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Korean curious

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Beyond a bit of kim chi, some Korean BBQ and a hot pot of some sort, am not super familiar with this food and am anxious to get a more thorough exposure (esp as so many recent postings seem to indicate that Korean food is what LA is all about -- really makes me feel like I've been missing out). Looking for suggestions on best place to go for a full-on Korean dinner experience and some ideas as to what to order. Food-wise would rather err on side of more challenging rather than less. Would be coming from West Hollywood-ish but happy to roam.

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  1. Re. what to order, I usually get bulgogi (beef) and japchae (Korean glass noodles). There are usually chicken, rib and pork options on the menus as well, along with a variety of soups. The panchan (side dishes) usually come with the meal.

    My fave place is Pine Tree on Reseda Blvd. in Northridge.

    Many people on this board recommend a place called Soot Bull Jeep, but I have never been there. There are also other recs in the link below, which deserve to be checked out.

    1. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/373433

      1. Spicy fish soups, stew-like chigae and stone pot dishes featuring different grades of fermented bean pastes and a wildly ecletic repertoire of ingredients are the next step after BBQ in your Korean journey, bitey. Become familiar with the galaxy of herbs, vegetables, burdock, fruit and seeds used in Korean cuisine. Don't be afraid, if it wasn't healthy or delicious natural selection and culture would've edited out of the kitchen long ago. Have a delectable journey.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gohantabeyoka

          Since my first forray out (to Yongsusan) have become a big fan of fermented bean paste. Yum!

        2. Try Ham Ji Park, 6th and Berondo
          Pork Neck and Potato Soup and their signature dish, amazing slightly spicy ribs are awesome.

          1. There are so many options to try Korean Food in town. However I would start with the following and then work your way into the more aggressive fare.

            Chosun Galbi on Olympic just west of Western:
            This is a very large BBQ and tends to get a lot of non-koreans. Very clean, nice decor and good service. You could start by ordering the Chosun Galbi, I would reccomend the kimchee stew (kimchee chigae) which is a hot pot of stewed kimchee with beef or pork, tofu and rice dumplings for garnish. In addition you can order the seafood pancake which is very good and lots of fresh seafood. The nice thing about Chosun is that they give you an really great variety of panchan (side dishes) that you can experiment with and see what you like or don't like. That's a great starting place.

            Park's BBQ: (on vermont just noth of olympic)
            More or less the same as Chosun, but a little different in style. They are known for their plain BBQ short ribs. It is accompanied by pickled Cabbage Leaves, Peppers and Dried Spicy Radishes. Also they have (2) dipping sauces that they will give you. Most of all, their tokyo pork belly is one of their most popular items which is great when cooked til really crispy. Also comes with the same accompaniments. They also have a seafood pancake, but they put imitation crab and not as great seafood as Chosun's version. But it is still good. Would also reccomend their tofu bean paste stew that ususally has korean squash, meat and tofu. Their Dolsot Bimbimbap is really good. It's a stone pot filled with korean vegetables, lettuce, rice, spicy bean chili sauce, and a fried egg. Get the one with the kimchee. The only drag about Park's is that they hold back on some of the panchan unless you know what you are asking for. If you go with someone korean, then they will typically bring the whole nine yards. But if not, they sometimes get shy and do not give you all the authentic side dishes. I think they think a non-korean would not like it, so they reserve those items for the regulars.

            Soot Bul Jeep: on 8th Street near Berendo?
            This seems to be a chowhound favorite. Very authentic, where the bbq is over real coals. Their meat is very good. But I am not taken by some of their other side dishes. So I would suggest to go for the meat only.

            Nam Kang: (on Olympic, forgot exact cross street)
            This was the place where you will find several korean celebrities. It's got very dark wood tables and chairs (old school korean style). They are known for their spicy cod fish stew. Keep in mind that it is the whole fish in the pot with daikon and other vegetables. If you're daring, you have to relish in eating the eyeballs and every bit of meat on the head of the fish. They are also known for their fish egg soup. Very spicy as well. Nice broth. But again, you have to like cooked fish eggs. Don't know if they still have it there, but they used to do a really great bbq eel. Little on the spicy side, but it's really good. Not crazy about their bbq there. They are known for their one pot meals.

