For the past few years, there seems to have emerged a sharing economy alternative for every consumer need imaginable. Need a ride, or willing to take someone around in yours? Try ride-sharing. Want to save a few bucks on vacation by staying in someone’s living room? Just open your internet browser. Too busy and / or lazy to pick up groceries? There’s even an app for that. I’d become wary of all these new plays on the same idea, which made me so relieved to finally find a novel take with Kitchen United.
Most visitors to the Pasadena location will see only the bright and modern 24/7 cafe- where the tasty treats being prepared behind the swinging kitchen doors are sold. Customers can sip on freshly-made coffee, and perhaps even munch on Bolo’s soft Hong Kong buns sandwiching rich pineapple ice cream, while thumbing through electronic menus on large screens, from various restaurants and cuisines. You might wonder how one facility could house so many culinary choices? Well during a recent preview event, I found the answer. So come with me, dear reader, down the rabbit hole and into the back rooms…
We start our journey in Kitchen #3, billed as a “kitchen-by-the-hour”. Here burgeoning chefs can rent a small kitchen space, maybe a single oven with a prep table, to dole out dishes for the cafe or for wider distribution. For instance, you might try ItalCrusts, with their delicious, ready-to-bake dough that makes crust with the perfect amount of chew and crunch, great for establishments without a full cooking area that still want to offer food.
In Kitchen #2, we find the first of two “virtual restaurants”. This one may be the smaller, but it’s no lightweight. Perhaps you’ll get a taste of the organic Greenzone menu, and their spicy wonton, presented perfectly in sauce and over a spoon.
And then we find Kitchen #3. A fully fledged and functional restaurant kitchen, with the smells of opportunity and success wafting through the room. Really cool ideas can be created here, such as Mid East Tacos, whose proprietor daylights at local favorite Mini Kebab and is (quite successfully) experimenting with Mexican street-style tacos, such the one we tried with crunchy and flavorful falafel as protein.
There are many reasons why a cook or restauranteur might want to rent out one of Kitchen United’s spaces. Perhaps you are vendor like food-festival favorite Shrimp Daddy, whose jumbo soft-shell garlic butter shrimp are truly special, and you might want the efficiency and space of a full kitchen, without the expenses and risk. Or maybe you are authentic Chinese Laundry pumping out delicious cold Shanghainese noodles with grandma’s recipe braised pork, and you want to get yourself on the many restaurant delivery services without bothering with a brick and mortar location. You might even be a well-known standby like Canter’s Deli, with their melt-in-your mouth corned beef sandwich dipped in creamy Russian sauce, and you want to bring your cuisine to whole new parts of the city. No matter the reason, you can bet that our stomachs will be delighted by the result!