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Okay folks, I’ve decided to take the plunge ... Korean food. Where to begin?

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It's not like I've been avoiding Korean cuisine but it's not something I've come across during my meanderings here in the SF Valley.

Sure, I’ve read about it, been to A-Frame, hit the Kogi Truck and am fairly certain I’ll totally love it but what do I need to know (does and don'ts), which LA restaurants do I need to visit and what should I order? I am in your capable hands.

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  1. Park's BBQ is wonderful. Great grilled meats Korean style. Wonderful staff that will help you order and cook the food at your table. Not only some of the best cuts of meat in Los Angeles but also one of the best restaurants in our city.. Their boneless short ribs are incredible. Food critic Jonathan Gold said of the short ribs... " the marinated galbi — short ribs, L.A.'s own signature cut — is magnificent here, the makings of a meat coma." A great place to dive in to some delicious Korean food for the first time. Open late on weekends.

    http://www.parksbbq.com/

    -----
    Park's BBQ
    955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

    2 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile

      +1 on Parks. And they are very kid friendly there.

      1. re: Phurstluv

        ...and they will assist you with everything...just ask!
        +2 for Parks!

    2. korean bbq is the most popular style of korean food but they types of korean food is pretty vast and most korean restaurants specialize in one item. with that said, i think midtown lunch does a good job of going to a variety of korean restaurants as does j. gold.

      parks is a good choice if you want bbq but i'd recommend trying many more places such as kobawoo, yu chun, sokongdong, etc...+

      1. If you're willing to try Korean tofu stew (soondubu chigae), my vote is for Beverly Tofu on near Olympic and Vermont.

        4 Replies
        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

          Ooh, I'm willing to try Korean tofu stew.

          If I just walk into Beverly Tofu and order soondubu chigae, am I going to get the real deal? Or will I need to do some convincing in order to not get whited?

          Anything else I should order there?

          1. re: Bjartmarr

            There's a fairly diverse clientele that visits the place. The only way I would think you'll get "whited" is maybe spice levels; I usually order the spiciest anyway. They are very consistent and offer a great array of banchan (Korean side dishes).

            I usually just get one of the tofu stews; there's 10 different types I believe. If I'm really hungry, I get one of the combos which combines a smaller serving of soon dubu with a grilled meat like galbi(short ribs), bulgogi(sliced beef) or my personal favorite, whole grilled squid. Their bibimbap (mixed vegetable and meat bowl with rice) isn't bad either.

            1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

              I'd like to add to your comment by saying they've somewhat recently added the dolsot bibimbap (with the hot stone bowl). Some places don't do this right-- either the rice is too wet or the bowl isn't hot enough to ensure that the bottom layer of rice gets a nice crispy brownness. But both of the times I've ordered it at Beverly it's been perfect.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                I did not notice that the last time I was there. Perhaps a trip in the near future is in the works...

        2. A-Frame and Kogi count as Korean? Really?

          But whatever.

          For BBQ I would *start* with Soot Bull Jeep then work your way up to Park's and Don Dae Gam.

          For noodles, esp. kalgooksoo, go to MIari or Olympic Noodle or Doma where you can get some good mandu as well.

          Then to top it off go to The Prince or Masan for sannakji (the latter is probably a better choice).

          6 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            ips- I don't count them as Korean but there's acknowledgement of significant Korean influence. Through those brief tastes, I realized I hadn't experienced the cuisine in any significant, respectable way.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Disagree with the rec for Soot Bull Jeep; I took my family once and they were dissapointed in the quality of their banchan.

              For home cooking, try this place:

              Seong Buk Dong
              3303 West 6th Street
              Los Angeles, CA 90020-2202
              (213) 738-8977

              For some great pork ribs, you can't go wrong with:

              Ham Ji Park
              4135 West Pico Boulevard,
              Los Angeles, CA 90019
              (323) 733-3635 () ‎

              -----
              Soot Bull Jeep
              3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

              Seong Buk Dong
              3303 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

              Ham Ji Park
              3407 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

              1. re: ChewUrFood

                Soot Bull Jeep was my very first experience with Korean food. I knew nothing about it when I stumbled in, and it began my decade-long love affair with the cuisine.

                It doesn't matter that Soot Bull Jeep's panchan are not up to snuff with others in LA. (There's plenty of time for Steve to explore all the varieties and come to his own conclusions about which ones he likes best).

                With SBJ's gruff service, wonderful marinades, and real lump charcoal, it's a decidedly delicious trial by fire (and smoke) and an experience well worth building upon as Steve gains exposure to and learns more about this fine, unique cuisine.

                Mr Taster

                -----
                Soot Bull Jeep
                3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  Well put, Mr. T., well put.

