Broken Mouth, a hidden gem in Los Angeles, was named the best restaurant in the US by Yelp.
I recently went to Broken Mouth and tried nearly the entire menu. I loved everything.
The chicken teriyaki plate, chicken sandwich, and cucumber kimchi were all big favorites.
Yelp has declared that Broken Mouth, a hidden gem in Los Angeles, is the best restaurant in the US.
Broken Mouth took the first spot in Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat, which was released earlier this year. The list features everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to food trucks, with eateries in California, Hawaii, Florida, and Arizona leading the pack. But it's Broken Mouth —which has a perfect 5-star rating and more than 1,500 reviews —that came out on top.
The annual list is compiled with the help of Yelp's data science team, which analyzed ratings, numbers of reviews, and votes from the community to help determine its top 100 restaurants.
I live in LA, so when I heard that Yelp's top restaurant in the US was just a 20-minute drive away, I knew I had to try it.
Broken Mouth is a Korean-Hawaiian spot run by Chef Tim Lee, who hails from Oahu.
"Broken Mouth" comes from the Hawaiian phrase "Broke da Mout," which, according to the restaurant's website, describes "food so good, one hardly has time to chew."
Lee explains on his website that he wanted to bring the Korean homestyle food of Hawaii to LA, and share his own "love for food and family."
So on a rainy day in LA, I ventured with my boyfriend and two of our friends to have the ultimate feast at Broken Mouth.
Broken Mouth is located in a tucked-away food hall in downtown LA. We spotted it after turning the corner into a brightly-colored alley splashed with shades of lilac, yellow, and orange.
I walked up to Broken Mouth's stand and met Chef Lee, who was taking orders.
Lee kindly warned me that it would take about an hour for our food to be ready. When I asked if it had anything to do with being named the best restaurant in the US, he nodded and said they've been swamped ever since.
But Lee, who couldn't have been more friendly, gave me a pro tip: The key is to order your food for pickup on the restaurant's website so you don't have to wait. Since it was our first time at Broken Mouth, Lee also gave us free Hawaiian sodas to sip on with our feast.
And, to be honest, we didn't mind waiting a while for our food. The hall is also home to Holy Basil, which we discovered had some delicious Thai to hold us over. We were also huge fans of the mochas and friendly baristas over at Virtu Coffee. I don't often come to downtown LA due to weekday traffic, so it was nice to explore what else the food hall had to offer.
Our food was ready in just under an hour, and we couldn't wait to dig in. First up was the cucumber kimchi.
The $6.75 cucumber kimchi features fresh cucumbers, red onions, and red chili flakes.
I'm a huge kimchi lover, to the point where I once paid $80 to have some of my favorite kimchi shipped from New York City to LA because I missed it so much (shout out to Mokbar). So I had high hopes —and high standards — for this dish.
And Broken Mouth definitely delivered. The cucumber kimchi was expertly balanced in flavor, spice, and texture. The cucumbers were crisp and fresh, providing a delightful crunch with each bite. And the red chili flakes added a nice heat to the kimchi without overpowering it.
"The kimchi is amazing," my friend Kayla declared. "It tickles the senses."
We all agreed the cucumber kimchi was the perfect start to our meal at Broken Mouth. We continued to snack on it throughout our lunch, using the cucumber as a palate cleanser.
Up next was Broken Mouth's Local Plate, which features grilled Portuguese sausage, purple rice, and sunny-side-up eggs.
The $14.75 Local Plate had so many fantastic flavors and textures working together. We especially loved the delicious Portuguese sausage, which was smoky, salty, and savory (the three essential S's).
My friend Oliver said he liked how the sausage balanced out the rich yolks of the sunny-side-up eggs, which were perfectly cooked. They oozed all over our sticky purple rice, which soaked up all that flavor. The green onions also added a nice crunch and pop of color to the dish.
Broken Mouth also serves a Korean-Hawaiian-style lunch plate, which can be ordered with four different types of protein. We started with the shrimp.
The $16.75 shrimp plate features Kahuku-style garlic butter shrimp and is served alongside purple rice and Korean greens. Chef Lee encouraged us to try the dish without removing the shrimp shell to ensure we got to taste all of the flavors.
The seasoning on the shrimp is a fantastic combination of richness and heat that really danced on my taste buds. The shell texture was just a bit too hard for my taste, but I was surprised to find that my boyfriend Peter — who never orders shrimp —really enjoyed the dish.
"I don't mind the shell," he said. "I didn't really notice it. I'm here for it!"
What really won us over, though, were the Korean greens (which can also be purchased as a separate $6.75 side). The warm baby greens were beautifully seasoned with a chili sesame vinaigrette that reminded us of the kimchi. The greens were packed with umami, and paired really well with the subtle purple rice.
