Q & A with M Grill’s Manny Kim: Early Years, Feijoada, and Chicken Thighs

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How long before M Grill was in black and was cash flow ever a problem?

Ah, cash flow…One thing I have learned in college was that cash flow is the blood that makes every part of your body function. In the restaurant business, you have to have enough funds to support your costs even if not a single customers walks in. Fortunately, we were in the black after the first year.

Did you have any education/experience in the restaurant business prior to opening?

The Food Network. (Laughter) After college I started my own garment business. After 15 years of that I gained extensive knowledge about the ins and outs of cash flow, marketing, product development, and management.

How would you compare the garment and food industry?

I like the food industry because it’s retail. It’s very fast so whatever you put out you get immediate feedback. In the garment business it would take months before you would figure out if you’re going to make money or not. The restaurant business is like any other retail business, you put out a product and you’ll know the results by the end of the day.

How confident were you M Grill was going to succeed?

I had no idea. No idea at all. Ignorance is bliss.

Why Koreatown?

We’re Korean and Brazilian so we thought Koreans would like what we thought we liked and that’s how it happened.

What do you think of how L.A.’s Koreatown has evolved the last ten years?

Koreatown has changed a lot the last ten years. Namely the diversity of people that’s coming to this town is much more eclectic than it was ten years ago.

What percentage of your patrons are Korean?

Because we’re in Koreatown, it’s still a large majority. Dinner is about 70% but lunch is more diverse at about 50%.

What is your favorite cut of meat?

I have a few but the first is Pichana. It’s a very lean cut of meat but still very flavorful and our signature cut. Then I like the Beef Short Ribs and the Rack of Lamb.

I’ve been hearing amazing things about your Feijoada. What’s so special about it?

What really makes our Feijoada special is the way we cure the meat. We age it for six weeks. We cover the pork with salt just like they did back in the day to preserve the meat. The salt dries and cures the pork which gives it it’s distinct flavor. After that, we soak it in water for 2 days because it’s so salty. We’re also constantly changing the water which then becomes the base for the Feijoada. Then we add the smoked bacon, the feet, hocks, and spare ribs. That’s it.

What would your patorns be surprised to learn about you?

I love to surf and I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

What’s next for Manny Kim and M Grill?

We don’t have any plans yet for another location. It’s only been a year since the expansion. I still want to see how it goes. There are still growing pains associated with the expansion and I want to make sure we’re still crossing all the t’s and dotting our i’s. I want to make sure everything’s right.

How has business been since the expansion?

Yes, the expansion has been a very good thing. From the customer’s perspective you have a larger restaurant that can accommodate larger parties and it’s not as cramped as before. We have a larger salad bar so from the customer’s point of view I think it’s great. We’ve had to obviously increase our staff to accommodate the larger size of the restaurant but my philosophy on staffing is to be overstaffed. At any given time, you want to be overstaffed because you never know when you’re going to get a rush and you want to be prepared. This of course cuts into my bottom line and while sales have increased, it’s not increased at the same rate as my expenses. But we’re still growing so I’m not worried.

What’s your favorite Korean food?

My mom’s Kimchi Jjigae. Seriously. they says mom’s food is unmatched and it’s true.

Any place in Koreatown compare to your Mom’s?

Not even close.

Favorite Korean BBQ?

I haven’t been to Park’s which I hear is really good but out of the ones I have been to, Dong Il Jang is my favorite.

I’ve never had anything like your Garlic Chicken. It’s amazing. What’s your secret?

It’s funny. I hate bland chicken. Whenever I go to any other Churrascaria and order chicken, they always give me this drum that’s seasoned only with salt and pepper. It’s dry as a bone. I wanted to do a juicier chicken and that’s why I chose the thigh meat with the bone in. Anytime you keep the bone in, it keeps the meat juicier. Also, the chicken thigh’s we use are not very large. We actually special order it to be smaller and pay more for it. We then marinate it with garlic, lemon juice, onions, spices, and some herbs. I think the secret is the combination of the garlic and lemon. I like things to have some acidity and I love garlic. Somehow that works.

I love being on M Grills’ newsletter for the awesome deals. When can we expect the next one?

Yes, people love our deals. The deals have been a learning curve for us. We started with Yelp and then we got creative. We have a very large database of customers. It’s over ten thousand and those are loyal customers. We were asking ourselves how can we thank customers for being good patrons? So we started running our own deals. To answer your question, let’s just say it’s coming soon.

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