            Yongsusan on Vermont past Wilshire:
            This is emperor style cooking and most people go there for the tasting menu which is about 19 courses. They start you out with a pumpkin or abalone porridge, and continue with things like steak tartare with Asian Pears, Fried Beef Patties with Lotus Root, Seafood Pancake, Pickled Spicy Korean Crab (raw), etc. and finish you off with the traditional rice dumpling soup. Haven't been there in quite some time since they first opened. But it's a favorite of my parents and reminds them of northern emperor fare in Korea.

            Other thoughts:
            Ham Ki Park is also a great authentic choice, but you need to be daring. I always suggest to my friends to go to the Galleria Market on Olympic and Western and sample the various panchans that they sell at the salad bar. They have everything from the 100 yr eggs to parilla leaves, to pickled spicy fish.

            Good Luck!

            7 Replies
            1. re: kproq323

              This is a really good, helpful list. :)

              1. re: kproq323

                kproq323 (or anyone who knows), how much is Yongsusan per person for the 19 course meal?

                1. re: katkoupai

                  I believe the price per person for the emperor course meal is somewhere around $45.00. Very reasonable for the amount and variety of food. You must order some soju and korean beer to get the whole experience.

                  1. re: kproq323

                    Thank you. :)

                    1. re: kproq323

                      I've taken up Jerome's suggestion in getting the ~$20 course and it's way more than enough food, and quite delicious.

                      Mr Taster
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                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        The $45 meal is huge. When we got it food fatigue was definitely setting in by the end -- but didn't keep me from enjoying the lovely penultimate spicey tofu/jalapeno stew. Enjoyed the variety of food we got to sample, but next time would go for the smaller menu -- or if with a group of four getting two to order the big menu and two to order the $20 one. (you need a minimum of two people to order any tasting menu)

                  2. re: kproq323

                    Nam Kang used to be my fave Korean place. They used to serve the most banchan, almost 17 dishes, and their soups/stews were the most like my grandma's.

                    However, it's been years since I've been there. The last time I went, they pared down the banchans a bit, but still more than anywhere else.

                    If you go, the dwen-jang chigae and meh-oun tang are superb.

                  3. You should read the piece by Jonathan Gold in the LA Weekly linked here: http://www.laweekly.com/index.php?opt...

                    which is all about Korean food and the places to find it here in LA. If you ever get the chance to try one of the Korean sushi/fish places like O-dae-san (see a description of it in this article) and get the al bap that will give you another perspective on the depth and breadth of Korean food in our little town.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tony michaels

                      A non-local discussion of Korean sushi vs. Japanese sushi was split to the General Topics board. That tangent can be found here; http://www.chowhound.com/topics/379384

                      1. re: tony michaels

                        I am Korean and am amazed at how much Jonathan Gold's tastes coincide with mine. Most of the places on the list are excellent but others I still need to try.

                      2. It's been said already, but

                        Sa Rit Gol is awesome for atmosphere (and semi-rude service),
                        Soot Bull Jeep for smoky authentic BBQ (with attendant semi-rude service),
                        Kobawoo is interesting for their pork belly (and semi-rude service),
                        Ma Dong Gooksoo is great for cheap bibimbap and gooksoo which is very good and filling,
                        and Yongsusan is tremendous for northern Kaesong (is this the correct phrase?) style cooking.

                        I am just a rookie Korean food enthusiast too, but Los Angeles is a tremendous town to try it.

                        1. please do not start your korean experience by going to chosun-galbi or any other place that uses butter/margarine to grease the bbq grill. i know some people love it but that really ruins the authentic taste of galbi. as soon as i go into a korean bbq restaurant and they whip out butter, i get up and leave, or ask them to bring me another grill without the butter base!!

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: koreankorean

                            Where do they do this? I have never seen it done before? I have only eaten at less than 10 Korean restaurants though.

