I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Heart-y KBBQ February 25, 2008

I meant to post this on Valentine’s Day, honestly I did. It’s not actually the KBBQ that’s heart-y, it’s the rice done on the grill afterward (so delicious). Here’s the pic.

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This is from Hae Jang Chon (also known as “that pig place in the strip mall on 6th,” because apparently many people can’t remember its name – including me; I had to look it up). I liked Hae Jang Chon, although on a repeat visit our server didn’t form the rice into a heart. But he was cool and let us sit and chat forever.

I particularly liked the beef brisket at Hae Jang Chon. I was also interested in the fact that they use radish to clean the grill. They dump a bunch of radish on, push it around with the scraper, then when they scrape it off the grease comes with it. Ingenious. Never seen that before.

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Hae Jang Chon’s all-you-can-eat option includes AYCE meat, two soups (one before the meal, one after), lettuce salad, panchan (not as varied as some places, but they compensate by providing more dipping sauces for the meat than some), kimchee pancakes (yum), and fried rice done on the grill at the end (less meat and more seaweed than some, but delicious). It’s reasonably priced at about $16. They’ve got a parking lot, but it’s valet at night, so be expecting that if you go. During the day it’s also valet, but I zipped into a spot on my own before I got to the valet station, and nobody stopped me.

Hae Jang Chon
3821 W. 6th Street
(cross-street: Serrano, IIRC)
Los Angeles, CA 90020
http://www.haejangchon.com

 

Good Eats, Good Meats January 18, 2008

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 7:00 pm
Tags: ,

It feels like ages since I’ve blogged about a restaurant. Okay, it was only six posts ago, but still. And honestly, although there is no limit to the number of times I can enjoy KBBQ, I’m starting to feel there might be a limit to the number of times I can post photos of meat on a grill before they all start looking the same. But anyway, here goes.

Today’s restaurant is Yi Ssi Hwa Ro, located in Chapman Plaza. Before I went to this restaurant I’d never actually been inside Chapman Plaza, and in fact I wasn’t really sure where the entrance was (it’s off Kenmore). Chapman Plaza is strange. It feels like walking into a fortress (or driving, if you use their valet). But inside the thick walls of the fortress, instead of finding knights jousting, peasants working, geese a-laying, lords a-leaping, and ladies dancing, you find an array of Korean restaurants and businesses. Yi Ssi Hwa Ro is located in the northwest corner. It’s a fairly big restaurant, and as far as I could tell the servers seemed to speak pretty good English, although I didn’t interact with them much because the Koreans in our party did the ordering (in Korean).

We got the $15.99 all-you-can-eat option, and I was impressed with the quality of the meat. In fact, that’s what I remember the most. I pretty much forgot what the panchan were like or what else we ordered, although I do remember the kimchee pancake (yum!). But I went to this restaurant the day after I went to Soot Bul Gui Rim 1, and I’d recommend this one over SBGR 1 anytime. In a big way. Yi Ssi Hwa Ro’s meat was impressively tender and flavorful, a much better bargain for the same price.

Here’s the obligatory photo of meat on a grill:

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Yi Ssi Hwa Ro
3465 W 6th St
(inside Chapman Plaza; cross-street: Kenmore)
Los Angeles, CA 90020

 

Tongue in Jeep October 29, 2007

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 6:33 pm
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So I broke down and went to the KBBQ for non-K people, Soot Bull Jeep. It was only to try the tongue, I swear! In most respects I think Park’s beats Soot Bull Jeep (although some readers may not agree with me): better service, awesome panchan, cleaner, prices about comparable or maybe a little less. Plus Soot Bull Jeep charges extra for their panchan! Can you imagine?

But let’s move on to the things Soot Bull Jeep does right. They have a parking lot, and it’s free and non-valet, two things I like. No, the list doesn’t end there. Their tongue is better than Park’s. The reason is it’s cut thicker. If you cut it too thin, it just won’t be tasty, as I remarked when I blogged about Park’s. Here’s the tongue before:

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And here’s the after photo:

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The tongue is good with Soot Bull Jeep’s green onion salad, which rocks. I tried the tongue with the lettuce wraps, but the lettuce tended to overwhelm it. I mean, even thick tongue still isn’t thick enough to compete with all that lettuce. The lettuce is better with the kalbi, which we also ordered. The panchan (which we paid extra for!!!) were only so-so. I think they were left over from yesterday or something.

