Jimmy O. Yang: How to have the best Sunday in L.A.

In Sunday Funday, L.A. people give us a play-by-play of their ideal Sunday around town. Find ideas and inspiration for where to go, what to eat and how to enjoy life on the weekends.

Onscreen, actor, comedian and writer Jimmy O. Yang has parlayed scene-stealing supporting roles on TV (as app developer/housemate Jian-Yang on HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and in the movies (as obnoxious playboy Bernard Tai in “Crazy Rich Asians”) into starring roles in films (2020’s “The Opening Act” and 2021’s “Love Hard”) and two Prime Video stand-up comedy specials (“Good Deal,” which dropped in 2020, and “Guess How Much?,” released May 2).

That kind of career arc makes him a strong choice for the role of Willis Wu, the background actor angling for a bigger role, in Hulu’s 10-episode adaptation of Charles Yu’s award-winning novel “Interior Chinatown” (executive produced by Taika Waititi with Yu as the showrunner) that’s currently shooting in Los Angeles. (Ironically, exterior shots are being filmed in L.A.’s Chinatown, while the interior action is being captured at the Fox Studio Lot.)

Offscreen, Yang has parlayed a love of food and cooking into a series of YouTube cooking videos (his first focused on “quarantine enchiladas”). The videos chronicle a never-ending quest to perfect a handful of dishes and even his romantic relationship with venture capitalist and fellow foodie Brianne Kimmel, who wooed him with a Mason jar of hard-to-score hot sauce.

Because Yang’s relationship with Kimmel (they’ve been dating since July 2021) is among the topics he touches on in “Guess How Much?” the couple — who spend most of their weekend time together — sat down for a chat on a recent Saturday afternoon at Worklife Studios Silver Lake, the launchpad, showroom and pop-up space Kimmel created for up-and-coming creative brands not far from the Los Feliz neighborhood where they live.

10 a.m.: Gaze at the garden

Jimmy O. Yang: On weekends we try to not plan too much, so I don’t wake up until 10 o’clock — ideally — but that doesn’t happen very often. Then I’ll stretch and do some yoga.

Brianne Kimmel: But first you like to go out and check your garden.

JOY: That’s true! I’ll kind of shuffle out to my garden to look at my plants. Right now I’ve got some hot peppers that are doing really well. We had a really thriving habanero plant last year. So I actually jarred them and fermented them, and I’m going to make hot sauce.

BK: We also get big boxes of vegetables delivered to the house from
Flamingo Estate, a collective of L.A.-based farmers that does fresh produce boxes.

11 a.m.: Food-truck hop or check out Chinatown

JOY: If we get a good taco hankering, we’ll go down to Soto and Olympic — like the Boyle Heights area — where there’s a line of food trucks so we can food-truck hop. There’s the [Tacos y Birria] La Unica truck and Pepe’s Red Tacos [which was recently renamed El Cabo Pepe’s] — they both have really good birria — and Mariscos Jalisco, the famous seafood truck, which I love.

BK: When we go to get tacos, he likes to bring his own hot sauce.

JOY: I made my first batch of fermented mango habanero watermelon hot sauce. And yes, I bring it along. It actually has a connection to our first date, which was at the Cara Hotel, where I ordered a lobster omelet at night. It was served with this great watermelon habanero sauce, one of the best hot sauces I’ve ever had. And I asked the chef if I could buy a bottle, and they said no because it was this gourmet sauce that they make every week.

Probably two dates later, she’s like, “I’m going to be five minutes late. I’m just handling something.” And she shows up with this Mason jar. She somehow convinced the chef to give her a whole Mason jar of the hot sauce. I was like, “Wow, I really like this girl!”

We’re both open to all kinds of cuisine, but when we started cooking together, I realized we approach it very differently. I know what I know, and there are like five dishes I’ll always make: meatballs [and] spaghetti, pad kra pao — made with ground chicken and holy basil — my chicken tikka masala is getting there. I was making pesto when we had a lot of basil in the backyard. We got like three bushels of basil that I gave away to my buddies, and we ate pesto for like two weeks. And lately, a green curry.

Recently we were in Chinatown getting some exterior shots, and the set was dressed with all this produce. A lot of it was plastic produce, but some of it was fresh. I was like, “Guys, what are you going to do with this? I gotta take everything!” So I got a bag and took lemongrass, chile peppers and dragon fruit. The next morning, I pounded some lemongrass and some chiles in a mortar and pestle and made some green curry. Let’s call it a “set-dressing curry.”

BK: Jimmy has a few recipes that he perfects over time, and so they’re always a little bit different. And I want as many cookbooks as possible. When I go to a restaurant, I need to read and see what’s going on with each cocktail.

JOY: Sometimes on Sundays we might go down to Chinatown to get some dim sum [instead]. Sadly, Ocean Seafood closed down, so now we’ve got to find a new place. We shoot in these alleyways — all these little nooks and crannies — so I’ve discovered lots of new shops you wouldn’t know about if you were just walking down Broadway. I discovered a vintage clothing store called Tae House when we were shooting late one night. Me and Charlie [Yu] went in there and bought a couple things. That’s one place. [But it’s not open on Sunday.] There’s also a bookstore there we love. What’s the name of it?

