Dirty Sumo Dog
Before you seat yourself at the bar or counter in Koreatown’s new hot dog joint, Sumo Dog, it’s imperative that you accept three important facts:
One: You’re going have to unbutton your skinny jeans before leaving.
Two: You’re going to cave and order the sushi tots to accompany your dog.
And three: You will never want another plain ol’ hot dog again.
Because these dogs are going to rock your world. They are going to shock your tastebuds. And at the risk of sounding slightly dramatic, they may just change your life.
You’re probably a little skeptical. What could make these hot dogs so much better than all the other hot dogs out there? To start, the wieners aren’t just your ordinary wieners. They’re sourced from artisan butchers and family-owned ranches, like Olympia Provisions and Snake River Farms. The beef dog is made from American Wagyu beef for crying out loud. If you’ve never had Wagyu beef, it’s the type of beef that practically melts like butter in your mouth. So it’s not just the insane toppings that make the Sumo Dog creations so delicious. It’s also the dogs themselves.
But let’s be real here, it’s the toppings that brought those crazy lines to Sumo Dog three years ago, when it was just a little pop-up at Coachella. The harmonious combination of crispy onions and velvety tagorashi cheese sauce on the Chili & Cheese dog. The savory sweet mix of spicy mayo and teriyaki with a kick of pickled peppers and wasabi relish on the original Sumo Dog. It’s a mouthful of flavors and textures in every forkful. And we do mean forkful. This is not the type of dog you can easily pick up with your hands. Although the friendly workers will happily cut your dog into bite-sized, finger-friendly chunks upon request.
If you’re not yet planning a trip to hot dog heaven, then it might be time to name drop. Did we mention that Sumo Dog is run by Jeffrey Lunak, a disciple of Iron Chef Morimoto? Well it is. There'a reason why those Japanese umami flavors and combinations are so on point.
To learn more about the concept behind Sumo Dog and the Off The Menu item, the “Dirty Sumo Dog,” we caught up with Chef Lunak. And then we got down and dirty and stuffed our faces. Because that’s the only way to eat a Dirty Sumo Dog.
What is the story behind Sumo Dog?
It started as a pop up three years ago at Coachella music Festival. I kind of did it just as a fluke for something fun to do. For some reason, the day before Coachella, Zagat did a big article on us, probably because I’m formally a corporate chef for Iron Chef Morimoto and they thought that was an interesting concept. We ended up getting crushed that opening day. It was a huge success. Sumo Dog was actually the only food vendor that Rolling Stones included in their “Top 20 Things to Check Out at Coachella” list that year. After having the same success the next year at Coachella, we realized that it would be a viable concept. We opened our first location in KTown in January.
Why did you choose to open Sumo Dog in Koreatown?
We could have opened in other places that may have had higher traffic, like Downtown LA, but we figured that if we could make it in KTown, it would help us create strong roots in the community. It seemed like a really cool, fun neighborhood to be a part of, with an evolving and advancing food scene.
What makes your hot dogs special?
The duality of the branding and the simplicity of the brand. The name “Sumo Dog” really implies big hot dogs, and I think that’s relatable for people. Also using Japanese ingredients that create umami flavors coupled with the salty unctuous quality of the hot dog is the perfect marriage. I think it’s very relatable to all people, foodies and non-foodies alike.
Why the Dirty Sumo Dog as the OTM Item?
I liked the name. And it’s really got a little bit of everything on it. It’s got the saltiness, spiciness of our pork chili. It’s got that great texture, because we fry the hot dog in tempura batter. It’s got the softness and sweetness of the bun. It’s just got a lot of moving parts that work well together.
What drink or side dish pairs best with the Dirty Sumo Dog?
Beer, Shochu, or sake I would say.
What else would you recommend that an OTM member orders at Sumo Dog?
You have to try the sushi rice tots, they’re kind of what we’re known for. We make sushi rice and season it in the traditional way, but we kind of overwork the rice so it’s gooey on the inside and crunchy and crispy on the outside. We serve it with an all natural wasabi spice that’s really good.
Do you guys make desserts?
We do mochi. We also do chakoyaki, which is our take on takoyaki, but it’s the sweet version, so no octopus. It’s these little pastry balls filled with Nutella that we garnish with whipped condensed milk and peanuts. We also do vegan soft-serve, which we make with soy milk.
What is your process when creating new dishes? What inspires you?
We try to keep it simple. I’ve always done Japanese food so I try to pull some of the essence of the simplicity of Japanese food, kind of the umami, while pairing it with a real simple approach so everybody understands what they’re eating and they aren’t scared of it. Texture obviously plays a big role too.
What’s the most important step or component to making a good hot dog?
The fun part about hot dogs is that you can see everything that’s on top of it, so you experience the textures and flavors in a different way. With hamburgers, you have the top bun, so things can get a little hidden. But really, the most important part when eating a hot dog is the first bite. That first bite has to be great, and every bite after that has to taste just as good.