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Another Korean BBQ Question

  • n

Okay I've already looked back at the old Korean bbq postings, so no need to tell me to do that.

Well after eating Japanese yakiniku bbq last weekend at Gyu-Kaku in Torrance, I'm gonna be around USC this weekend and was thinking about heading to Koreatown with a friend for bbq.

From previous postings, I read about how smokey Soot Bull Jeep is and how your clothes end up smelling like the place. Some people have also commented on bad service, past bad health inspection grades (current is a 94) and the quality of meat not being very good (oh but you get to cook over charcoal). Woo Lae Oak supposedly caters to Westernized tastes and I think the Western Avenue location is closed for remodeling at this time. Chosun Galbee has nice decor/ambience but you pay for it. I think Sa Rit Gol for the most part got good comments about the meat and is a marginally cleaner than Soot Bull Jeep.

Seems like everyone has a favorite (or least) for one reason or another. Please give me a compelling reason why I should choose one place over the others. Maybe it's one I didn't list. I'd like to get authentic Korean food, decent service, clean surroundings and good meat. Although it's just myself and a friend going, I'd like to be able try a wide variety of meat too. In the end, I guess what it comes down to is which place will I get the most bang for the buck? I want to walk away thinking my dining experience was worth the money and I'd want to go back again. Thanks!

BTW, if you have links to their website, please post for me. I've seen Woo Lae Oak and Chosun Galbee's already.

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  1. If it's just you and another in the party and you want
    a variety of meats, the only way you can do that
    without blowing your budget, is to go to a buffet, where you can pick up the meats you want and barbecue
    at your own table....
    The best we've tried near you is:
    Buffet Land Seafood and BBQ Buffet
    1925 W Olympic Blvd. LA

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ralph

      thanks for the buffet tip. just to amass more information, can anyone recommend any other korean bbq buffet places?

      1. re: bigpig

        Manna is all you can eat, but not buffet style- they bring you the food to your table.
        There's another place in the corner of a shopping center off of Western- can't remember the name, but you drive north on Western, past Castle, and it's on your right side- the only way I find this place is by looking for a uniform store, which is pretty eye-catching with all the military& police uniforms in the front window.- this place is buffet style, but you cook the meat at your table.

    2. A place that I have never seen bandied about on this site (and I will try the name two different ways) is the Il Donjg Jang or Dong Il Jang on 8th & Hobart. Like the rest it is expensive but I have found it to be more upper end than many. Sushi is excellent and the Korean BBQ is wonderful. The spicy octupus salad or appetizer as it may be is wonderful. I could go there in jeans or coat and tie and feel comfortable either way.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Hugh Lipton

        Dong Il Jang was my first Korean place. It was fun and was very pretty inside.

        I remember the kimchee soup made a friend of mine sweat profusely. And for a long time, I really liked their bibimbahp.

        I think they had good shinsullo - the Korean hotpot which I remember was a classic dish but somehow never got the following here that kalbi or nyaengmyun or soondubu or even bibimbahp got.

        1. re: Hugh Lipton

          Our regular place for the last 20 years. It's drawback is the panchan, pretty pedestrian and unchanging. But nice people and good food. Even thought the prices have climbed a bit over the years, (and what hasn't) we still visit about once or twice a month. Our now almost 16 year old teen weasel son was weaned on their food and plans on having us pay for his birthday dinner there with 6 of his friends.

          1. re: Hugh Lipton

            One thing I love at Dong Il Jang is the way they take your rice, mix it with an incendiary miso-like paste, and then cook the rice till it gets very crispy and soaks up a lot of left over meat juice from the grill. I guess other places would do this too, if only one knew how to order it...I certainly don't.

          2. Bang for the buck? Soot Bull Jeep, no question. They move you in and out, the ambience is atavistic to an extreme, but it is delicious and cheap and fun.

            Absolute quality of meat? I would have to go with Tahoe, whose beautifully marbled galbi is even a step above Chosun. (And unlike Chosun, Tahoe does the natural-charcoal thing.) They do have combination specials - panchan, a few kinds of meat, kimchi chigae, and drinks - for a set price. Tahoe tends to be on the high end of things in Koreatown, but it is still pretty inexpensive compared to, say, Taylor's.

