Showing posts with label kim chi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kim chi. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown - Garlic Warfare in Koreatown

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

If you think about it, garlic is probably the one ingredient that is prevalent in almost every culture's food. Revered for its healing and medicinal qualities, this member of the onion family, along with leeks, shallots and chives, was used once as currency, for healing wounds, ingested for spiritual reasons and for warding pale, creepy people with fangs. But for those that enjoy food, we all know that garlic is a major component in cooking and repelling a hot date during dinner. Whether its sauteed or even eaten raw, garlic can take a dish to higher levels. But to what level specifically?

I don't know, but I have a feeling the Koreans may have an answer. Why Korea? Over Spain, Italy and America, Koreans consume more garlic per capita than anyone else. Just how much? Americans eat an average of 2.5 lbs. of garlic a year... Koreans – 22 lbs. a year. 22 lbs. of garlic in a bag can knock you out if it was swung at you with enough force. I've always known that Koreans use copious amounts of garlic, along with sesame oil and red chilis, but this as you will learn very soon, is a complete understatement. For many years already, garlic warfare is happening in Koreatown. And you probably didn't know that it was happening at a place on Wilshire and Harvard.

I first came to Myung Dong Kyoja when I was searching for one of my favorite korean dishes, kal gook soo. Kal gook soo literally means "knife-cut noodles" and it is basically a soup noodle dish with various toppings and broth flavorings. The most popular being chicken noodle soup (dahk kal gook soo) and anchovy-flavored noodle soup (myeol chi kal gook soo) offered at Koreatown places like Ma Dang Gook Soo and Olympic Noodle. Unlike a proper bowl of pho or Chinese beef noodle soup, this dish is much more simple, comforting and homey. The soup at first may seem light in flavor, but the simple addition of some scallion/chili/soy sauce relish and chili powder and you're good to go.

When you first walk in here, almost instantly, you will be hit with an invisible fist of garlic. It is at the entrance of the door that you have the option of saving yourself from sweating out garlic for the rest of the day, or taking your palate on a test drive through Garlicville. Go for the latter if you're true garlic-head.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

And once you've ordered your food, the server comes out with a small portion of kimchi as seen above. You're probably wondering why so little is given, but it's more than you'll need. I can promise you that every piece of cabbage packs a decent amount of minced garlic. At first bite, you'll know what I'm talking about. I think I ate about three pieces before my tongue started to sting a little from the fresh, fieriness of the minced garlic cloves. So fiery that when you drink some water to abate the pleasurable pain, you can feel a sort of numbness in the tongue. And I love it. It's almost like you're eating minced garlic with a side of red chili and cabbage.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

Look at that, it is a crater of garlic. Just standing over this holding pot, I was hit with major garlic fumes. Insane!

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

If you can handle the hazing on the tongue, they'd be more than glad to serve you with another 1-2 punch. The servers come by with their kimchi pitcher and tongs. Intense!

In addition to the garlic freak show, there are a few things that are worth eating at MDKJ. The steamed dumplings (goon man doo) at first appear to be Korean cousins of the widely-adored Chinese xiao long bao, soupy pork dumplings. But they are nowhere nearly as juicy as they are. The dumplings themselves are plump due to a heavy vegetable to meat ratio. They are steamed in a plastic basket and are indeed pretty decent. But I prefer the well-balance boiled dumplings found at places like Dumpling 10053, Dean Sin World and Lu Noodle House. Anyway, a simple mixture of a Korean condiment and vinegar and you're good to go.

There's also MDKJ's version of kal gook soo, which tastes even better once you add the Korean flavoring condiment and maybe a dash of vinegar. The thing I've noticed with Korean soup noodles is that they cook the noodles a little too long for my taste. I enjoy a toothsome, notable al-dente-ness in every bite. So I highly recommend ordering your noodles a bit harder. Problem is if you're non-Korean like me, communicating that is a bit difficult.

