REVIEW w/pics: Seafood Feast at Bultaneun Cheongdamdong Jogae Gui aka Flaming Clam Grill of Cheongdamdong
One of the things I enjoy about dining at Korean restaurants is that some of them offer tableside cooking where you either cook it yourself as in Korean BBQ or they'll cook it for you as in Octopus Fried Rice or Spicy Crab Soup. So after reading an LA Times article about a Koreatown restaurant that specializes in a multi-course tableside prepared seafood meal, I knew that this was one place I had to visit and soon. The name of the restaurant is Bultaneun Cheongdamdong Jogae Gui, which translates to Flaming Clam Grill of Cheongdamdong and it's in the Chapman Market Complex.
One key thing you should know right away about this restaurant is that there is no English signage. The name of the restaurant is in Korean and the street number is difficult to read at night. I actually ended up across the street and the valet there pointed me in the right direction. While there's street parking, there's also valet parking behind the restaurant for about $2 if you get your ticket validated.
Another thing to know is that the menu is only in Korean. Thankfully, I got that info from that LA Times article I read, so that wasn't a surprise. After we picked the $59.99 option, the feasting began.
The first two things to arrive were beaten eggs in a covered pot and Dukboki, a dish that consists of rice cakes, enoki mushrooms, cabbage and some kind of chili paste or sauce. It didn't take long for the eggs to cook with a soft steamed-like consistency, but the Dukboki wasn't ready until much later.
Each person also received individual portions of congee and a salad, which were soon followed by small bowls of edamame, veggies and boiled quail eggs to share. The congee was plain, but there were a couple of chili sauce bottles to choose from if you wanted to add some spice to it. I loved the quail eggs. There was just something about peeling these mini eggs and popping them into my mouth that was just appealing.
The food kept coming in the form of thick spicy cold noodles, battered sweet potatoes, a Korean pancake and cheese melted over peas and carrots in an aluminum covered shell. Those noodles were a home run. The flecks of pepper along with the spicy sauce it was sauteed in really made my tastebuds happy. A bowl with Mussels and a broth also arrived, with the server occasionally spooning some of that broth over the seafood as it was cooking.
Soon, a seafood fiesta on a plate arrived. On that plate were all sorts of ocean goodies that included geoduck clams, more clams, conch, scallops, oysters, baby octopus and shrimp and that's when the real work started at least by our server.
Our server first cut both the geoduck clams and the baby octopus into smaller pieces before placing them back in the shells and then he removed the scallops from their smaller shells and grouped them into a larger shell. There was already a shell filled with other clam meat that didn't need any other prep work. Then he laid the smaller shells down on the grill as a base for the 4 shells to lean against so that the seafood wouldn't get too much heat from the grill. Also on the grill was the conch and a few more clams that were cooked in their shells.
As the seafood was ready to eat, our server would pull them towards the side of the grill and would encourage us to eat them right away so that the meat wouldn't get too chewy. To add flavor, he'd add the broth from the mussels soup that came earlier.
At one point, the unopened clams were cooked enough to be opened by our server and ready to be eaten. He also removed the conch meat from its shell, sliced it and presented it on one of the empty shells. Things were moving so fast that I didn't even notice when he made some kind of fried rice with nori until I saw it on the grill, again in a shell.
As the shelled critters were ending up in our stomachs, foiled covered oysters and shrimp soon showed up on our grill. When the oysters were done cooking, their shells were quickly dispatched and the oyster meat was placed on top of the fried rice and the cooked shrimp were placed in a spiral mode around the grill.
One would think that this would be the end of the meal, but that wasn't the case. Instead a small pot of soup with clams and noodles was our finale. The soup had a nice light broth and I left just enough room to finish off a small bowl of that soup.
Overall, this was a really enjoyable dinner. Our server was really attentive and any attempts for us to try and cook any of the food ourselves was met with the tongs being taken away us. Granted, it wasn't very busy the night we went so everyone was quite attentive. On busier nights, you may be more on your own. What really impressed me, other than the service, was just the quality of the seafood. Everything tasted really fresh and was prepared well by our servers. This is definitely a meal worth repeating.
Bultaneun Cheongdamdong Jogae Gui
3465 W. 6th Street, Unit 20
Los Angeles, CA 90005
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i've been there twice. my only quibble, and a minor one at that, is that i wish their dipping sauces were a bit varied. of the 3, two are gochujang based and tasted similar. otherwise good place, good shellfish especially the razor clams, and the noodles (kalgooksoo) at the end really hits the spot.