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Dec 5, 2008 11:53 PM

NOT in the San Gabriel Valley-- outrageously good Beijing lamb skewers (yang rou chuan) in.... KOREATOWN! Korean BBQ meets yang rou chuan.... amazing!

Just returned from a place my Lovely Taiwanese Tasting Assistant (LTTA) spotted on Olympic the other night, which I originally mentioned in this post:

For those in the know, Beijing lamb skewers are luscious bits of meat grilled over charcoal, and dusted with a mixture of cumin and chili powder. The things are addictive and outrageously good when consumed with beer, preferably Tsingtao delivered in a keg fresh from the brewery the same day. (Of course in LA, the bottle will have to do).

The three big Chinese characters atop the building were unmistakable... had we simply not noticed it before? No matter... we noticed it now: Yang Rou Chuan (literally lamb meat stick.... 羊肉串... the first character is supposed to look like a lamb with horns, the second is supposed to look like the ribs of an animal carcass, and the third is a pictograph of a shish kebab).

Tonight we decided to head out there and give it a shot, and WOW.... our socks were knocked off... for several reasons, which I will list below:

It's Koreatown meets Chinese lamb kebabs.... which means TABLETOP BBQ!

Yang rou chuan Korean BBQ-- what a great concept!

And best of all... they use DEEP, RICH, HEAVENLY lump charcoal! This is not the pseudo charcoal experience of Tahoe Galbi. This is the funky, smoke-in-your-clothes Soot Bull Jeep charcoal experience.

And not only can you grill your skewers to your own preferred level of doneness, but you can season them as you wish! Along with panchan (panchan!), each person is presented with a little tray of cumin/chile/sesame seed powder. The barbecue contraption is basic, but designed specifically to accommodate skewers, with a high level "resting bar" to rest your skewers on when they don't need to be cooked anymore.

At $12.99 for 10 lamb skewers, it wasn't exactly cheap (particularly in comparison to the $0.20 skewers we ate at hutongs in Beijing), but the meat was succulent, with a good meat:fat ratio, and certainly more generous than the $1.00 kebabs at 818 in the SGV.

Each table is presented with a basket of shallots and garlic. We thought it was strictly for decoration until we realized their function..... you can skewer and grill them up! Brilliant!

Item #14 on the front page, scrawled in pen and untranslated into english, is... goat penis! (Best of all, you can try your own goat penis for just $1.50 or $2.00, depending on what price your particular menu indicates.


The rest of the non-bbq menu seems to be a hodgepodge of Korean/Northern Chinese (the owner is from Jilin, near Haerbin in the north of China, near the North Korean border.) But frankly, we were so excited by the yang rou chuan that we just dove into that. (They do have beef and chicken skewers, as well some of the more unfortunately named items such as "Mutton Chunk Heart")

The restaurant has only been open for a month, and I highly recommend that all Chowhounds give this place a try. We need to keep lamb skewers this good on this side of downtown.

Mr Taster's Recipe for a Great Evening Out:
Get a few friends together.
Order several plates of yang rou chuan
Get a couple of Tsingtao beers
Let the good times roll.

Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
3901 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Mr Taster

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  1. sounds like a great find. curious to know what cut of lamb the skewers are as well as the source for their lamb (New Zealand? Local?). .

    do you happen to know if they have lamb ribs?

    6 Replies
    1. re: epop

      As with most workaday Chinese restaurants that do not cater primarily to westerners, the focus is on the deliciousness of the food and not the sourcing of ingredients. Also, it's important to have realistic expectations-- these are not Persian filet kebabs. They are comparatively small cubes of lamb which are primarily vehicles for delicious smoky, spicy, lamby deliciouness.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        I've been thinking about this and have to disagree. For example, with the live seafood, what makes it great at SGV is this sourcing. The same goes for the homemade noodles.
        One's choice of meat is 100% essential to a great tasting skewer.

        1. re: epop

          But you're missing the part where I said "workaday" Chinese. Cantonese seafood is expensive, haute cuisine compared with the delicious little gristley skewers of lamb that are cooked up in the ancient hutong alleyways of Beijing (and other areas in China well). This restaurant channels the energies of that old man hunched over a pile of smoldering charcoal, roasting lamb kebabs for 20 cents each.... not expensive abalone and shark's fin soup. That old man is not "sourcing" his meat from anywhere except the market where he got it. There is a difference.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            I see what you mean, Mr Taster. But their lamb in an alley way can be extraordinarily fresh while ours, well, often isn't. It is an irony of modernity.

            I wouldn't want meat that is anything like the ones sold on NYC street corners, for example, but would gladly extol the virtues of most in Morocco, for example.

            1. re: epop

              I've spent a decent amount of time in China and I can tell you first hand that I don't trust the food in the dirty little hutongs of Beijing any more than I do in the alleyways of New York... but when I'm in China, I do a better job of pretending I don't know the meat could be of questionalble origins. There are no guarantees of food quality or safety in China, so you either have to starve, or take your hepatitis vaccines and dive in head first. Of course this is made much easier to swallow, so to speak, by the fact that so much of the food is outrageously delicious, despite the questionable sourcing and sanitary practices of many mainland Chinese.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                that's funny. I hope you stay healthy nevertheless. + there's always the new Boulud place in the old US embassy in Beijing. Crazy/

    2. Amazing find! I will definitely be checking it out. Thanks.

      1. Thank you so much for the report and the exact location. It's literally 5 minutes from where I live, so now I have to find a coalition of the willings and we'll try.

        1. So pardon the obvious, but how much food is 10 skewers? While they sound like alot, the cheap price (12 bucks) tells me that 1 order PP is necessary.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            Each skewer contains about 8-10 inches of lamb, cut to about 2cm cubes. We weren't terribly hungry last night, so one tray of 10 skewers, two chicken wings ($1.99 each), and a beer were enough to share between the two of us. If we went hungry, we could easily polish off 20-30 between the two of us. But really, consider the places where this food is served everyday.... the ramshackle hutong alleyways of poor Beijingers. This is food that's meant to be eaten while squatting on a little plastic stool while talking loudly about the day's events with your neighbors. It's as much about the experience as much as it is about the deliciousness of the food.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              great, maybe I should bring some of my vietnamese "homies" for a more authentic experience hahahaha.

              I'll probably go here tonight, will report back

          2. Another great post/find, Mr. Taster!

            I've often wondered if any regional/northern Chinese cooking finds its way into K-town, via the incredible diversity of Korean places that we now have. Or just individual noodle/dumpling dishes maybe?

            I also love that you recognized the pictographic characters (excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea it worked like that! Sort of OT, but does every kebab figure mean "kebab", or is this some other word co-opted for use as the word "kebab"? - if that makes any sense at all).

            3 Replies
            1. re: cant talk...eating

              The character 串 (pronounced 'chwon' with a downward tone) to my knowledge always means some kind of small meat on a stick (as opposed to al pastor, which would be big meat on a stick... definitely not 串!.) Mind you, not all Chinese characters are pictographs, mind you-- but in this case it works out like that.

              I haven't really grubbed around for Chinese food in Koreatown... in fact this was my first foray into that realm. But if this is any indication of what's out there, I may have to start digging around some more.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Wow! What a find! Generally I consider Korean Chinese food to be nasty. Kind of like Indian Chinese food, or for that matter Americanized Chinese food--cooked to the culinary tastes of the target audience.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  What is served here is a authentically Chinese, with kimchi as a welcome (but entirely separate) flavor. Boiled peanuts as well, if you're in to that sort of thing.

                  Mr Taster