Myung Dong Kyoja

But thanks to my trusty Translator app for my iPhone, I can get from point A to B. I always get a kick out of seeing their reaction because this Translator app is so literal, but they get the idea. I said: "Hello. I like my noodles chewy. Not soft. Thank you. Also your kimchi is very strong in garlic taste. Intense! But I love it."

Myung Dong Kyoja

If the garlic kimchi isn't holding up to your garlic expectations, you need to use this relish consisting of soy sauce, minced garlic, scallions and a type of mild korean pepper that has a taste similar to bell peppers and slight spice kick from shishito peppers. I love this sauce. Add 2-3 big scoops of this sauce into your kal gook soo soup noodles and you're set. Like I said before, the soup can be a little too plain without any sauce, so this is what is used to flavor your dish. I like my soup noodles with a touch of vinegar to cut through that muddy garlic tone.

Myung Dong Kyoja

Myung Dong Kyoja Kal Gook Soo
The version served here is much different than what you're probably used to. Soup noodles are served in a slightly starchy broth from the noodle runoff. It's topped with a simple stir fry of ground meat, zuccini, carrots, onions and 3-4 mini dumplings that I really enjoy. If you like the mini dumplings, you can order them straight up with soup and nothing else. Win.

Myung Dong Kyoja

Myung Dong Kyoja

This is what I call a happy meal. The surprise gift is a fiery mouth of garlic.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

I wasn't kidding when I said there is garlic warfare happening in Koreatown. They've even provided you with a fancy gargling machine in the restroom, the Garlic Kimchi-a-tor 5000. I took a shot of the gargling liquid and it did nothing for me but create this minty garlic taste that seemed to never go away. Don't say I didn't warn you about the garlic. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Myung Dong Kyoja
3630 Wilshire Blvd. (c/o Harvard)
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7789

Eat Drink Style Honey Pig, Koreatown - Porny the Pig

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Sometimes, words are simply unnecessary. And sometimes, I wish these images were scratch n' sniff. Google and Apple, I'm waiting. There are three things that define Honey Pig: fire, shield-size grill and pig. Lots of pig. Go. Enjoy.

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Kimchi

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Octopus Tentacles

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Honey Pig
3400 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 380-0256

Eat Drink Style Han Bat Shul Lung Tang, Koreatown 한 바 설 렁 탕 - Hangover Special Please

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang Koreatown

6:13 am.

I open my eyes to a hazy foreground. There's barely any light coming in through the windows yet I find it hard to even open my eyes. They feel like they've been sewn shut. I swallow the saliva in my mouth and feel the droplets slowly trickling down no faster than a snail's crawl. My mouth and throat are completely dry as a desert, probably from sleeping with my mouth open. I'm laying on the right side of my face, body sprawled over my bed. My leg's hanging off the bed and I can feel absolutely no blood circulating there. Oh my head. It feels like it's in a woodshop vise cranked all the way. The back of my eyeballs are throbbing with a slight jolt of pain. I can feel the pressure in my kidneys, signaling me to go to the bathroom. But I refuse to. I know what's going to happen if I get up. All the blood is going to tilt inside my head once I stand up, causing me to feel even more nauseous. It's now 7 am and my alarm goes off loudly. I purposely set my alarm to bad music so that I am FORCED to get up and turn it off. But this day, it couldn't be more painful with my hangover and horrible sound of Black Eyed Pea's "My Humps". If I had a gun, I would shoot my alarm clock a million times. I groan in major dis-satisfaction and shut up Fergie. Might as well go to the bathroom too. I stand up with the aid of my bed and feel the blood trickling to the right places, nearly falling. Oh god. I come back and fall back onto the bed. I miraculously find a cup of old water by my bed and kill it. This is terrible. The thought of going to work in the next few hours does not please me. As I lay there motionless in deep regret over last night's debauchery, there are only two words that come to mind:

Han Bat.

