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Jan 29, 2007 10:16 PM

Gentrified porridge at Bonjuk in K-Town (review)

This one's for Meowmixx =). Just checked out Bonjuk in K-Town, right next door to BCD. Despite having the hardest time finding parking (note to future patron: just park in the "medical plaza" lot behind the building, the restaurant DOES validate for an hour, although you don't know that until you enter the place and see the signs posted), we sat down for a light lunch of Korean "Juk" or porridge. The first thing that shocked me was the price - the cheapest bowl of juk on the menu was $7.95, and the most expensive was $30! (the special abalone). The second was the assortment of porridge flavorings on offer, with various kinds of seafood, oysters, and even a section labled "sweet porridges" but, as the waitress explained, weren't really "sweet" but more savory with very specific flavorings and ingredients. There is one porridge that was truly sweet, she said - the pumpkin squash porridge or something. I passed on that one.

I settled for a $15.95 abalone porridge (not sure how it's different, maybe they use imitation abalone? haha) while other members in the party ordered the octopus & kimchi and the beef & mushroom. It took a while for the food to arrive (everything is apparently made to order) but when the food came we were pleasantly surprised. It's good stuff; premium quality porridge if you can really imagine such a thing. Mine had generous chunks of abalone and mushroom and my sister's octopus & kimchi was surprisingly delicious if a little spicy. Each bowl was accompanied with two kinds of kimchi (napa and clam), a chilled pickle broth with turnips and a hint of ginseng flavor, and salty shredded beef (an excellent topping for your juk). Dessert was a Korean plum juice that was truly remarkable. It's not awe-inspiring like the yuzu juice at Sushi Zo, but it's a very flavorful and unique drink that I suspect - unless you're pretty hardcore about Korean cuisine- you've never had before.

The place seemed to be quite empty and is just starting to get its footing. Tables are decked out nicely in polished dark woods and obscenely comfortable chairs that are almost too luxurious for casual dining. I was there shortly after 1pm so maybe a little late for the lunch hour crowd, but I'd definitely like to see it succeed, despite it's slightly high prices. It really is "premium quality" porridge - from the texture and quality of the rice to the fresh and generous ingredients; if you can't yet imagine what that's like, once you try it, you'll be able to tell the difference. My new favorite "healthyish" sort of place that's not far from where I live; I suspect I'll be going there fairly often.

Sorry, though. No pictures this time. Forgot my camera!

3551 Wilshire
(213) 380-2248

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  1. Though I haven't been to this place, just wanted to mention that the pumpkin juk (hobakjuk) is a classic Korean dish. It's well worth seeking out a good rendition.

    How does the juk compare with San's version?

    2 Replies
    1. re: kiwonyoon

      pretty different. san's is thick and pretty spartan with (questionably real) abalone and that egg you drop into it. i love san, but it's more like plain white porridge with a little bit of flavoring compared to bonjuk, which seems to be almost in a different style altogether. the rice is less broken down so the texture is a lot more solid, and they're really generous with the added ingredients - the abalone (which retains a layer of dark skin) and shiitake mushroom. bonjuk porridges feel much more like specialty dishes depending on which one you choose, if that makes any sense.

      1. re: rameniac

        Hmm, okay, I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for the report. My platonic ideal for Korean juk leans towards San's version -- spartan, as you say. I'm really curious how good the pumpkin juk is.

    2. Thanks for the review! :) Can't wait to check it out, especially since it's been so cold out.....

      What's next on your koreatown-places-to-review?

      1 Reply
      1. re: MeowMixx

        This may be a repeat for this board, but Kuishimbo just E. of Kenmore on sixth has really nice grilled meat and stuff for an OK price, and super casual. Parking can be major hassle, but that's par for the course in K-town now.

      2. i like bonjuk too, but i think its a little pricey for soupy rice. the panchan are nice and the service is very good...

        i saw another juk place down on olympic east of western on the north side (i think). ill have to do a little research.

        im also a fan of san. thats my regular spot, although its consistency seems to vary.

        1. Just went for lunch (take out), and it's good for porridge. I agree, it's a little expensive, but the taste was spot on. Today, I had the salmon porridge (I'm sick and my grandmother, now deceased, used to make me farina with salmon). It was good, the panchan was tasty. Parking was hard to find, but I'd try it again. I'm interested in the oyster or claim, and if I'm up to it the abalone (which I've only had in Korea - I'm not Korean). The service was quick, and I really do like the reusable to go containers.

          3 Replies
          1. re: foleydog

            i fail to see how this is better than a bowl of preserved egg + pork jook from any dimsum joint in SGV, or a bowl of jook from Renu Pair + sides, or a bowl of Taiwanese yam mooai from Old Country.

            Korean jook + sul long tang are 2 of the worst things to come out of Korean inflected Chinese cuisine. horribly tasteless and expensive... why does a bowl of fake abalone soup cost $15? W.T.F? Are they growing their rice in Evian?

            1. re: TonyC


              i dont know if its that bad, but i generally agree that korean jook is kind of expensive for what it is although i do like it (im chinese so i am still partial to chinese jook)...disagree on sul long tang, im a big fan of good sul long tang

              1. re: TonyC

                lol i wouldn't quite say that. i like the korean-style abalone porridge, "lan fan jook" as my mom calls it, where the rice is super thick and not quite as watery. but yea bonjuk's $15 bowls are a bit much...

            2. Don't write off the pumpkin porridge too fast. I had it once at at a different restaurant and it was awesome! The pumpkin used was kabocha and it tasted like a chesnut-chicken soup....mmmmm,