When Isaac Bo was cooking garlic noodles at his house for his friends at 13 years old, he never could’ve imagined that over a decade later, they would be a best-seller at his restaurant.

At 27, Bo has opened NGHBRS Kitchen, previously a food truck, in the former beloved Genkiyaki space in Lakewood. The Asian fusion grill closed in mid-June, and within the course of a weekend, the space was completely taken over by Bo and re-opened under the new name.

Garlic noodles with tri-tip steak and NGHBRS Kitchen, a new Cambodian joint at the old Genkiyaki location in Lakewood, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

“My first and only restaurant job was Genkiyaki,” Bo said. Genkiyaki owner David Joo hired Bo at 17 and has remained a mentor in his life since. When Bo was 25, he decided to leave Genkiyaki to start working on NGHBRS, which initially was just a backyard pop-up.

In his Northside house, he sold his garlic noodles and wings from his backyard and gained traction through word of mouth and social media posts. It was just like when he was a kid. As the child of a single mother, Bo cooked for himself and his older sister at home, realizing his love of feeding others and his entrepreneurial drive to turn his passion for cooking into a business.

Joo encouraged him to make NGHBRS a more formal business and helped him secure a food truck.

Isaac Bo stands in front of NGHBRS Kitchen, his new Cambodian joint at the old Genkiyaki location in Lakewood, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The food truck had a sleek mostly-black design with red and orange in its logo. Bo popped up all over town, in Downtown Long Beach, at Trademark Brewing, catering parties and an event for L.A. Hip-Hop radio station Real 92.3.

A year and a half later, Joo let Bo know he would be closing Genkiyaki.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, would you want to take over the restaurant?’ And I was more than happy to,” Bo said. At the time, he had been looking for a permanent location and returning to the location of his first job seemed like the perfect route.

Aside from the best-selling garlic noodles, the restaurant offers 12 different wing flavors, from classic American flavors like barbecue to wings with Cambodian staples like fish sauce.

Bo, who is Cambodian, doesn’t stick to one type of cuisine in his cooking, instead blending flavors to achieve balance.

“We do a fried shrimp,” Bo said. “We eat it with lemon, salt, pepper, and it sounds basic, but the balance is just right. We have like some Korean flavors too, like a gochujang (red chili paste) and then we have a Sinigang flavor, which is like a Filipino lemon pepper.”

The cajun lemon peppa wings from NGHBRS Kitchen on the Lakewood-Long Beach border Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Bo also intends to keep some Genkiyaki menu items available like the extremely popular ninja fries and tacos. The restaurant, which underwent a remodel a few years ago when Bo was still working at Genkiyaki, still looks like it used to (just with the NGHBRS logo and sign), but eventually Bo will make some changes.

“I was just kind of like, well, I kind of helped design this place and I liked it too,” Bo said.

The restaurant is still in its soft opening phase, and a grand opening is planned for the future. Current operating hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

NGHBRS Kitchen is located at 5526 Del Amo Blvd.