Han Bat (한 밭 설 렁 탕) is a Koreatown restaurant that specializes in ONE thing: sul lung tang. (I know the korean character for 'bat' is incorrect. Stupid computer won't do the character I want!) Sul lun tang is a soup made from boiling various beef bones, primarily oxtail, over a period of 12-15 hours. The result of the low-and-slow cooking method is a milky white broth caused by the collagen and marrow in the bones. Tonkotsu ramen is made through the same process, but with pork bones instead. There are only 4 meal categories in a day: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. For me, I've added a 5th meal – this is best eaten after drinking. Nothing is more pleasing than a bowl of soup for me because I'm taking care of two things at once: thirst and hunger.

I walk in at 7:45 am and see a few tables occupied. I've been here about 8 times already and have figured out the clientele. There are usually two types of people that come in here. You've got the older Korean men and women (ah-je-shee and ah-je-ma) getting their breakfast on while reading the morning newspaper. And then you've got the 21-32 year old guys and girls with bags under their eyes, or bed-head, slurping the soup quite rapidly. At this time in the morning, they are more than likely... hungover. Like me.

Han Bat (한 밭) should actually change it's name to Han Go Pa (한 고 바) because of its remedial significance in quelling hangovers. Koreans will get that haha.

Han Bat

This is what Han Bat might look like when you're drunk or hungover. No time to admire the hole-in-the-wall decor. Just eat the food.

Han Bat

This is what Han Bat looks like after you've had their soup. All of a sudden, today is a brand new day.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Han Bat's Hangover Soup: Sul Lung Tang
At Han Bat, they keep things really simple. You only have two options. Either you order the beef bone soup ($8.32 + tax) or you order the boiled beef that comes with wasabi ($16.63 + tax). The SLT comes in a mini black cauldron and is unsalted. You can smell the wafts of beefiness in the steam – reeling your drunk ass in. The broth has a subtle buttery-thickness to it. Some places will add tons of beef flavored stock (dashida) to enhance the real taste of beef bones. For your SLT, you can choose these types of toppings:

-mixed 석 음
-brisket 살 코 기
-flank 양 지
-intestine, tripe and spleen 내 장
-tongue 우 설

I always get the brisket and flank, which is similar to the beef cuts used in pho – my favorite. Rameniac has ordered the spleen before and decided to stick with non-spleen items. I love this soup!

Han Bat Toppings

Han Bat brings out the chef in you and lets you customize your SLT with korean salt (similar in texture to kosher, but slightly clumped up), black pepper and freshly-made chili paste. Along with the seasonings, comes the best topping in the world: the tub o' scallions which the server plops on the table. And a bowl of scalding hot rice packed into aluminum bowls.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Normal people do one scoop. I take it to the next level and add 5 monster scoops. I've caught the server looking at me once. She asked me, "You like???" I said, "Nehhhhhh..."

Han Bat Kimchi

Han Bat Kimchi
I love their kimchi. This is the pasty, thick kind that doesn't have that acidic/carbonated bite which is usually associated with pre-bottled stuff. The server sets this on the table and asks if you want it cut. *Bam* Out comes the trusty old Korean-restaurant gadget: scissors. *Snip *Snip *Snip: on your mark, get set, kim chi!

Han Bat Radish

I can't describe the goodness of Han Bat's SLT. It is such a simple dish that does wonders for those that are sober or drunk. For a total of $11 (tip included), I get a piping hot bowl of beef bone soup, 2 side dishes, rice, the tub o' scallions and a very happy body. Han Bat accepts cash only and is open from 7am - 10 pm everyday. Valet parking available behind the building.

How do YOU quell your hangover?

Han Bat Shul Lung Tang (한 밭)
4163 W. 5th St (and Western)
Los Angeles, CA 90020 (213) 388-9499

And for those that find themselves hungover in NYC... I recommend Gahm Mi Oak. Solid.

Eat Drink Style Koreatown Battle of the Tofu Houses: Beverly Soon Tofu VS. So Kong Dong Tofu

Korean Battle of the Tofu Houses

Tyson vs. Holyfield. Holyfield vs. Lewis. Great matches. But what about the real bouts - food fights!? For many in Los Angeles, it's Golden Deli vs. Pho 79, Sushi Zo vs. Sasabune, Phillipe's vs. Cole's french dip – the list goes on an on. But who reigns as champ in the soon tofu circuit? For those that have never eaten this delicious Korean dish, it consists of meat, seafood, tofu, broth and chili powder all served in a scalding hot stone pot. Before I frequented the two places above, I ate at BCD Tofu House a lot and Young Dong and Min Dong in the SGV area - they were average but I wanted the best of the best. All over Chowhound and Yelp, Beverly Soon Tofu and So Kong Dong were the two most mentioned places - both of which I had to sample. *Ding Ding Ding* Rumble time!