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I love the atmosphere there, you feel like you are at a backyard korean BBQ and end up smelling like smoke. It's fun introduction to Korean food.

                  2. re: ChewUrFood

                    I just went to Seong Buk Dong last night... and wow was it good! I've had a lot of Korean bbq and soontofu but haven't really branched out beyond what's available at those types of restaurants. The waitress was very patient with us (none of us spoke Korean) and gave us recommendations on what to order. Their steamed short ribs (galbi jim) were amazingly tender and delicious. That and the braised mackerel are their 2 most popular dishes.

                    -----
                    Seong Buk Dong
                    3303 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                2. If you want a big and free, no valet lot and good Korean BBQ (I'm partial to their bulgogi and the spicy pork myself) with maybe some glass noodles stir fried with vegetables and beef (chap jae) then I recommend Dong il Jang on 8th Street just east of Western about 3 blocks.

                  -----
                  Dong Il Jang Restaurant
                  3455 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                  1. other korean foods to look for besides the BBQ:
                    cold noodle soup (neng myum)
                    hot spice crab stew
                    Bibimbap
                    tapas and soju (dang sung sang on 6th street)
                    beef soup (korean version of pho is the best description i can give): its called sul lung tang. most famous one is on western and 5th street (next to the carls jr)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: samtron608

                      I will go against all posts on the thread so far (all solid recs) & suggest : Nam Dae Moon for reasons as follows --
                      1. They have a very complete menu covering bbq, tangs, jangs and even noodles. There's even yeom so tang (black goat stew), eun dae go jo rim (spicy cod stew) and kimchi gal gook su.
                      2. Open 24 hours
                      3. Lots of KE (or was it OZ? can't remember) flight stewardess dine there. As you may (or may not) know, for the rest of the world, flight attendants need to send in hot shots with their resume.
                      4. This place is borderline racist. They just do NOT like non-Koreans. Maybe it's cuz they can hardly speak English. Whatever the reason, doesn't matter. I like seeing white people in this joint. It's a total immersion in the "deep end". They make you work hard for the meal.

                      Now, if you want an easy, tasty dinner, by all means, go to Park's or Beverly Soon Doobu, but Nam Dae Moon Jip rec is really reserved just for a quest like this. You gotta study the menu before you visit, you gotta fight the Ktown parking lot, and you gotta wage war with the non-English speaking mom/pops.

                      It doesn't get more "authentic" than that.

                      -----
                      Nam Dae Moon Jip Restaurant
                      3470 W 6th St Ste 2A, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                      1. re: TonyC

                        Which is why it is a piss-ass poor choice for a "gateway" Korean restaurant.

                        Sort of like opening a bottle of Macallan 64 to introduce someone to single malts.

                        1. re: TonyC

                          Thanks Tony, Nam Dae Moon Jip sounds like my kind of place.

                          -----
                          Nam Dae Moon Jip Restaurant
                          3470 W 6th St Ste 2A, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                          1. re: TonyC

                            The one and only time I went there, it was no mom or pops—it was a full-on, no-patience-for-white-boy-whatsoever ajumma... and when I ordered in my limited Korean, her penciled-in eyebrows flew up into her hair.

                            Not a good choice for someone starting off. This is Advanced Korean—he needs the 101 course first.

                        2. My favorite is Beverly Soon Tofu. I eat it all the time. Usually get the mushroom beef version.

                          Definitely try Ondal 2. The spicy crab soup is amazing and with all the side dishes makes for a real feast. Best if you have 3 or more people since the smallest size is rather large.

                          -----
                          Ondal 2
                          4566 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

                          Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant
                          2717 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: assassin

                            I totally agree re Ondal 2. The first time my wife and I went by ourselves and ordered the spicy crab soup, we were overwhelmed. It is also possible to get a nonspicy version, but we prefer the spicy version.

                            1. re: assassin

                              +1 for Ondal. Just make sure you bring friends b/c it can be a LOT of food.

                              Which part of the SFV are you in? There's actually a fair number of Korean restaurants in the area, including Evergreen Restaurant (17621 Sherman Way
                              Van Nuys, CA 91406). I ate there a few weeks ago for the first time. I don't recall them having the DIY BBQ, but they had a pretty diverse menu, the flavor profiles seemed "authentic" enough, and it's got an endearing mom-and-pop feel to it w/o having the crazy, chaotic atmosphere that a lot of places in K-town have. And it's pat of a bigger strip mall (you actually have to drive into the mall parking lot and then go around the corner to access this place) that has a lot of other Korean restaurants.