Soot Bull Jeep
3136 W 8th St
(just west of Catalina)
Los Angeles, CA 90005

 

The kblog visits Maryland October 4, 2007

So, for those of you who didn’t know (which is probably most of you), I’m currently in MD for my dongseng‘s wedding. I’ve got a lot of folks to see here and lots of stuff to do, so I’m spending a full two weeks. But naturally I can’t go two whole weeks without Korean food. I mean, seriously, after that long I start getting withdrawal symptoms.

So the natural solution was to look for a Korean restaurant within reasonable driving distance. Mind you, this wasn’t the first time I’d looked for one with no luck. But this time I found not one but two, both in the same shopping center! The one I picked was called Gah Rham, and I picked it for a very simple reason: it had a menu online for me to look at before I left LA, so by the time I got there I had already decided what my friend and I were going to order.Gah Rham has a sushi lunch buffet (they offer Japanese food as well as Korean), but we went for KBBQ. I think we were about the only people in the place eating anything but the buffet. There were also more non-Koreans than Koreans when we got there, although by the time we left the non-Korean lunch crowd had thinned and there were more Koreans in the place. That felt homier to me. 🙂

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We ordered the traditional kalbi and bulgogi, both good choices since I was introducing my friend to Korean food for the very first time (she loved it). Both were marinated. The bulgogi was thicker than I’ve sometimes had, and in general the pieces of meat seemed to be cut bigger than I’m used to in LA. But the quality was excellent, and so was the taste. The meat was extremely tender. Unlike many KBBQ joints in LA, this place automatically provided lettuce leaves for wrapping the meat. And apparently the rice wrapper craze hasn’t made it across the country, or at any rate Gah Rham hasn’t joined it.

In addition to our BBQ, we also ordered a seafood pa jeon, which turned out to be huge. It was a little crispier than I’m used to, but very tasty. I enjoyed everything we ordered, although I have to say we ended up with a huge amount of food. There was lots of meat and then the hugp1010102.JPGe pancake, and of course we’d been filling up on panchan as well (the panchan were pretty standard, but good: kimchee, bean sprouts, seaweed, pickled radish, a couple other things). With the barbecue also came the egg casserole that I love and a bowl of soondubu. And at the end we each got small bowls of miso soup. So yeah, HUGE lunch.
In addition to the delicious food, our server took excellent care of us (maybe she was pleased because we were the only folks eating Korean food instead of sushi). If anyone happens to be in the Maryland suburbs of DC with a sudden craving for Korean food, I recommend Gah Rham.

Gah Rham
5027 Garrett Ave.
(off Route 1 between Odell and Powder Mill)
Beltsville, MD 20705

 

Charcoal in the Park September 25, 2007

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 11:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

charcoal.JPGPark’s is another charcoal KBBQ (see the pic for proof!). However, I have to say I barely noticed the charcoal (although I probably smelled like it when I left). The grill concealed it from view, and the charcoal didn’t remind us it was there by shooting up huge flames. And I didn’t really register the smoky flavor, if there was one.

My favorite meat was this one:

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I’ve conveniently forgotten exactly what we ordered, so I can’t really say which meat that was. All I know is it was the tastiest, partly because it was thicker than the others, so it held more flavor. Some of the others were sliced too thin, I felt, particularly the tongue, which I prevailed on the table to order (some people had never tried it before, but it didn’t take too much prevailing). I’m a big fan of tongue, but you have to be able to actually taste it, which you can’t when it’s in thin little slices. p1010085.JPGSo the meat passes in my book, but it wasn’t what really stood out.

What really stood out was the panchan, which were among the best I’ve ever had. They included some little eggy pancakes (hard to go wrong with pancakes), a cold mashed squash salad (yum!), some greens with crumbled tofu, and many other delicious items. We also ordered pa jeon (green onion pancakes) for the table. I love those, and they didn’t disappoint. They were just the right amount of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.p1010089.JPG

Overall, I felt the panchan and the service were outstanding, the meat was fine but I wouldn’t need to write home about it, and I recommend the pa jeon.

Park’s has a lot, but I don’t think any of us parked in it. Street parking is relatively easy to come by, and if you go on a Sunday morning like we did, you won’t have to pay the meters.

Park’s BBQ
955 S. Vermont Ave
(just north of Olympic)
Los Angeles, CA 90006

P.S. I’ve been made aware that Park’s charges extra for their kimchee, which I didn’t notice at the time. So be warned.