Live from the streets of Koreatown on Olympic Blvd., lie two contenders that have forever had conflict with each other. In fact, they are directly across the street from each other! On the North corner, weighing in at 2717 W Olympic Blvd Ste 108, about 900 square feet, in its 20+ years of serving food... Beverly Soon Tofu aka BST - The Beast! And on the South Corner, weighing in at 2717 W Olympic Blvd Ste 108, also about 900 square feet, also in its 20+ years of serving food.... So Kong Dong aka SKD - Super Killer Destroyer! (k that was stupid, but just play along). Let's take an insider look at those two opponents.

Beverly Soon Tofu, Koreatown

BST sits on the corner of a strip mall with very bad parking. All the buildings in Koreatown are 2-3 stories, and can only afford 10-12 parking spots because the area is so tight. The interior of BST takes on a rustic Korean atmosphere - I love the wooden benches they use. And can hold about 36 people. To add to the authenticity, you'll see a government-supplied metal bowl as part of your settings. No not for rice or soup - but for your ice tea! They give you your own ice tea dispenser which makes it easier for the servers to be more efficient in taking care of the food.

Beverly Soon Tofu Beef Tofu

Beef Soon Tofu
BST really packs a powerful punch with the soon tofu. The broth used is extremely full-bodied and you can tell it wasn't some kind of bouillon/powder used for flavoring water. For $8.27 per pot, BST doesn't dent your wallet. (That was bad!) The stock really has a strong beef taste and is thick, not watery like some other places. The tofu is soft and fluffy, the way I like it. Some places I've been to, the tofu is just too chunky/pasty and when mixed, turns the whole dish into swamp mush. You can easily lose your appetite if this occurs.

BST offers 10 kinds of soon tofu: the combination (meat/seafood), seafood, kimchi, mushroom, vegetable, fish egg, squid, shrimp vegetable, seaweed and soybean paste (dwen jang).

Beverly Soon Tofu Beef Tofu

Here's a slow mo replay of BST's beefy uppercut. Even when mixed up, tofu and broth stay separated.

Beverly Soon Tofu Kalbi

Like BCD Tofu House (Bok Chang Dong - the 24 hour soon tofu joint), they offer korean bbq platters with the soon tofu. For an additional $6, you can turn your soon tofu into a powerhouse combo! (sorry) Although the amount of kalbi given is sparse (6-7 pieces), you can't find a better pairing for your molten hot bowl of tofu. These are cooked inside the kitchen, so don't worry about getting the Soot Bull Jeep or Gui Rim experience.`

Beverly Soon Tofu Fresh Tofu

Not pictured are BST's side dishes (ban chan), which are another strong point - they are definitely high quality. Everything is good - the kimchi, the bean sprouts, radish, potatoes... and their secret weapon... silky round cuts of tofu in a light broth, sesame oil and seaweed strips. I gobbled this in 3 scoops. Loved it.

When the server brings you the rice that accompanies the soon tofu, it's also served in a stone pot. Once she scoops out the rice into the metal bowls, she'll add ice tea or water to the stone pot to loosen the rice that's burnt and stuck to the sides of the pot. With the help of some salt, this becomes an instant double dinner. Or if you choose not to add water, you can eat the burnt rice pieces on the inside of the pot, which Koreans refer to as 'noo roong ji'. Both are good sources of double dinner. In addition to the soon tofu, I hear that BST serves a good bibimbap, which is a stone pot filled with meat, eggs, veggies and rice - served with sesame oil and sweet red chili paste (gochujang).

Total bill comes out to about $34 with tax and tip for two people. Service is great here, parking isn't.