            Sa Rit Gol is pretty high quality, although I am always more impressed by the stews and the panchan than I am by the pure animal. Hamjipark on Olympic has good pork ribs and neckbone soup. Kobawoo, of course, is far from a straight galbi place, but the price/quality ratio can't be beat, and the bindaeduk is just mindblowingly good. I like Shik Do Rak, near the eastern end of the Olympic Blvd. strip.

            But if you're in it strictly for the meat, the happy medium may be Castle, on Western near Melrose, which has tons of reasonable set dinners, mostly based on the price of the chosen beverage, really fine meat, the noodle wrappers called dduk bo sam, and a relaxed, happy vibe.

            Afterwards, pop down to Soju Town for a nightcap.

            4 Replies
            1. re: j gold

              Jon, did you see a post a while back from someone who was raving about a place called Ma Dang Sae (901 S. Vermont Blvd. @ James Wood St. (213) 381 9292) that (according to her) has the best K BBQ?

              She said that the sign for the restaurant in only written in Korean but that the place is right on the corner and has a "cartoonish" boy on the restaurant's banner.

              1. re: WLA

                I can vouch for this place (i think). Corner of James Wood/Vermont, no english signs, valet (not really but ok) parking in the back. Tiny place. My current spot - WAY cheaper than Park's, pretty damn good. Low key/chill place, esp. compared to manna

              2. re: j gold

                we're locating places for ChowNews (our weekly newsletter exerpting and organziing the weeks' best tips) and we can't find Hamjipark on Olympic. We did find:

                Hamjipark
                3407 W 6th St
                Los Angeles 90020
                213-365-8773

                and...

                Ham Ji Park
                4135 W Pico Blvd
                Los Angeles 90019
                323-733-3635

                Can anyone help?

                Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/23/c...

                1. re: The Chowhound Team

                  To The Chowhound Team,

                  My understanding is that the Pico location (which was a complete dive) has been closed and that they moved the restaurant to the 6th street location (much cleaner and nicer). The restaurant was never located on Olympic.

                  Great website, btw.

              3. Hi there... I visited Soot Bull Jeep about a year ago, with a party of four. On a week day evening it was busy but not claustrophobic; the billowing smoke was noticable, but just short of overwhelming. In all, the food was tasty, plentiful and affordable. However, I was very put off when one of the waitresses, in mid-meal, wordlessly approached our table, and seeing that we were not cooking the raw chicken fast enough, took it upon herself to scoop up a helping of wet raw chicken from a platter and fan it out upon the grill. What upset me was the way she dangled the dripping raw chicken meat across the table from platter to grill; a steady dripping stream of raw chicken juices clearly made their way into our little dishes of kim chee, soup, and even beer glasses. She seemed oblivious of the implications of tainting prepared foods with raw liquids. As I was the host of our small party and the only one who had eaten korean food before, I felt embarassed for my guests who did their best not to voice their consternation. I wrongly did not speak up, but thankfully no one became ill, to my knowledge. Otherwise, the actual marinated meats and accompaniments tasted fine. As long as one can boldly repel the advances of too-eager servers, Soot Bull Jeep is pretty good for a casual night out.

                19 Replies
                1. re: silence9

                  This is a commonly encountered situation in Korean BBQ places. After 20 years of practice I now tell them from the start that we will be doing the cooking, and if they try to do it anyway I stop them immediately with words, action, (putting my hand out and indicating not to proceed or taking the platter from them) and a vigorous shaking of my head in a negative manner.

                  1. re: WLA

                    The health department should be told about this. It's unbelievably dangerous, and that it's happened to both of you is mindblowing. They should be shut down for a week to give them incentive to train their staff.

                  2. re: silence9

                    The ladies at Soot Bull Jeep also like to cut meat with scissors. They will cut raw or cooked meat(chix/pork/beef) with the same scissors one after the other and then move on to another table and do the same.

                    We liked the food and the rather Blade Runner ambiance of the place, but the scissors thing has kept us away for at least a year. I wish they would be a tiny bit careful.