                            1. re: katkoupai

                              at almost every korean restaurant that's popular with non-koreans, they tend to use butter to grease up the grill.. i find this disgusting.. chosun-galbi did this 3-4 years ago and even when i asked not to, they did this, so i've never been back. other restaurants have been pretty good about not using it when asked.

                              in LA, i highly recommend "Shigol Ssam-bap" on Western and Oakwood (Ktown). they have the best bbq with the 5-6 different kinds of green leaves (to wrap the meat), and i never saw a non-korean there, which can mean 'authentic' (though not necessarily 'good')

                              1. re: koreankorean

                                I love Si Gol.

                                Located in the corner of a teeny tiny shopping plaza, Si Gol specializes in "ssam", which basically means "wrap".

                                Many Korean barbecue places offer a plate of lettuce; at Si Gol, they bring out a humongous plate piled with different kinds of greens: boiled/steamed cabbage, fresh napa, red-leaf lettuce, boiled seaweed, perilla leaves, etc.

                                Basically you grill your meat of choice (a pretty limited offering here), throw it on a green, add rice (optional), sliced garlic, sliced jalapenos, and a dollop of ssam-jang (fermented bean paste - sounds delish, doesn't it?). Wrap that puppy up and stuff it in your face.

                                Oh, and I usually don't like ssam-jang but Si Gol's version is milder, and pretty darn good.

                                1. re: MeowMixx

                                  The only time I had a variety of greens with Korean bbq (other than the standard lettuce) was when I was invited to Korean bbq, and some friends made sangyeopsal for me. I don't know what the green was called, but it was dark green and shaped like a maple leaf, almost. We used it to wrap the meat. It was soooo good.

                                  Si Gol sounds really good because of the variety MeowMixx listed above. Thanks for the post.

                                  Have to decide now between Yongsusan, Si Gol, Shigol Ssam-bap, and Soot Bull Jeep. :)

                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    I think the leaf you are referring to is the perilla leaf.

                                    Oh, and Shigol and Si Gol are the same restaurant - Sorry for the confusion :)

                                    478 N Western Ave
                                    Los Angeles, CA 90004
                                    323) 467-0100

                                    1. re: MeowMixx

                                      Thanks for the info. That just might be our next stop. :)

                                      1. re: katkoupai

                                        If you google the word "si gol" (I used 'shigol' because that's what it sounds like in korean), you will find an article on this restaurant. =) i tried to post it here but apparently i can't. =)

                                        1. re: koreankorean

                                          I'll check it out. Thanks. :)

                                      2. re: MeowMixx

                                        mmm, I love perilla leaf (kkae nip). It's standard at BBQ restaurants in Korea, but I notice they almost never give it here... perhaps too expensive? It's sold in the Korean supermarkets, though, so sometimes I just bring my own.

                                  2. re: koreankorean

                                    Koreankorean, this is so interesting to me. I have never seen it before (butter on the grill). My friend and I are going to have Korean next time we meet up for lunch. We usually just go with what we know, or stop wherever that we haven't eaten before in K-town to try something new. The butter on the grill sounds so un-appetizing the way you describe it. I will certainly keep your rec of Shigol Ssam-bap in mind. The last place where we ate in K-town, there was no English menu, so I just rolled the dice and had my friend choose something for me. It was good, but not great, and I wouldn't know the name of the place if someone told me it. Thanks for this info. :)

                                    1. re: koreankorean

                                      actually a lot of places are using butter to grease the grill and to flavor the bokumbap afterwards. in korea too.