So Kong Dong Koreatown

Now a look at the Super Killer Destroyer, SKD, across in the South ring. SKD sits in the corner of a strip mall hidden behind the stairwell and also offers bad parking. BST has an advantage to SKD b/c it's on the north side of Olympic - much easier to turn into coming from either direction on Vermont. This area around 6 pm on a weekday is pure shit.

I came here on a weekend around 7 pm and it was quite slow. For a place to be this hidden and still hold a great reputation in the overwhelming Koreatown area really says a lot. I was greeted warmly and instantly smelled the goodness coming out of the kitchen.

So Kong Dong Tofu

For $8.50, you get a piping hot bowl of soon tofu. And it is super delicious. Thick, hot, bubbling - just like BST. But I'm going to have to say that SKD's soon tofu (beef, very spicy version pictured above) gives a nice hook to BST's noggin. Every single scoop made me want more and more - it was like chewing gum that never ran out of flavor. Tofu was very silky and fluffy like BST's, but I found that the soup evaporated faster than BST's, making everything really mushy and choppy. Still very good though! I'd take this over BCD anyday.

SKD also offers 10 kinds of soon tofu like BST: combination (meat/seafood), seafood, clam, oyster, beef, pork, kimchi, mushroom, beef intestines and dumplings.

So Kong Dong Dumpling Tofu

A good way to test the quality of the soup is to try the plain soup version. Just kidding, that's just my bullshit excuse for not being able to handle much spiciness (due to excessive drinking in the past). Great soup - I could definitely taste the essence of beef and seafood in the broth. I quickly stole some of J's spicy soup and dumped it in my bowl. Again, the broth evaporated quite quickly. But nonetheless, delicious.

Unfortunately, for those that are used to BST and BCD's kalbi/tofu combos, it doesn't happen here. This is where I think SKD may lack as a restaurant in whole. If you're in for the tofu, just come to either place and order the tofu. Some may argue that you don't go to a tofu house to order meat, which is true, as you don't order soup noodles in a chinese banquet restaurant. But if you must have a side of meat to go with your tofu, I suggest going to BST. SKD only offers beef and pork bul go gi (slices of meat served on a platter w/ onions) for $12.99 which is steep. If you add that to your $8.50 soon tofu, that's $22 we're talking there. But that's for sliced beef, not like kalbi ribs you can get at BST.

With a more expensive pot of soon tofu and no real meat combo, things aren't looking good for SKD. But the tables have turned and a possible comeback is in sight. This is SKD's secret weapon that may see to BST's strong set of side dishes... the spicy raw crab called 'gae jang'.

So Kong Dong Rawcrab

I've never had this but I can tell you that I have a favorite new side dish. Raw crabs are cracked and fermented with red bean paste along with green onions and garlic - awesome. There was so little meat on it though and I knew that it was more for sucking on. The paste used is really tasty. Crab does things to dishes – like how blue crab enhances the taste of Laotian/Thai papaya salad. You can order a whole plate of the raw crab for $10.99. Total bill for two orders of soon tofu with tax and tip comes out to like $18.

Judge's Scorecard after 20+ Years of Fighting

Best Overall Soon Tofu - I'd give it to SKD for it's strong broth. Both places have nice silky tofu, but it's the broth that's important.

Best Overall Side Dishes - This is a tie. BST has very good overall ban chan. But it's SKD's raw crab dish that wins a lot of people over. If you don't think you'll like raw crab, don't go to SKD. They also have fishcake but it's quite rubbery - not the best korean fishcake I've had.

Best Variety - This is a tie when it comes to soon tofu variations. I like the idea of BST's fish eggs, squid, soybean paste and seaweed in the tofu and I also like SKD's clam, oyster and beef intestine offerings - very unique! But I am a sucker for the dumpling tofu (mandoo), which is only offered by SKD.

Best Value - I'd give it to BST for their tofu/meat combos. BST offers both kalbi and bulgogi w/ combos, but SKD only offers non-combo bulgogi for $12.99. Quite expensive IMO for sliced beef. Even if I only want to eat soon tofu, I'd still come to Beverly because of the ban chan.