                    1. re: silence9

                      I think that's the type of service I'd like to stay away from. I'm not looking for anything 5-star, but I'd like them to have at least some common sense and that I wouldn't be embarassed about if I'm taking a friend out to eat for a casual date.

                      1. re: silence9

                        OK, I should start by saying that this is a bit of a touchy subject for me. As someone who has an intense interest in travel, tasting the food of other cultures and seeing how non-Americans live their lives, I have come to understand (only within the past few years, incidentally) that our way of doing things may be the "safest", but may not always the best way. We as Americans are obsessed with the sanitization and safety of most things in our culture. Remember the 10 foot tall metal playground slides you burned your bottom on as a kid? Have you seen the 3 foot high plastic ones they have nowadays? Were the 10 foot slides really that much of a public health menace that we had to ban them forever? This could easily turn into a critique of the American media and popular culture censorship as well, but don't worry, from this point on I will keep the topic food related :-)

                        silence9, while I am American and understand the American obsession with cleanliness and safety, one thing that many of us seem to forget is that, for example in this instance, there are millions of Koreans around the world who eat this style of bbq every day and do not contract trichinosis or some similarly horrible ailment. Similarly, to my knowledge we are the only country in the world that forces farmers to boil the flavor and texture out of their cheese (for health reasons, purportedly) yet millions of French people enjoy young raw milk brie every day. If one French person per 1,000,000 contracts food poisoning, they do not sue the cheesemaker for negligence, because that's simply not how you make cheese! It's been their culture for many hundreds of years. I just returned from two weeks in Europe-- upon my return to the US, I must have heard or read 6 different warnings at customs that "all foreign food must be disposed of"... but I've just been eating 2 weeks of foreign food non-stop-- does that mean that I'm now a walking biohazard? Should I declare myself?

                        You speak of the raw chicken juices as if they were arsenic or nitroglycerine or some other deadly poison that could not be neutralized by the flame of the grill. Think about it... it seems silly to try and oversanitize something when in fact what we're doing is eating a dead animal! By its very nature, even in the cleanest of restaurants, we are ingesting copious amounts of dead bacteria, and some live bacteria as well. At Soot Bull Jeep, even if the same scissors are used throughout the restaurant, the chicken is cooked by your hand, to your level of done-ness, so you have direct control over at what point you feel safe eating the chicken (I prefer my bbq with a little char on the ends anyway).

                        When I visit an authentic ethnic restaurant, I very much feel as I do when I visit a foreign country, which is that the rules of my culture do not apply. I am open to experience the non-American way of doing things, and for a short period of time I am not an American. And I've gotta tell you, every once in a while it feels really good to forget everything I've been told and just... let... go...! :-)

                        Mr. Taster

                        1. re: Mr. Taster

                          I think he was most perturbed by the raw chicken juice running into the panchan dishes, which were not going to be going on to the hot grill to cook.

                          1. re: WLA

                            Yes but your comment ignores the essence of what I was trying to communicate.

                            If the first thing you think about is "It's not safe" you're thinking American. While in Koreatown, think Korean.

                            I promise you that obsessing about getting sick will make you sicker than actually eating a couple of drips of raw chicken juice.

                            Mr. Taster

                            1. re: Mr. Taster

                              Unless of course you actually do get some E. coli 0157 in your panchan grasshopper.

                              Then ones worrying about getting sick will be as nothing beside the reality of ones new found protrate suplication, all the while kneeling and (s)praying to the god who resides in the porceline throne.

                              1. re: WLA

                                "Unless of course you actually do get some E. coli 0157 in your panchan grasshopper."

                                Unless.....

                                It's safe to drive, *unless* you get into a car accident.

                                It's safe to swim, *unless* you hit a rip tide.

                                It's safe to live, *unless* you're susceptible to death.

                                When taken out of context, everything is dangerous.

                                When placed in context, Korean BBQ is not.

                                Mr. Taster

                                1. re: Mr. Taster

                                  I dunno.. I'm Korean and grew up in Korea- and even by my standard would still get pretty grossed out by raw chicken juice in my banchan. maybe that's the american in me... :\

                                  1. re: Porky Yorky

                                    Aside from the E. coli question I can't imagine dripping raw chicken gruel into the banchan doing much for the taste of the little side dishes.

