Fantastic Korean BBQ: Yissi HwaRo
We normally hit Ham Ji Park, Dong Il Jang, Gilmok, Guimok and Sa Rit Gol for our Korean barbecue fix. We decided to venture out to a new place and stumbled upon Yissi HwaRo at the Chapman Plaza. Well, not so much stumbled upon as fought through the clusterf**k of a parking situation and let our sense of smell guide us. It was well worth it.
Apparently, they're more known for their various styles of pork belly (plain, spicy, beer- or wine-marinated, miso-marinated, smoked), but we had recently had our fill of porcine goodness at Ham Ji Park, so we decided to stick with an all-beef menu. If memory serves me, their combo menus range from 69.00 to 99.00 dollars. We ordered Combo #2, $89.00, which comes with the usual (and not-so-usual) accroutements:
Lettuce, cabbage and green onion slaw with a wasabi-soy sauce dressing
Cilantro, red onion and millet salad
Panchan (radish water kimchi and spicy raw crab were the standouts)
Denjang chigae (bean paste and tofu soup)
Choice of soju or beer
Had I not fallen victim to a meat-induced swoon, I would have had the presence to write everything down. Alas, I was fixated on the meat and did not. I do remember rib-eye, boneless short rib and deckle being in the mix. I think there were two or three other cuts as well. Maybe diamond-cut top sirloin too? All high-quality, well-marbled, tender, flavorful and beautifully presented in a wooden gift box, along with a sliced onion, potatoes, mushrooms and a segment of well-fermented napa cabbage kimchi. The non-meat ingredients are placed in a perimeter along the circumference of the grill to soak up all the meaty juices. After seasoning the grilling surface with the onion, more flavor and oil are added to the grill with a yo-yo sized piece of beef fat marbled with meat. Truth be told, we were tempted to keep that piece on there! Then on came the meat.
We feasted, embellishing the meaty morsels with sliced jalapenos or garlic with bean paste. Or making lettuce parcels with the meat and panchan. Were were also provided two different dipping sauces: a piquant spicy soy sauce-based one and a simpler, more subtle one composed of sesame oil and sea salt.
Although all of our servers looked like escapees from a Korean boy band circa 1995, the service was top-notch. They were all incredibly attentive. Ever-present without being intrusive, magically appearing to put more meat on the grill when needed or tend to the actual cooking of the meat as well. Replenishing dishes as they emptied.
After we had stuffed ourselves silly and were in the full throes of the meat sweats, a server brought out a plate of rice, diced beef, seaweed, kimchi and other magical ingredients and made fried rice for us. Although our bellies strained against our waistbands, we had no choice but to partake, alternating between the fried rice and the denjang chigae to create a harmonious blend of flavors.
The four of us sat in a stupor, eyes glazing over, looking at each other, then at the decimated array of food, then back at each other. What a memorable meal. One of the best in a very long time. I cannot wait to go back and confirm that our first time at Yissi HwaRo was not an anomaly. Plus, I want to try their pork belly. And their arrowroot neng-myun. And their various chigaes. Happy chowing, everyone!
3465 W. 6th Street #130
Los Angeles, CA 90020
But is it as good as Soot Bull Jeep? It's all about the charcoal grill for me, so every other Korean bbq joint I've tried has fallen flat. (Sa Rit Gol has been the latest in a string of culinary disappointments.) Needless to say, if I want meat cooked over a gas grill, I can do it myself. What was the method of grilling employed by Yissi?
I think it's apples and oranges. Different types of meat and methods of cooking. If it's all about the charcoal grill for you, then you'd probably be disappointed as the meat isn't imparted that same smoky flavor. The grill is similar to the round ones at Ham Ji Park, but HwaRo's is bigger and convex.
No, they have regular a la carte selections in addition to the combos. I guess it depends on whether the group is comprised of light or heavy eaters. Combo #2 would probably be enough to feed anywhere from four to six people. Really, you should check it out. It's a buried treasure, as far as I'm concerned.