Best Miscellanous Benefits - Not that I really care about this but it depends on what you like. I like the old school benches at BST. SKD feels like any regular restaurant. Service is great at both places. Parking is shitty at both strip malls. I believe BST closes 30-60 mins earlier than SKD. And BCD Tofu House is open 24 hours.

Overall, I think both places are very solid. I'm glad there are other places to go to besides BCD Tofu House which for some reason just isn't on the same level as BST & SKD. I do like the fried yellow covina fish that's served as ban chan though - so tasty.

Are there better places than these two? Lemme know! I'd love to try it out and do another rematch posting. As always, thanks for reading.

Another compelling battle is also taking place in Koreatown... Pho 2000 vs. Pho 4000. Who is the real Pho restaurant from the future?!

Beverly Soon Tofu
2717 W Olympic Blvd #108
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-1113

So Kong Dong
2716 W Olympic Blvd #104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-3737

Eat Drink Style Shik Do Rak - Koreatown, LA - Home of the Rice Noodle Wrap

It's been almost nearly a year and a half that J & I have been in correspondence with a wonderful, funny and clever female blogger many of you know as Daily Gluttony. It was DG that influenced my decision to devote many nights of writing and waistline negligence to the popular trend of food blogging. For a while, I was interested in writing about food. I was never into politics, world events, sports etc., but food... I could do. How hard it could be to snap a few photos and describe what the hell you're ingesting. Let me tell you, I've been doing this since August of 2005 and it is hard work. It can take nearly 2 hours to produce a food posting. After you've uploaded your photos of the food, you have to edit them in Photoshop so that they look shiny and happy. Then you upload them into your food blog and engage in the sometimes aimless process of writing about food. Many times you'll hit a writer's block. And that's just the food you eat at a restaurant. Homecooking posts take MUCH longer. After prepping, cooking and plating... you have to set up your faux studio. Mine consists of a hideous 3-bulb lamp and a crappy Ikea table. My old roommate used to catch me shooting with the stupid lamp and laugh. I don't blame her - it is lame. Only fortunate people like Joycelyn of Kuiadore, Aun of Chubby Hubby and Heidi of 101 Cookbooks have the luxury of using fine equipment to produce their gorgeous photos. Check out their sites if you haven't already - it's serious eye candy. I'm not rich so I have to play with what I'm dealt. For the most part, I am quite slow on posting. This posting right here is already two months old and laden with cobwebs.

Anyway, since I first started, we've developed a friendship with Daily Gluttony and have hung out a few times. For our next meet up, DG and her husband were craving some korean bbq - particularly at Shik Do Rak, which is one of the firsts in Koreatown to serve their grilled delicacies with a thin, oily rice noodle sheet known as 'ddok bo ssam'. It is very similar to the steamed rice noodles (cheung fun) at dim sum restaurants and Chiu Chow (Trieu Chau) soup noodles, also known as 'huh fun' or 'guo tiao'.

J & I met up with DG & her husband on a friday night at Shik Do Rak, located on the corner of Hoover/Olympic. This place is tricky with parking as it's very easy to miss. I usually don't bother with the parking lot for 8 and resort to street parking. Plus after a meal here, you'd want to walk some of it off.

A good thing about eating with another food blogger is that they are typically open minded and are willing to order for people. It bugs me when someone says "I don't know" or "I don't care" when it comes to ordering food. Boring. And when you do suggest something like, tripe, they cringe and reject the thought. Very helpful people.

SDR is part indoors and part patio like many korean bbq restaurants, with exception to Soot Bull Jeep, which is a modified chimney with doors and windows. They should really consider upgrading their ventilation system because someone is bound to die in there. Even the employees there look a little sick. Given the option to choose seating, I'm gonna go with the outdoors. Air is good.

SDR is known as the home of the rice noodle wrap in LA according to many I've talked to. Now it's not hard to find this at restaurants like Manna, Tahoe Galbi and Gui Rim 2 - it's become a staple and part of the korean 'works'.