BK: It’s called Now Serving. It only sells cookbooks. We do most of our Christmas shopping there. Last year, for Lunar New Year, we bought 60 cookbooks because we put them in gift boxes for our friends.

JOY: She collects cookbooks. “My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories From a City on the Water,” [by Betty Liu], that’s a beautiful one we like. And Brandon Jew’s book “Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories From the Birthplace of Chinese American Food” is another. There’s also a store in Chinatown we like, Heaven’s Market, that sells natural wines.

Noon: Pop over to visit the parents

JOY: I try to see my parents most weekends. It’s out of both obligation and love. They’re in the San Gabriel Valley, where there’s a lot of really good Chinese food, and we’ll try all these different places. There’s a famous duck restaurant we went to in Monterey Park, Duck House. That’s kind of what we did when we first came to America. We lived kind of in West L.A., but every weekend my dad would drive us to the San Gabriel Valley, so we could have a little piece of home.

BK: We’ve taken cast and crew from films there. It’s our go-to for first-timers to traditional Chinese food.

2 to 4 p.m.: Do a little around-the-world recipe reconnaissance

JOY: Both my parents cooked, but for my dad, cooking was his love language. He would totally take over in the kitchen. [That’s one of the reasons I started] doing cooking videos during the pandemic. There’s so much good stuff from different cultures that I never learned how to cook — that I never even thought was possible.

That was the time when everyone was running out of toilet paper, and there were long lines at Ralphs and Albertsons. So I found a hack. I went to this place, which we actually still love going to on the weekends — Carniceria 21. It’s this Mexican grocery store that has good meats, great chorizo, great sauces — great everything. It’s no frills and no lines.

I also really like Bangluck Market in Thai Town, which is in the same strip mall as this great Thai restaurant called Sanamluang. So sometimes we’ll get a little lunch there and then go to the market. They have Thai basil, Thai chiles, coconut milk and lemongrass — a lot of the staples of Thai cuisine that can be hard to find.

6 p.m.: Get inspired by (steak) Sinatra at the Smoke House

JOY: If I’m not at home trying to master a new dish for dinner, we love Damon’s steakhouse in Glendale. It’s awesome. It has a really fun vibe. And I love the prime rib.

BK: Oh, and their coconut shrimp is so good too!

JOY: So it would either be Damon’s or the Smoke House in Burbank, which has this Old Hollywood vibe, and it’s so chill. There’s plenty of parking, and it’s a little out of the way. The first time I went in, I didn’t even know what was going on. It’s always like somebody’s 70th birthday in there. We were in there one time, and it was the 93rd birthday for some guy named Bazooka Joe. Everyone stood up and sang “America the Beautiful” and saluted him. I just started crying. It was amazing.

BK: We discovered a new dish there. It’s called steak Sinatra.

JOY: It’s amazing. I’m trying to replicate it. I just haven’t figured out how. It’s like chopped sirloin steaks on a pasta.

8 p.m.: Belly up to the backyard tiki bar before karaoke

BK: We’d definitely have a nightcap in our tiki bar, which is kind of inspired by all these bars and restaurants we’ve been to when Jimmy was on tour. We went to 33 cities last year.

JOY: The tiki bar started as a toolshed that I didn’t know what to do with. I had lots of ideas, but that’s all they were. Bri really convinced me to make it a tiki bar, and we drew up some designs. Lucky for us — and also sad — a lot of tiki vendors had gone out of business or were going out of business because of the pandemic, so we were able to pick up a ton of great tiki decorations. I don’t drink too much hard alcohol, but I do love a good mojito. And fortunately we have a lot of mint in our backyard. We didn’t have to grow it. It’s just always been there like a weed. It’s everywhere. During the pandemic, my buddy Ken and his wife came over, and I traded him a sack of mint for his wife’s homemade dumplings.

Bri also built a karaoke room in this weird kind of uninhabitable little space next to the laundry room. We went all over L.A., and she found lots of antiques. The centerpiece is a 200-pound bronze dragon table that takes up most of the room. The top is a piece of glass so you can see the dragon. She got it from a vintage antique dealer who goes to estate sales. And then she splurged and bought, as a gift for me, a vintage Togo couch from this place in North Hollywood called MidcenturyLA. Then when it came to the karaoke machine, my dad was like, “When you’re ready, call me. I got the spot!” And he took me to Ace Karaoke [in City of Industry], which is like the last remaining karaoke place. You go in, and they’re selling CDs of karaoke hits from 1992, as well as these machines that literally download songs from the cloud. It’s some old Chinese guy, so only Asian people probably go there.

Go-to karaoke songs? There’s so many. “Piano Man” is great, “Careless Whisper,” “Come Together” by the Beatles. I like a little more of the classic stuff. A lot of Billy Joel. A lot of Billy Joel.

It’s a small room — it fits about six — so it’s usually the end-of-the-night crew. Almost everybody has left, and we head down there. There’s a little fridge down there, so nobody has to go back [upstairs for drinks].

11 p.m.: Cookbooks and local news

JOY: After we karaoke a few songs, Bri reads cookbooks while I watch the local news, and then we go to bed.

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