                                  2. re: Mr. Taster

                                    I don't want the waitress to grab the steering wheel while I'm driving;

                                    I don't want the waitress to sit on my back while I'm swimming;

                                    And I don't want the waitress to drip raw chicken juice all over my food!!

                                  3. re: WLA

                                    Hello WLA and hello Mr. Taster. I appreciate your sharing divergent views on this subject.
                                    Sometimes the world can be a complicated place to navigate. I agree with one of my mentors in Gnosticism, who says that the sound of the Universe is not 'AUM' but 'CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP'. We eat, and are eaten in return.
                                    A dozen years ago, I went out for raw oysters and beer locally with a girlfriend. I ate eleven oysters and she ate one. She got the bad one. I believe she contracted Hepititis A. I nursed her around the clock for a week, till she got better, holding her steady on the toilet seat every hour or so while she painfully produced shocking bright green bowel movements the color and texture of play-dough. She was only able to hold down sips of water dispensed from a teaspoon for the entire week. I have never seen someone so chronically and violently ill who actually survived and got better. At one point, she lucidly stated that she wanted to die after 5 days of non-stop intestinal torture. This was not food poisoning, it was mind and body altering illness that I wouldn't wish upon my mightiest enemy. I think the issue of food, cleanliness, and cultural mindset is positioned along a spectrum. However, in the world we have today where many people live with compromised immune systems, I don't think it is folly to consider the pluses and minuses in one's dietary choices. It is an individual's choice whether or not in partake of sushi, oysters, raw meats, etc. But it doesn't seem unreasonable for someone selecting a cooked dish to expect the dish to *remain* in a cooked state :-). And apologies in advanced to the list moderator for my going a bit afield from the tighter focus of food and restaurants. Gotta love the Chowhound list!

                                    1. re: silence9

                                      ROTFLMAO. Now that was just way too much information.

                                    2. re: WLA

                                      E. coli 0157 is specifically a beef contaminant, is barely slowed down by thorough cooking, and is exceedingly rare. Salmonella is the likely culprit of chicken drippings, and if the meat has been skinned, washed and marinated, there's not much chance even of that.

                                        1. re: pepper

                                          Just to reinforce that this is not an "ethnic" restaurant issue solely:

                                          I read, through another internet board, of a woman becoming violently ill after dining at a Burger King. Of course, I'm sure others can offer comparable experiences.

                                          I do think, though, that the errant raw-chicken juices mentioned hereabouts were just plain gnarly and unnecessary.

                                          But I think we can also be far too finicky when it comes to perceived impurities in our food and food-handling. It's interesting what's considered taboo, and what is considered OK. For example, while dining at a local, low-end, B-rated Thai place, I found a hair in one of my dishes. No big deal. I don't think a person can get debilitating diarrhea from hair! But I am definitely squeamish about cockroaches, which I doubt would give me gastro-intestinal distress when ingested as well.

                                          Interesting what we'll happily ingest, versus what we'll reject in disgust.

                                  4. re: Mr. Taster

                                    Couldn't have said it better myself.

                                    Incidentally, the import ban really infuriates me. I want my raw milk Brie, Camembert, etc., not to mention all of the various sausages, hams, etc. Heck, we couldn't even get prosciutto in this country until recently, because apparently people were going to start dropping dead all over the place from eating "uncooked" pork.

                                    Yeesh!

                                    1. re: Mr. Taster

                                      I couldn't have said it better myself. You are absolutely right. Funny thing about these letter "grades" at LA restaurants... I almost DON'T want to go into a Chinese or Korean (or most ethnic for that matter) restaurant with an "A"... they're often (NOT ALWAYS) to "Americanized" and far from authentic.

                                  5. After looking back at some old postings again, I think I'm leaning towards going to Manna for Korean bbq this weekend. From what chowhounds have said, the combination plates seem appealing to me. I can eat a variety of different meats while my friend drinks the bottle soju :) Any opinions on the place and what do the different combinations (A, B, C, etc.) cost and include?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: NinoHB

                                      Manna is not the place to go if you want good service. But you will get a good bang for your buck.