"I could have a whole meal out of the greens," Peter said. "How do they make greens like this!?"
Next up was the teriyaki chicken plate, which features grilled teriyaki chicken thighs.
This $17.75 plate was another big winner at our feast. The delicious chicken thighs were super moist and tender, and tasted like they had been marinating for at least a day. And the teriyaki sauce had just the right amount of sweetness and thick consistency.
"This is like what you dream the mall food court teriyaki tastes like, but it never is," Peter declared between happy bites.
We tried the chicken with Lee's homemade hot sauce (an extra 75 cents), and the two paired perfectly together. The hot sauce had the expected kick, but there was a surprising subtle sweetness to it that Kayla and I both loved.
So far, everything had been a slam dunk.
We decided to switch things up and try the avocado toast next.
Broken Mouth's avocado toast features avocado mash, cucumber, chili flakes, and furikake on top of whole-grain toast.
When we first saw the avocado toast, we were all shocked — and I mean that in the best way possible. The $12.75 dish was piled sky-high with lush green avocado mash. As LA residents, we've had our fair share of avocado toasts, and have been charged much more for far less.
"You'll usually order avocado toast and they'll give you maybe a quarter of an avocado," Kayla said. "These people give you an avocado tree."
The avocado toast's presentation was a stunning burst of bright colors, and I loved the creative decision to have the cucumbers stand up on the toast for extra dimension. Each bite was deliciously creamy and crunchy, with the chili flakes adding some subtle heat while the furikake provided some salty nuttiness.
We also sampled Broken Mouth's beef plate, which features Hawaii's Meat Jun.
Meat Jun is a Korean-Hawaiian dish of egg-battered ribeye beef slices. As with the other lunch plates, the $18.75 dish was served alongside purple rice and the Korean greens.
The lightly-fried egg coating combined with the sweet beef reminded me almost of a pastry. The sweetness was definitely surprising, as I've never tried Meat Jun before, but I loved the sauce on the beef and thought it paired well with those delicious greens.
The dish was delicious, but we thought the taste of the egg overpowered the flavor of the beef. Out of the three lunch plates we tried, this was our least favorite.
Then we tried the Spam musubi, which featured seaweed-wrapped Spam on purple rice.
The Spam musubi is frequently mentioned on Broken Mouth's Yelp page, and it's easy to see why. The $3.75 snack combines so many of the incredible flavors we'd tried in the previous dishes, all wrapped up in a perfect (and cheap) little sandwich.
"It's a nice balance of sweet, salty, and savory," Kayla said. "It's got a bit of everything in one bite."
We thought the Spam musubi made for a visually pretty dish, and a great appetizer to start your meal at Broken Mouth. But if you're going to order most of the main dishes and aren't a huge Spam fan, I think you can give this one a skip.
It was finally time for the dish we'd all been waiting for: the teriyaki chicken sandwich. And, wow, did it live up to the hype.
Broken Mouth's $14.75 sandwich features grilled teriyaki chicken, greens, and mayo all stuffed between a brioche bun. And the first thing out of all of our mouths when we saw it was, "Oh my God." This sandwich was massive!
"There's, like, two chickens in here," I wrote in my notes.
"You could feed a whole family with this sandwich," Kayla declared.
The teriyaki chicken was extremely moist, juicy, and tender, and we loved the combination of the sweet teriyaki sauce with the savory chicken. I would've happily eaten the chicken just on its own, but as a sandwich, it tasted even more special.
Everyone at the table was a huge fan, with Peter declaring it his favorite dish of our entire feast.
We were completely stuffed, but we knew we couldn't leave until we tried some dessert.
Broken Mouth has a $6.75 brioche bread pudding with cranberries and granola. The pudding was still warm when we dug in, and it had the perfect texture —soft without being mushy, and some great crunch from the granola.
We loved the cinnamon flavor that came through, and overall thought it was a delicious dessert. Peter, who has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know, gave it his stamp of approval.
Our incredible feast had come to an end. And I've been recommending Broken Mouth to everyone I know ever since.
I think everyone can agree that there are pros and cons to Yelp. But I'm so glad that this ranking brought Broken Mouth into my life because it really blew me away.
Our food was beautifully presented and all the flavors were exciting, fresh, and full of depth. The dishes stayed true to their roots, transporting us to the chef's hometown of Oahu. Plus, everything was affordable — much appreciated in this economy — and the portions were huge. We took home plenty of leftovers, which still tasted great the next day.
Whether you're an LA local or just visiting, Broken Mouth needs to be on your list.
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