good Korean in Koreatown, please
After years of eating Chinese food and Thai food every week, I guess I'm ready to try Korean food. Can someone recommend a nice Korean restaurant with pleasant, lively atmosphere in the Korea Town area? I had a bad experience as a kid with an egg/ketchup/rice dish, and strangely enough, never tried Korean food again. What are some good dishes to try, other than kimchee, of course?
If you want good Korean BBQ in a fun, relaxed atmosphere (but not dive-y), I'd recommend Manna, on Olympic and Gramercy (a couple blocks west of Western). Much better than Woo Lae Oak for less money.
If you're going with a group of 2/3/4, try their combinations A/B/C, respectively, which offer a variety of marinated meats to grill, plus about 10-12 side dishes, some good dipping sauces, endless salad, rice, dessert, and enough soju or beer to keep things lively all around. Their shabu-shabu specials, noodles, yukhwe (beef tartare), and noodle dishes are good, too.
Putting in a plug for Chosun Galbi. Recently went there to introduce a few friends to Korean food and we all loved it. I recommend their kalbi (short ribs), lightly sweet, that you grill on a bbq on the table. Also, the chop chae(?), glass noodles with veggies.
Call and make reservations at their new location on Olympic, just west of Western. Beautiful, open, modern space-ask to sit in the patio even though the inside is nice and high-ceilinged. I like that they have an outdoor area because at other bbq places, you end up smelling like smoke.
re: Jennifer W.
I ate there recently and second the rec. Pretty good panchan selection. Impressive -- and obviously expensive - architecure. The emphasis is on bbq but I was VERY happy with a seafood stew called ... sorry can't remember. No real Korean expert myself, I think Chosun Galbi is a great place to be introduced to Korean food. But don't forget to try the bbq at Soot Bull Jeep as well as the tofu and bi bim bap places mentioned on this board... Then go to the much heralded Yongsusan for the advanced class.
I have been long obsessed with Korean BBQ. I have eaten at almost all the places in San Francisco. I have eaten at, in L.A., Soot Bull Jeep, Sa Git Rol, and lots of other places that I can't remember, or don't have English names. I have pursued that sweet, meaty, blackened flavor to the ENDS of the damn EARTH. And there is one place that stands above them all in my memory - given to me by sunnyla on this board, who says her Korean grandmother who is a food-lover who lived all her life in Koreatown prefers this place above all. And I am not going to say that it's closed, or that the owners have moved, because it isn't, and it's still goddamn perfect:
Chung Ki Wah, on Olympic, a few blocks west of Western.
So: all the beef is fantastic. Kal Bi and Bul Go Gi. Also the pork. The meat is better, meatier, fuller, and softer and more deeply and lovingly spiced than any other place I know. (Except perhaps the stewed short ribs at Yongsusan - but that's a whole different level of existence. And it isn't BBQ.)
Tips on eating: typically, Koreans don't eat BBQ meat straight-up. It's wrapped in some of the herbs and lettuces that come with the meal, along with perhaps a bit of rice and a bit of some of the various kim chee-ish stuff that floats around. I personally eat about half my meat this way and the other half direct and naked.
What sunnyla didn't mention is that Chung Ki Wah also has the best naengymon I've yet had. Naengymon is an *intense* dish - scared off more than a few of my friends. But it's delicate, gelatinous, springy thin noodles, served cold in a sharp vinegar chile sauce that is, more than anything else, carefully sweet, topped with bits of meat, egg, and, in the canonical version, raw skate wing.
Trust me, it's really, really, really good.
re: Thi N.
The recommendation for Chung Ki Wah sounds interesting, but before I embark there, I'd like to know if their BBQ selection veers toward the more exotic selections as well as the standard fare. Although I do like kalbi, my favorite BBQ choices by far are the long milky white and creamy beef intestine, chewy honeycomb tripe, beef tongue and whole baby octopus. The only Korean BBQ place that I've ever been to that served all these delicacies in a more than competent fashion is Soot Bull Jeep. This place is the quintessential BBQ joint in my opinion ,although Chosun Glabi does have a better variet of panchan, but of course the BBQ is of primary concern. On top of that, there yuk hwe beef tartare is out of this world, the perfect contrasts of spicy and sweet.
re: Liver Boy
On Thi's recommendation, Roger and I went for lunch today. Guess what the day's special was? Beef intestine! We stuck to the old faithfuls first time out (Kalbi and Pulgogi) but perusing the lengthy menu, I saw a plethora of more "unusual" meats. I don't think you'll be disappointed in the selection. As for the food itself, I can't top Thi's post. This place knocked our socks off. We are diehard Soot Bull Jeep fans, but I have to admit that our meal today knocked the Bull off its' top spot. Plus, the decor is delightful, reminiscent of a cozy Korean country inn. Go now.