This Chef Is Betting Hong Kong Residents Will Learn to Love Mexicali Food

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Chef Esdras Ochoa at his Frogtown restaurant, Salazar.

Chef Esdras Ochoa has come a long way in the last decade. Ten years ago, the Mexico City-born art-school grad started his cooking career, serving Mexicali-style tacos out of his Dodge Ram truck in downtown Los Angeles. Five years ago, Ochoa swapped the parking lot for a brick-and-mortar taqueria, Mexicali Taco & Co. In May 2016, Ochoa turned a former Frogtown auto body shop into Salazar, which has become a wildly popular Sonora-style barbecue restaurant. Now, Ochoa is tackling another neighborhood this time in Hong Kong.

“This area is what Frogtown was — it’s up and coming, kind of hidden,” Ochoa, 35, said recently in the kitchen of 11 Westside, his new restaurant and bar, set to open next month in the Kennedy Town neighborhood of Hong Kong.

Ochoa says he isn’t going to serve traditional Mexican cuisine at the 4,000-square-foot restaurant; he doesn’t think Hong Kong is the market for that. “At first, you come very confident, then you realize it’s not L.A. It’s a whole different vibe,” he said. “Here, a lot of people don’t know what a taco is — especially locals — so I have to start from the very beginning.”

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Find out how the chef plans to introduce his cuisine to a new market.