In 2009, classically trained chef Erwin Tjahyadi, who was raised in Indonesia, literally delivered the flavors of his native culture, combined with his passion for Mexican food, throughout Los Angeles via his Komodo food truck. He then opened two freestanding Komodo restaurants where Southeast Asian–inspired tacos and burritos dominate the menu before striking up a partnership with Hot Pockets. His next concept, Pasadena’s Bone Kettle, a Southeast Asian–inspired bone-broth-focused restaurant, aims to have a full bar focusing on tropical cocktails.
We got really lucky. One of our customers who loves our food asked if we wanted to work with Hot Pockets to make a filling. Then six months later, they flew us to Cleveland to work in their test kitchen with other food truck owners. We learned a lot about food production and packaging and making mass quantity with the same consistency of ingredients.
So is that your favorite drunk food?
Yeah. [Laughs] One of the reasons we decided to work with them is we grew up with Hot Pockets. It’s great any time of the day, especially the pepperoni and cheese—it’s classic.
What do you like to drink when you get off work?
Right now, I have been drinking beers from Belching Beaver Brewery. Their Me So Honey [a honey wheat ale] is a kind of thick ale beer, and I’ve also been drinking Peanut Butter Milk Stout. I like heavy dark beer. I love Guinness. I like when it’s really creamy and heavy; I like the big bold flavor. It’s like drinking dark chocolate but beer. For cocktails, I enjoy drinking Moscow Mules and Mojitos with extra mint. Otherwise I usually stick to beer and whiskey.
Do you usually drink at work or head out when you’re off?
We have beer and wine at Komodo Venice because it’s a bigger space. We serve Asian beer like Asahi, Tsingtao and Sapporo. And our domestic is Corona and Pacifico and a couple local breweries. Sometimes I go with friends to a local sports bar for beers and buffalo wings.
What are some local spots you like to hit for drinks when you’re off work?
Have you found any cocktails that inspire your cooking?
I’ve been going to a lot of restaurants and bars with my brother because we’re opening a new location, Bone Kettle in old town Pasadena, that’s more like fine dining. We have a bar and want to be able to mix tropical fruits with liquors. We’ve been going to Cassia to try their specialty drinks. I like their Barrel Aged Sunny Place. It has really strong, bold flavors and a nice smokiness from the mezcal with the spiciness of the sambal. And also to Broken Spanish. [I like] La Jarra; it’s really flavorful, and the citrus mixes nicely with the smoky flavor of the mezcal. And their Aztec Colonel; it has a lot of traditional flavors that are nicely layered on top of one another.
What do you like to serve at a dinner party to kick things off?
Sometimes we’ll do special occasions like birthdays, Easter or Thanksgiving. My family drinks a lot of red wine. They like pinot noir; that’s always on the table at the parties.
Any guilty pleasures you like to drink when no one is looking?