Back when I attended UCLA, the food truck phenomenon was just gaining momentum. There were trucks strewn about Westwood, everywhere, you just needed to know where and how much, to break from the monotony of the lunch/dinner options in the village. I specifically remember passing a sloth of Bruins, on the way to my apartment on Midvale, seemingly waiting for nothing, as I would come home late on Wednesday nights from Schoenberg Hall. It turned out they were queuing up in anticipation for one of the more reputable food truck purveyors in Los Angeles—Roy Choi and his remarkable Kogi BBQ Truck. Though I never ate the food, or waited in the unbearable lines, finding almost all the inventive meals-on-wheels offerings faddish, Choi would go on to garner accolades and the respect of LA foodies and influentials by staying consistent and fresh on the scene. Who knew the food trucks could be the finishing school of chefs.

Fast-forward four years and I would finally have a chance to eat at one of Roy Choi’s brick-and-mortar locations—Cheygo—to see for myself if those inexhaustible lines were really worth the wait.

Similar to those long lines off-campus, at Cheygo they were lined up outside the restaurant, snaking around the strip mall, to eat the reasonably priced Asian fusion creations. I had plans to meet with friends there before we would watch The Master (the new PTA film) and they informed me that the restaurant was a “bring your own booze” type of joint. That suited me well and with a 2001 La Rioja Alta “Viña Ardanza” Reserva Espescial Rioja, I arrived late, and filed in, hugging the building and waiting to place my order.

Last to join the table, after ordering the Chubby pork belly, my friends had already been seated and were beginning their dinners. Between the two of them they had Filipino Adobo chicken and the Tiny’s prime rib plate as I opened my bottle of Rioja and stared into the liquid with excitement hoping to divine its secrets by sight alone.

Too dark (in the eatery) to discern the color, I spun the aged Rioja in my plastic cup (Riedel stemware avert your eyes!) before giving it a sensory exam. The eleven-year-old red still had plenty of fight, armed with a red cherry primer, dried flowers, and shaded in by a musty, earthy scent. The wine was still developing with plenty of red fruits blanketing the palate; I was surprised about the evolution of this wine as I could see it aging, potentially, for another decade gracefully.

After I polished off my first glass the food arrived. With a little spice and a lot of flavor, each bite of tender pork belly was perfectly fit for the Rioja. The broccoli and peanuts added texture to the hearty dish while the spices and radish were providing a nice depth of flavor. The wine was enhanced by every nibble of the savory plate; the medium-plus acidity helped the Rioja steer through the fattiness of the pork and quell the spice of the dish. A fine pairing.

This dinner was a long time coming. Years after passing the Kogi truck repeatedly, between my Midvale and Gayley Avenue haunts, I finally dined at Cheygo and was pleased with the result. I had no idea that this restaurant was so close to my dwelling and with such reasonable prices I am not sure why I didn’t find it sooner. When the weather finally gets cooler in Los Angeles I think I might become a Cheygo regular. As for the wine… I am going back for a few more bottles in a hurry because at thirty dollars it is a tremendous value with serious upside.