 

Dong Il Jang August 17, 2007

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

I love KBBQ places that give you a cool rice drink after the meal. It’s the crowning touch, sweet and refreshing in just the right way. Dong Il Jang does that. But that’s not all they do.

p1010012.jpgI forget what cut of meat roast gui is in English. I know it’s not as tender as kalbi. However, at Dong Il Jang it was still quite tasty (just not as melt-in-your-mouth tasty). Even the bits that got a little too charred were tasty (our grill was ornery; maybe it was annoyed that I was adding meat instead of letting the waitress do all the work). So the meat was good. And the panchan were good. In addition to the standard kimchee, bean sprouts, and radish kimchee, they included a cabbage and mayonnaise salad (I’m a sucker for mayonnaise salads, fattening though they are), some yummy seaweed in oil, and some chopped potatoes served warm in a vaguely sweet sauce. Those were my favorite. After the meat, we were each served a bowl of chicken broth with a few radishes in it. And I’m always a fan of chicken broth. But still, none of the things I mentioned above (not even the rice drink at the very end of the meal) are the main thing Dong Il Jang has going for it.

The main thing is the fried rice.

dij-rice.jpgDong Il Jang is one of those places where they come around after you’re done and make fried rice on the grill in all the meat drippings. It was kimchee fried rice, and the waitress also added in some fresh meat (not left over from our meal) and what was left of our radish kimchee. Luckily I didn’t let her add the Korean hot sauce, because I’m sure that would have made the fried rice inedible (for me). It had a kick as it was, from the kimchee, but guess what (and this is a huge admission from Miss Non-Spicy here)? I thought it was really really good, spices or not. I ate three rice bowls of the stuff. Dong Il Jang is definitely on my list of places to go back to, if only for the rice (the pic is of our fried rice in preparation, with an inset of the finished rice).

On the logistical side, they have a parking lot, and the waitstaff speaks comparatively good English. They also have a small koi pond inside, and I think they have private rooms in the back.

Dong Il Jang
3455 West 8th Street
(at Hobart, about 3 blocks east of Western)
Los Angeles, CA 90005

 

Kdramas come to life… August 12, 2007

Filed under: guest blogs,restaurants — Raven @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , ,

I got to be a guest blogger on Bon V.’s blog again this past week. This time I review the Korean BBQ restaurant Suhrabal. Check it out here.

By the way, if anyone is interested in being a guest blogger on here, let me know. I’m totally open to the idea.

 

Chillin’ with cold noodles August 4, 2007

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 3:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Corner Place is renowned for its cold noodles. Supposedly the recipe for their broth is such a secret that you’re not even allowed to take your leftovers home (although the sign to that effect was missing), which could be a problem since the bowls are HUGE. I shared mine with one of my fellow diners (lunchers? it was lunch), which made it a reasonable-sized portion. The noodles plus very tender kalbi plus the panchan made it a good meal. I don’t think I would have wanted to have just the noodles. It would have been a little too one-note.

But let me not get ahead of myself. These cold noodles aren’t made of buckwheat. I don’t know what they’re made of, but in Korean they’re called 동치미 국수 (I think that’s right; I copied it down real fast from the menu). They’re white instead of dark. The flavor is subtle. I’m sure someone is going to tell me noodles in general don’t have much flavor, but trust me, they do. I think it’s a combination of look, texture and the actual flour they’re made of. These were subtle and had what I want to call a soft flavor. Okay, I’m reaching because they’re hard to describe, I admit it. But I liked them. Better than the buckwheat? No, I can’t say that. Just different.

One quibble I had with the noodle dish as a whole was that it was mostly noodles, and I like my cold noodles with add-ons such as hard-boiled egg and meat and cucumbers and stuff. Okay, they had a few sliced cucumbers or something similar, and there was half a sliced tomato. But the addition of at least some egg would have really made the dish for me.

The broth had the familiar slightly sweet tang I’m used to (the secret ingredient in The Corner Place’s broth is supposedly 7-Up). This broth also had a bit of a kick from the addition of jalapenos, which I could have lived without, although it wasn’t so spicy as to be inedible.

The ambiance was pleasant and the service was good. The kalbi we ordered was tasty, and as far as the panchan go, the bean sprouts were to die for. We ate about three or four dishes of them. Although the place wasn’t crowded when we arrived at 11:45 a.m., by the time we left around 1ish or so there was a wait for a table. There’s street parking and a small lot where the parking guys seem to be on a power trip and will tell you to move your car even if you’re not parked in a dedicated market or laundromat parking spot.

For the record, The Corner Place is NOT located on a corner.

The Corner Place
2819 James M. Wood Blvd
(1 block east of Vermont)
Los Angeles, CA 90006

 

Grilled Toads July 30, 2007

Filed under: restaurants — Raven @ 1:47 pm
Tags: ,

Okay, I admit toads are probably not on everybody’s culinary must-try list. And no, Toad House does not actually serve toads, grilled or otherwise. It does serve KBBQ. It also apparently specializes in pork, particularly trotters (not barbecued).

