The coronavirus pandemic is hard enough for an established restaurant to deal with.
For a restaurant that was set to open March 21 — two days after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to stay at home at much as possible — pivoting to a radically different business model within a couple of weeks is even more challenging.
Angie and Daniel Kim had dreamed of starting their first business that would combine their shared connections to Korean and American culture, Angie’s culinary training in Italy and Daniel’s background in specialty coffee.
They found a home for their all-day cafe near the beach in downtown Santa Monica and named the cafe Interstellar, representing the space between the two guiding stars of their restaurant: Korean and American food.
“In between those two stars is where we reside in,” Angie Kim said. “Especially since California is a melting pot of cultural influences, we wanted to create a comfortable space for people who live in that space too.”
Angie and Daniel created a menu that reflected their vision, with influences from Angie’s work with Mexican-American chefs and the couple’s trips to Japan. But when it became clear that the Los Angeles area was going to shut down to slow the spread of coronavirus, they had to redo the entire menu to cater to takeout and delivery. Interstellar opened for takeout and delivery via Caviar earlier this month.
“It was a difficult and challenging time for us because we were planning to rely on foot traffic, but we were able to pivot,” she said.
Kim created DIY kits, such as an affogato box with housemade custard gelato, coffee beans and an Interstellar mug, and a spring cocktail set with pomegranate and rosemary soju cocktails.
She came up with ways to package dishes to ensure they traveled well and retained their taste and heat. Her branzino ochazuke, a dish of seared branzino in an emulsion of dashi broth, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice, is typically served in a pot with a separate dish for the fish. Now, its components get delivered in a stack of bowls.
“It’s been surprisingly popular with customers,” she said. “I thought they were going to lean back on ordering hot soups and food, but we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback. That made us happy, because it took a lot of trial and error.”
The rest of the takeout and delivery food menu includes a French scramble breakfast burrito, katsu curry, panko fried chicken and waffles, and Basque cheesecake with sweet red bean and berry compote.
On the drinks side, Interstellar is delivering espresso drinks made with beans from Arkansas’ Onyx Coffee Lab and various California wines. When he’s not limited to takeout and delivery, Daniel Kim crafts specialty drinks such as a latte with orange extract and maple syrup and a vanilla salted cream espresso drink.
Healthcare workers get a 20% discount and neighborhood workers and businesses get 15% off their orders, Kim said.
Once California’s stay at home order is lifted, Kim said she’s looking forward to welcoming customers into Interstellar’s storefront on Broadway, which is decorated in light blue and white, strung with pothos plants and lined with gray velvet booths for all-day relaxing.
The businesses surrounding Interstellar — each dealing with their own coronavirus-related problems — are excited to see them open, Kim said.
“It’s our first business and I was kind of afraid at first of the competition in Santa Monica, but the surrounding businesses have been so supportive and helpful,” she said. “It’s been really uplifting.”
Interstellar is located at 109 Broadway. Call (310) 310-8820 or visit interstellarla.com/ for more information.