                                      1. re: choctastic

                                        Really? I will look out for this. I still haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it's out there, since I keep reading about it here. Butter on the grill. :)

                                  3. re: koreankorean

                                    I've only seen this at Chosun Galbi -- most places, if they season the grill at all, use a wad of onion.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      I went to a new place recently, and they also used butter on the grill. I asked them not to and they were very accommodating (and used sesame oil instead)

                                  4. Wow. What great responses, Thank you so much. Looks like I have my work cut out for me to get a real immersion and am very excited to start the journey. Because I've had Korean BBQ before (although by no means the ultimate) interested in trying something a bit different to kick off the odyssey of Korean/LA exposure. To whit, O-dae-san (as described by Gold in link above ) and Yongsusan (because of all the different courses and the fact they serve jellyfish which scares but also intrigues me) are definitely sparking my curiosity. Curious about Ham Ki Park as well. Mmmm. So many choices.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: bite bite

                                      Jellyfish (as served in Yongsusan and most Chinese restaurants at which I've eaten it) is not scarily presented. It's generally cut up into innocuous strips. In the cold appetizer platter at my wedding at Mission 261 a week and a half ago, they included jellyfish alongside the roast suckling pig. Most of my (caucasian, middle-America) relatives chowed down on it thinking it was some kind of noodle.

                                      Mr Taster
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                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        It kind of tastes like lightly-pickled daikon radish, though. I love it, though it's 100% pure cholesterol.

                                    2. You should try soon dubu jjigae, also known as soon tofu. The two doyennes of the genre face each other across Olympic Boulevard at New Hampshire St. (one block west of Vermont) -- Beverly Tofu House and Sokongdong. While I like Beverly just a LITTLE bit more, Sokongdong has a panchan of raw crab which is delicious and unusual.

                                      Soon tofu, by the way, is soft tofu boiled in VERY spicy soup with the meat or seafood of your choice. An egg is usually cracked into it (raw, but it cooks quickly in the boiling soup). You eat it with rice, and at both the above places, you get poricha, which is a soothing iced tea made from roasted barley.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        Yes, I love that barley drink. :) Never knew the name of it though.

                                        1. re: katkoupai

                                          Is that a particular brand that I can get a HK Market? I would buy barrels of it.

                                          1. re: SauceSupreme

                                            I looked "boricha" (barley tea) up online, and it looks like it can be purchased in a tea bag form, probably from a Korean market like Galleria (or others). I assume there are a number of brands.

                                      2. Seoul House in Hawaiian Gardens has a nice All-you-can-eat BBQ as an option. My favorite is the tongue, yummy! Very inexpensive and the banchan varies from so-so to great. I think it's is only $16 for dinner and even less for lunch.

                                        1. Trying Yongsusan this week. V. excited.

                                          1. Great dinner at Yongsusan. One down many more to go!

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: bite bite

                                              Did you have the 19-course meal? Something else?

                                              1. re: katkoupai

                                                Yup. There were four of us so we had the two biggest menus (have to have two people per menu). Man were we stuffed by the end but it was really delicious -- except for the sashimi which was a little nasty. The black cod was one of my favorites of their little courses. But there was a lot of intersting stuff going on all over.

                                                1. re: bite bite

                                                  Yes! This is awesome. My friend and I are still deciding-- Si Gol or Yongsusan on Sunday. This makes it even more difficult. We were going to do Si Gol, but now.... I can't decide!

                                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                                    Would be interested to hear what you think of either one.

                                                    1. re: bite bite

                                                      you should go to both! =)
                                                      yongsusan and shigol are two very very different places. yongsusan has that really clean, healthy, fresh feel, and shigol is very country-homey (shigol means countryside in korean) like you went to a farm during a harvest season. =)
                                                      it really depends on what kind of mood you're in.
                                                      if you go to shigol, try the combo set (this has beef and pork, the beef is really good and alot of people love the pork also), i think that's the "shigol ssam bap special combo" or something like that.

                                                      1. re: koreankorean

                                                        Thank you. :) I will post on this thread after I go to let everyone know how the meal was. :)

                                                        1. re: katkoupai

                                                          Koreankorean and MeowMixx, thank you very much for recommending Si Gol. I went today, and I am reporting back on my experience there, which was very good. :)

                                                          I went today with two friends, who are also fans of Korean food. We have all had Korean food at a variety of places in LA, OC, SFV and SGV.

                                                          We were all very happy with the food. The restaurant is family style. It is small, and it was busy today, although not so busy that we had to wait for food or service. We were the only non-Korean clientele.