We tried out Toad House on one of the hottest days of this summer so far, and apparently we were the only people foolish enough to go sit over a hot grill on such a hot day, because we were the only people there besides the owner/server. I have to say, though, the outdoor patio with a breeze and fans wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t uncomfortably hot during the meal. The only problem was the attack by a gang of flies after we had finished our meal and were chatting over the leftovers.

The main items that stand out in my mind from our visit to Toad House were the unmarinated kalbi, the LA-style kalbi, and of course the trotters. The unmarinated kalbi was very tender and tasty. The LA-style kalbi was new to me in the sense that I didn’t know what that meant when I ordered it, but it turned out to mean thick strips of marinated meat which were then cut up into bite-sized portions after they were grilled. It was quite tasty as well. And now we get to the trotters (pig’s feet). I’m not sure exactly how they were prepared, but they were served cold with a shrimp dipping sauce, and the texture was similar to that of roast heart. The fat was all on the outside, and there was a fair bit of it; I was of two minds about whether to eat it or stick to the trotter meat itself, but in the end I ate most of it. My waistline will probably be sorry later. The trotters were quite good.

We ordered two combos of about $60 and $45-50 dollars respectively (there were six of us). These included a bottle of beer or soju each, so we got one of each. I have to say, if getting drunk is your aim soju is a great choice, at about 20% alcohol. Since most of us were driving, we were careful.

After we finished the combos, I was still hungry,  so I persuaded the others to go for the LA-style kalbi, and I’m glad we had the chance to try it. As for being still hungry, hey, what can I say, I hadn’t eaten much all day.

Someone else had claimed Toad House offers service with a frown, but I thought the service was fine. Sure, the owner/server wasn’t a wreath of unnatural smiles, but she wasn’t mean and she took good care of us.

Toad House has a small lot (it was empty when we got there), and there’s also street parking. I think there’s an English sign, but I didn’t see it; I found the place based on the word 집 on the sign (naturally I didn’t know the word for toad) and the address.

Toad House
4503 Beverly Blvd
(two blocks east of Western, north side of street)
Los Angeles, CA 90004

 

Putting the Soot back in KBBQ July 24, 2007

Here’s the caveat: It’s been a while since my visit to Soot Bul Gui Rim. In fact, I went there for Easter this year. Seems appropriate, right? After Lent, which is supposed to be meatless, you go out and gorge on KBBQ? I can’t think of anything better.

Oh, here’s the second caveat: I stole the pic from Bon V. at My Culinary Adventures, who was one of the people with me for this Easter meal. Check out her blog entry on Soot Bul Gui Rim here.

Soot Bul Gui Rim uses a charcoal grill (actually it’s been hinted to me that it might be a hybrid charcoal/gas, but it looked and smelled like charcoal to me, and my clothes and hair certainly smelled like charcoal after we were done eating). My previous experience with a charcoal grill had been at Cham Sut Gol, where the grill sits down in an indentation in the table, has a semi-closed rack, and there’s less smoke. This grill was on the tabletop and had an open rack and there was plenty of smoke. In fact, the grill didn’t seem too eager to cooperate with us at first, so our first course got a bit charred. But eventually the grill realized we were in it to win it, so it settled down and we ended up with some nicely grilled meat.

Soot Bul Gui Rim has a varied selection of meats, including beef heart and beef tongue (which we ordered) as well as chicken (which we didn’t order). Yes, we ordered the heart and tongue and skipped the chicken; we’re no lightweights here. I grew up eating heart and tongue as often as my Pennsylvania German dad could persuade my mom to cook them, and now I tend to order them whenever they’re on the menu. The heart here was probably my fave of the meats we ordered, very tender. But the tongue was good, too. Oh, we ordered the usual kalbi and bulgogi as well, at least I think we did; I was concentrating more on the unusual.

The ambiance is okay. You’re there for the all-you-can-eat BBQ, which weighs in at about $15 per person. I found parking in the lot right outside, where every space was marked “45 minute parking” and everybody (including me) was parking for longer than 45 minutes. I was pleased because I located the place from the Korean sign, which I’ve been doing more often. Our waiter, who appeared to be Hispanic but wrote down our order in Korean (interesting detail there), was a little tough to flag down, but we managed. You don’t get the pricey experience we got at Cham Sut Gol, but you don’t pay the price either, and I liked the selection of meat better. Given a choice of the two, I’d pick Soot Bul Gui Rim.

Soot Bul Gui Rim
233 S. Vermont Ave.
(just north of Third)
Los Angeles, CA 90020