meat that they brought out then cut up and slid onto a bed of rice in front of us. A fresh bowl of lettuce and herbs were brought to us so we could make wraps with the meat, rice, and accompanying condiments of kimchi and shishito peppers. In true Asian drama fashion, we made wraps for our significant others and stuffed them into each other’s mouths.

After the last piece of meat disappeared, we sat around sipping the remainder of our drinks in a slight daze. Dessert was roundly out of the question, though I couldn’t resist asking to see the dessert menu anyway. Better safe to know what you might be missing out on than to wonder forever, right?

With full bellies, we walked outside back into the blazing midday heat. Feeling emboldened by my success with this food excursion, I bullied cajoled everyone into taking a few pictures together by the cool mural across from the restaurant. As we took turns making silly poses and bossing each other around about where to stand, I felt overwhelmingly grateful and happy. As delicious as the food was, the entire eating experience turned out to be unexpectedly fun and bonding. Which in turn, fueled a natural comfort and synergy between the four of us.

If all this sounds like a dramatic, cheesy story with food playing an outsized and overhyped role, you’re not wrong. But that’s the power of good food. For me, anyway. It brings you closer to good people and gives you true joy. Eating at Majordomo was one of the few times I walked away from a restaurant thinking about what a great experience it was, and not just because of how everything tasted. It’s become a memory that I’ll always cherish and remember fondly every time I’m back in the neighborhood.

Seriously though, who would think there’s a restaurant here?