Cham Korean Bistro

Aug 20, 2009
Ssam garden platter with spicy chicken

Ssam garden platter with spicy chicken

Kimmy Song has earned much success as the founder CEO of !It Jeans, but she wanted more. A food lover, she had already created a kitchen headed by a former A.O.C. chef to feed employees at their Vernon plant, and she got bitten by the restaurant bug. The result is this bright new café just off of Lake, where !It’s brand manager, Ricardo Carrera-Lowe, puts in time manning the cash register, and chef E.J. Jeong (ex of A.O.C. and BOA) turns out Korean dishes both classic and modern, all made with ingredients as organic and local as possible. The genesis for the place was actually Song’s desire to give back, so Cham is a nonprofit operation, with a portion of  income going to community projects in developing countries.

Cham developed a following within a week of opening, thanks to its incredibly nice people, its high-ceilinged, light-filled space, its moderate prices and, most of all, its delicious food. The tofu pocket  (a variation on a pita sandwich) filled with seasoned rice, spicy tuna and pea shoots is a hot item, as is the mint lemonade made with agave syrup. Almost every table has at least one ssam garden platter, a gorgeous array of butter lettuce, sesame leaves, pickled ginger and noodles paired with a small platter of protein: beef or pork bulgogi, perhaps, or spicy chicken or tofu steak. You load up a butter-lettuce leave with a little bit of everything and eat it taco style. Bibimbap, that Korean rice-bowl standard, is healthier and more colorful than the norm here, with lots of fresh vegetables and your choice of meat.

It’s open for dinner, and will certainly thrive in the evenings once it gets a beer and wine license, but for now Cham is a find for a quick lunch that’s a lot more exciting than the usual salad or taco place.

851 Cordova St., Pasadena, 626.792.2474, L & D Mon.-Sat. Korean. No booze. AE, MC, V. $ – $$

5 Responses for “Cham Korean Bistro”

  1. A few of us walked over to Cham recently, including a Pasadena cafe owner friend, to ck it out. While I’m not as enthusiastic as most others who’ve reviewed it, it’s a very welcomed addition to our neighborhood! I met Richardo & the chef, among others, and they are friendly and feel customer-oriented.

    Their menu needs to be reworked: it’s too small & a bit difficult for 1st timers to decipher. But, it’s food for the people, for the worker.

    A Non-Profit operation? Well, that might be the key to this newest bistro opening to remain open. Besides, aren’t most restaurants non-profits these days!

  2. Cindy says:

    Your post had great timing! We were hoping for a fresh, easy dinner tonight, and Cham really hit the spot. 🙂 Thanks so much for the recommendation! We particularly loved the apple salad with Kim Chi dressing. All the ingredients were so fresh and high quality, and veggie-forward, which I like. I sure hope Cham is able to stick around.

  3. Cafe Pasadena, I hear you about the menu– it is a little confusing. They’re still tinkering. But I sure thought the food was delicious. Cindy, so glad you liked it!

  4. […] given how many cafés are in the neighborhood. Just across Lake and a block north, for instance, is Cham Korean Bistro, which also emphasizes fresh, quality produce, so it’s perfect for an after-market dinner. […]

  5. […] Cham Korean Bistro opened its doors a little more than a year ago, Korean food had already been catapulted to mainstream dining culture, thanks to a roaming LA food […]



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