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Apr 4, 2001 06:26 AM

Favorite Hong Kong and/or Korean?

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What's your favorite H-K style seafood house and your favorite Korean dinner house (not just barbecue)?

Getting ready to take off. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Does "dinner house" refer to a particular kind of Korean restaurant? If not, here are a few Korean favorites:

    SOOT BULL JEEP on 8th st. It's BBQ and mentioned on this page before I'm sure. But BBQ unlike any other I've been to. Real coal bbq. LIke walking into a Korean campfire. You'll smell the smoke on your clothes afterwards.

    BCD TOFU on Wilshire. For that rice combo dish called Bi Bim Bop. Also mentioned below if I recall. My tofu fan friends took me there recently and it's a pretty amazing place replete with over-sized video screen as well as great eats.

    TEMPLE on La Cienega. For upscale Euro-inflected Korean food. Don't be put off by Bev Hills Restaurant Row location. It's pricier than Koreatown but the dishes are totally delish. Especially the oxtail! Also, cool cocktails served.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Rafi Simon

      In years past, phoning ahead for reservations from SF usually resulted in exceptional hospitality at even the most self-satisfied LA area places! There seemed to be a practice of rewarding folks from SF who showed a modicum of respect for LA dining. We'd encountered relatively little "attitude" over a long history of dining out in LA-BH.

      Temple ended that in spades (though our most recent visit to Valentino's a few years back started the decline!). First time in our dining-out careers that three (count 'em) different staff members pushed drinks at us before we'd had a chance to scrutinize the menu.

      The next eyebrow-raiser came as I glanced over the wine list to discover outrageous prices for some mediocre as well as better wines with NO vintages mentioned. That was quickly followed by an unembarrassed announcement from a server that a Raymond SB--the only one available by the glass--had been replaced by a Krug for 1.50 more. (Usual practice in my exeprience is to charge the menu price for a replacement.) I paid 12 for a glass of Sancerre that was not yet ready to drink (that's the price I normally pay for a bottle!).

      I pointed out these startling lapses to the person who seemed to settle in as our regular server. Later, when I responded to his query that a dish was excellent, he couldn't control the urge to reply that he was glad I'd found something to like. (If he were my employee, that would have been a firing offense.)

      All this is more of a pity because most of the food was terrific. Indeed, aside from a dreadful allegedly caramelized tofu appetizer (Tofu Surprise, 8.50) that tasted like tepid sponge, our meal was excellent.

      Like most Korean food aficionados, I adore the panchan--small dishes served as appetizer/accompaniment--often as many as 14 or even more in the best Korean houses. Here, the tiny selection (the nightclub-sized tables did not permit space for more) was good enough if not something to jump up and down about, but because of the Western accent of the main course I ordered, there was a sensory mismatch between the two. Also, the server replied "spinach" when we inquired about the identity of the unfamiliar tasting and -textured green served both with the small dishes and as an accompaniment to my stellar escolar with wasabi mashed potatoes (25 special), one of the best and most velvety pieces of fish I've ever tasted. I still can't imagine what the stringy greens were: I'd guesss the tops of some root.("Couve," one of the traditional side dishes with Brazilian feijoada, is a preparation of greens usually translated as collards or kale but possibly a different green in the country of origin--see comment below.)

      My companion ate Korean: a decent chap chae (9), not unlike those served at any good Korean rest., and a good kim chee chi gae which the menu called "kimchi stew (10)."

      The tiny caramelized fruit and nut tart (7.50) was irresistible.

      When offered coffee or tea, my reflexive response was to say no without even thinking because we learned many years ago in Europe that, after choosing carefully and ordering attentively, we could end up with a whopping surcharge by absent-mindedly saying, "Sure," to an offer of a hot beverage, and this place had that clipjoint feel to it.

      Turned out the restaurant had just received a fairly good review from a person called S. Irene Verbila, who may or may not be the same individual as "Sherry Virbila," whom I remember as the author many years ago of a book on food-shopping in the SF Bay Area, hilarious for its egregious errors, including the comment that a chicken with its head and feet on was called a "pullet." (To those unfamilair with live and fresh-killed poultry markets, a pullet is a laying hen, considered second only to capons--castrated chickens that must in California come in frozen from out of state--for its eating quality. ALL chickens in SF Chinese poultry markets back then had their heads and feet attached.) The review was displayed in a frame, with the more tepid comments on the back side where they were difficult to decipher!

      To those not driving and willing to drink considerably more than any reputable medical advice these days, Temple will probably exhibit a more welcoming manner.

      The review claimed the brother-sister owners grew up in Brazil and that the food showed a marriage of Korean and Brazilian cooking, but, aside from a bacalhau, I saw and tasted little evidence of the latter.

      We have encountered xenophobia at most Korean places that don't emphasize barbecue and/or cater primarily to Westerners, but the chill here was different: A clear "spend a lot on high-markup alcohol or accept a cold shoulder with your dinner."

      The fish and dessert left me with excellent taste memories. Only time will tell whether they or the unwelcoming aspects of Temple win out in my memory.

      1. re: "Fine"

        "Fine" -- Very very sorry about the service you received. The truth is, I've only been to Temple once -- shortly before I wrote the rec. And I was with someone who knew the owner -- maybe I should have disclosed that in my review. So naturally the service was friendly. I only wish they treated everyone equally. That said, it's clear that you know a lot about Korean cuisine, and it's some small consolation that you didn't hate the food as much as you hated your waiter. I hope when I post a query about SF eats you steer me in a delicious -- and good-serviced -- direction, and don't take the opportunity for revenge! :) Rafi

        1. re: Rafi

          "Vengeance is not mine"--lol--however, we really enjoyed most of the food and of course will "dine out" on the more stereotypical aspects of the overall experience!

          You have nothing to apologize for; however, I do believe mentioning reasons for any "special treatment" is always useful when describing a dining experience. I don't have to point out the obvious--a restaurant visit is not at all like going to a performance, where everyone sees the same thing (in the literal, if not psychological or philosophical sense).

          I'll be happy to provide any help I can whenever you plan a visit north, although in our experinece, LA is really Korean-food heaven.

    2. A nice Korean Restaurant......The Kang Nam at the
      Northwest corner of Olympic Blvd. and Wilton....good
      quality food with servers who are able to communicate
      well in spite of their native Korean language....
      Lunch or an early dinner in the patio is a nice

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ralph Ahn

        Agree about heretofore unpublicized Kang Nam. Except it's at the NW corner of Bronson & Olympic, 1 bl east of Crenshaw.
        BTW: returned to Mario's Peruvian (cr Melrose/Rossmore) last nite for regular fix of chupe de camarones, amazing creamy, spicy shrimp chowder. Great other stuff as usual, like the splendid papa huancaina, cold sliced taters in zesty dayglo green mayo sauce.

      2. For Hong Kong style I guess the obvious favorites are Ocean Star in Monterey Park, 888 in Rosemead and Monterey Palace in Monterey Park. However, I also kind of like NYC Seafood in Monterey Park. Don't especially like Empress Harbor, especially in light of the price differential.