                                                          The service was very friendly-- possibly the most friendly service that I've ever had at a Korean bbq restaurant. We ordered the $15 per person unlimited bbq special which came with so much food, inlcuding the following:

                                                          for the grill--a huge plate of the following:
                                                          squid
                                                          pork (variety)
                                                          bulgogi and beef (variety)

                                                          sides-- we asked for refills on kimchi and daicon
                                                          kimchi (2 kinds)
                                                          daicon (3 kinds)
                                                          seaweed
                                                          marinated peanuts (or soy beans-- not sure)

                                                          sauces-- excellent, and my friends loved them!
                                                          a clear white sauce for dipping
                                                          a brown sauce for dipping
                                                          a fermented spicy soy bean paste

                                                          wraps-- a *huge* plate of the following, which we refilled once:
                                                          lettuce
                                                          napa cabbage
                                                          boiled cabbage
                                                          cilantro
                                                          baby greens (variety)
                                                          carrots
                                                          Korean mild chiles

                                                          small bowls of rice all around with a little bit of barley in it

                                                          three small pots of hot vegetable soup with tofu

                                                          a large Hite beer and three glasses

                                                          ice water all around

                                                          I may be missing some items, but it was an amazing amount of down-to-earth, delicious food. We grilled and ate the first round of meat and squid variety, and even though we paid for the unlimited bbq combo (i.e. grill and eat as much as you can), that was it for us. We were all very, very full, and we still had a pot of soup left, rice left, panchan left, and a huge plate of lettuce and greens left.

                                                          How much did it cost? $62 total, plus I tipped $13, so about $75 for 3 people (or 25 bucks a person, including tip, tax, drinks and everything). We left very, very happy.

                                                          Thank you for recommending this great place. My friends asked me, "How did you find it?" and I told them I found it with the help of posters on Chowhound. Definitely, 3 thumbs up on this place. :)

                                                          Also, just as a note, it *is* in a very small parking lot on a very busy part of Western (near Melrose). The exact intersection is Maplewood, a very small side street, and although parking is difficult, they had $1 valet there today, which made it easy for us to get into the restaurant more quickly. The English writing above the Korean writing on the restaurant's sign is very tiny, and difficult to see. It says Si Gol Ssam Bap, just as Koreankorean and MeowMixx mentioned above.

                                                          The physical address is 478 and 480 N. Western Ave. in LA (one of the doors has no access). I hope if anyone else goes, that they enjoy it as much as we did. :)

                                                          Thanks again for the great suggestion. :)

                                                          1. re: katkoupai

                                                            Great!! I'm (and all of us who recommended ShiGol) are so glad you liked it!!

                                                            It really makes me happy when non-Koreans can appreciate GOOD korean food (as opposed to mainstream, watered down stuff). Actually I haven't been there in a while so this whole "all you can eat" is news to me! Can't wait to go back!!

                                                            1. re: koreankorean

                                                              I haven't been there in a while too and I'm definitely looking forward to the all you can eat :)

                                                              1. re: MeowMixx

                                                                It was a great experience. We went to celebrate my friend's bday, and it was a really special day. Also, I *love it* when everyone at the table is satisfied with the food-- and we all really were. So thanks, again! I would definitely go back with anyone who I know that likes Korean bbq. :) :)

                                            2. I work in Koreatown and I've been very happy with these places:

                                              Shik Do Rak (Vermont at Hoover): We got a very cordial greeting from the host (owner?), the atmosphere is busy but more relaxing than places like Manna, and the food was tasty and plentiful. I'm a sucker for the dduk bo sam style of Korean BBQ (you wrap things in little squares of rice noodle) and I have recurring dreams about various kinds of meat dipped in a little oil, salt and pepper and then a pinch of that peppery black bean condiment.

                                              Myung Dong Kyo Ja, on Wilshire between Western and Normandie, has only five items on the menu, and I've tried three of them. Good cold spicy noodles with slivers of cucumber, decent mandoo (dumplings) and a soup (kal gook soo?) with a grab bag of noodles, dumplings and beef inside. Their kimchee is spicy and definitely fermented compared to some, so be cautious.