                              If you're in the San Gabriel Valley, I also enjoy the place that's on the 2nd floor of the Focus Plaza (99 Ranch Market). It's run by Chinese-Koreans, I think. Again, no DIY BBQ, but there's a pretty wide selection of food (cooked BBQ meats, tofu, rice cakes, etc), the food is tasty (if not quite as, er, STRONG as other Korean places), and the atmosphere, again, isn't quite so chaotic. And they're the only place I've been to (of 3 or so) that had the crusted rice in the dolsot bimimbap.

                              -----
                              Ondal
                              3160 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                            2. Soot Bull Jeep is great for authentic charcoal, but perhaps a great AYCE spot for you would be Road to Seoul. Then move to Parks when you want to spend some $$$. I hear Castle BBQ on Western is good too. My order-off-the-menu spot is Hodori. You can always go to Assi Market and pick up some takeaway food or make it at home.

                              -----
                              Soot Bull Jeep
                              3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                              Hodori Restaurant
                              1001 S Vermont Ave Ste 101, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                              Road to Seoul
                              1230 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Deidre7

                                I agree, going to an AYCE Korean BBQ place, is the way to be introduced to Korean BBQ. You have you choice of meats to grill and you can see what you like best. Then go to Parks and order off the menu or a combo.

                                There are a couple AYCE Korean BBQ restaurants in the Valley, on Reseda, so you don't even have to go to K-Town.

                                1. re: reality check

                                  Great string you guys. Thanks for all the input. I definitely have my research cut out for me and will duly report back once the charcoal smoke clears.

                                  1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                    Just to clarify, there are precious few places which use real lump charcoal. Most of the Korean BBQ joints in town use gas.

                                    Off the top of my head, Park's, Tahoe Galbi and Soot Bull Jeep all use lump charcoal. But Soot Bull Jeep is bar far the deepest and smokiest of the three. (Tahoe Gabli's charcoal, for example, is seated way down in the grill whereas SBJ's is right there, practically licking at the edge of your galbi.)

                                    Incidentally, the chicken at SBJ (which I ordinarily wouldn't recommend ordering at a Korean BBQ place) is consistently delicious.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    -----
                                    Soot Bull Jeep
                                    3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      i dig the squid at soot bull jeep, too.

                                      1. re: linus

                                        ... and the tripe.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          While it was a LONG time ago, I've had AYCE BBQ, what I'm interested in is the other stuff. Spicy Crab Soup? Any kind of pork belly, Fried Chicken? Noodle Dishes. Also, what are the do's and don'ts (You know, like with BBQ you put the whole bit in your mouth instead of eating it like a burrito).

                                          I've read about the rice bowl staying on the table and the use of a spoon AND chopsticks. Anything insightful?

                                          1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                            Seriously. This is food, not open heart surgery.

                                            Eat the food the way you want to eat it. As long as you get it in your mouth, you're good.

                                            Don't overthink the room.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              10-4.

                                              1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                                Roger that.

                                                Enjoy wherever you end up!

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                exactly. just eat. they won't care. neither should you.

                                                spicy crab soup? ondal 2. take a few people. even the medium is enough food for 4.

                                                pork belly? i'm particularly fond of honey pig. plus, the fried rice they make at the end with the pork drippings is very good.

                                                fried chicken? kyochon. also ob bear for their chicken wings and their simple fried chicken with salt to dip.

                                                noodles? yu chun for naeng myun. pretty much a perfect summer dish. literally ice cold beef broth with buckwheat noodles.

                                                -----
                                                ondal 2
                                                los angeles, Los Angeles, CA

                                2. Seong Buk Dong, get the braised ribs. I like the grilled fish, but that's more of an authentic thing less people like.

                                  Halmae Jib, I always get the soy bean paste soup w/ barley rice... once more, kind of an authentic thing. This spot is 24 hrs and a great alternative to Hodori.

                                  Young Dong for my favorite "sul lung tang". Ham Ji Park for the bombest pork ribs and pretty good potato and pork soup.

                                  Parks BBQ for great bbq.

                                  Moo Dae Po 2 for not bad, fun environment, great for large parties all you can eat BBQ (some others may have slightly better quality, service, and prices, but I'm never disappointed here).

                                  Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun for my favorite Korean cold noodles... they use the chewier arrowroot noodles here opposed to the common buckwheat.

                                  Naejohyang Restaurant for my favorite "kal guk soo" ... even more than the 24 hr Myung Dong which is solid.

                                  Awon for their hwaedupbap (sashimi and veggies mixed w/ rice)!

                                  -----
                                  Yu Chun Restaurant
                                  3470 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                                  Hodori Restaurant
                                  1001 S Vermont Ave Ste 101, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                  Seong Buk Dong
                                  3303 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                                  Halmae Restaurant
                                  3122 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                                  Young Dong Restaurant
                                  3828 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010

                                  Ham Ji Park
                                  3407 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                                  Myung Dong
                                  5301 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90621