                                              Sa Rit Gol on Olympic & Serrano gets referenced a lot here, and I thought their BBQ was just fine. As I remember the menu is a bit mysterious for non-Korean speakers and the servers' English was limited, so it might be worth the effort to explore options like the black cod that Charissa raved about.

                                              Chosun Galbee was fine the one time I was taken there for lunch (sadly, no BBQ except at dinnertime!) but I think there are other more adventurous posts on the board that you should explore.

                                              Let me also just cast my vote for jellyfish salad; if it's available you should give it a try. Kudos for exploring Koreatown cuisine! Your curiosity will be rewarded.

                                              1. Great second Korean encounter. Lovely dinner at O-dae-san. Went last night. Nice open, clean atmosphere, lovely fish tanks , tastey fresh food, warm service and yummy free appetizers (esp the crab and pumkin soup, pickled radish w. jalapeno and the sliced fish-cakes with what tasted like a sesami sauce). In terms of what we ordered, Al-Bap (the technicolor fish-egg chirashi) the big winner of the night. Grilled fish not exactly a revelation but very very fresh and lovely in its simplicity. Spicy fish stew a bit lacking in complexity but okay. Washed it all down with soju. Will definitely be back.

                                                1. Took a while to get to my 3rd Korean restaurant under my belt but finally did it. (Sad to report that in the meantime O-Dae-San has closed -- al bap you will be missed). The restaurant of choice -- BEVERLY TOFU HOUSE as recommended by Das Ubergeek. Small, hole-in-the-wall kind of place with cool, swirvy dark wood panelling. Great assortment of flavorful little appetizer plates (kim chi, some great sweet-soury daikonish soup, etc) -- all very tasty and hastily refilled when polished off. As to what to order for the main, there's pretty much only one option -- Soon Tofu -- a piping hot tofu stew but you can choose your protein of choice to go in it. I ordered what was described in English as Soon Tofu with Fish Egg. Fish egg turned out to be fish-belly which I wasn't wild on texture or flavor-wise but the rest of the soup was very good. Had been warned about the spiciness so ordered medium -- but definitely would go for spicy next time as it really wasn't that hot. Temperature-wise a different story. Loved how caldrony and hissing and bubbling hot the soup was when it was brought to our table -- and stayed hot throughout the meal. After bringing the soup to the table, our waitress (with our blessing) cracked raw eggs into our soups which cooked instantly. (Glad I hadn't tried to peel the egg when it was on the table, as I had actually thought it was a boiled egg)

                                                  Up until Beverly Tofu House, Mr. BB had been vocally not a fan of Korean food, but this little place turned him around. He ordered the hot level of spice and his soup was excellent. Beef soon tofu I think. The spicy soup also went perfectly with the Korean beer -- about the best beer has ever tasted for me. Thx for the recommendation, Das Ubergeek! Thinking will do BBQ for my next foray.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: bite bite

                                                    Glad you liked it! I like Sokongdong directly across the street, too.

                                                    If you'll allow me to recommend a barbecue restaurant -- Park's BBQ (955 S. Vermont) is by far the best quality meat. They have this prime galbi that's the rib PLUS like a foot and a half long roll of prime beef. It is... absolutely, insanely, bonesuckingly good. The panchan are quite good -- not revelatory, though they do have the crab-in-chili-paste dish -- but I swear I still dream of that kalbi. And best of all, you don't smell quite as much like a forest fire when you leave as you would if you went to Soot Bull Jeep.

                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      I just went to Park's for the first time last week. We had that prime galbi and it was really, really, really good. No, I mean REALLY good. They didn't serve us the crab though. I thought that they just didn't have it that night. There were a couple of asian girls near us who didn't seem to have it, either, so it probably wasn't us pale girls. I wanted to try that, though. We also had the brisket with the dipping sauce (they only gave us one). It seems that you may have to ask for certain things if you're not Korean.