Shik Do Rak's Rice Noodle Sheet (Ddok Bo Ssam)
They resemble translucent napkins stacked on top of each other. Perfectly oiled and thin, there is definitely a difference between theirs and the forementioned korean restaurants. As of now, I'd have to say they are made the best. Any recs for places with good 'ddok bo ssam'?

Spicy Bean Paste and Salt/Pepper/Sesame Oil
Can someone please tell me the name of the oil dip? The waitresses never understand when I ask for the name. Anyway, I love SDR's bean paste b/c the flavor kick doesn't come from the jalapenos and bean paste (daen jang)... it's the Sriracha garlic chili sauce! Such a great combo. Those that have eaten here will know what I'm talking about.

Korean Salad
So far SDR, is 2 for 2 with their condiments... unfortunately this doesn't help at all. No dressing at all! Not the slightest taste of sesame oil or soy sauce/vinegar.

Grill Pan
This is what indoor korean bbq places will use instead of the standard charcoal grills. I guess it's a good way to save the juices from the meat. For those that don't care about their cholesterol, here's the third type of sauce you can use. Just dip your meat into the gutter of the pan and enjoy. This type of grill pan really supports the theory that Mongolians grilled their meat on shields over campfires. Very cool and so barbaric.

Mmm... the Beef Belt

The concept of 'fruit leathers', Trader Joe's answer to everyone's childhood favorite - Sunkist Fruit Rollups, is weird to me. But this is cool sh*t.... the meat is perfectly cut and then folded to look like a belt. Now that's manly. This thing could do some damage in a restaurant brawl. This was the easiest thing to grill. We simply cut it in half and laid out on the grill for a nice tan. The waitress quickly came by and cut it up into this...

Shik Do Rak Beef
This meat isn't marinated but still tastes pretty decent. I've noticed that many korean restaurants will offer meat with and without marinade, and I prefer the non-marinated b/c I want to taste the meat. The sauces provided here really make this a tasty component along with the oily and thin 'ddok bo ssam'.

Thin Sliced Beef (Cha Dol Peggi) & Beef Tongue
These two are my favorite types of meat because one they cook really quickly and two, are quite light. I think SDR cuts their tongue at the perfect width - too thick and you'll think you're chewing on taffy.

Pictured below is the jovial owner of SDR. He is quite the ladies man and will make sure he gets a drink of soju or beer with you at your table. He came by a few times to check upon us and really made us feel welcome. I think he was just interested in talking to J and DG though haha. Talk to him, he's a nice man.

Where Are Your Hands Mr. Shik Do Rak?! jk

Overall, SDR is a good restaurant but there are many better places in Koreatown. With exception to the rice noodle sheets, spicy daen jang bean paste and friendly owner, the meat quality here is above average. I don't remember the ban chan (side dishes) being that impressive as well. Also, this place is not all-you-can-eat for those looking for the $14.99 deals. But definitely give it a shot – Koreatown is fun to hang out in. Thanks for reading.

Next up: Park's BBQ, Sul Ra Bul and Sa Rit Gol.

Shik Do Rak
2501 W. Olympic Boulevard (c/o Hoover)
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 384-4148

Eat Drink Style Soot Bull Jeep, Koreatown - Dinner In A Chimney

Driving through Koreatown, my eyes are constantly wandering around, looking around at potential places to eat. Most are in Korean, some are in Spanish. But there's one place that will blind you with it's large sans serif typeface - as bold as the Hollywood sign. Say hello to 'Soot Bull Jeep'. For some reason, I'm always interested in this simple yet eye-catching sign. Maybe it's the fact that the korean translation actually exists in the english language. And it's just fun to say. Oh the joy. (I'm easily amused.)

A few weeks later, our good friend Colleen Cuisine and her husband told us about Soot Bull Jeep. I stopped going to Manna Korean BBQ on Olympic/Western because the meat quality is lacking, plus that stupid techno birthday song makes you want to rip your veins out. My place for Korean BBQ is either Shik Do Rak (where square rice noodles, called dok bo sam, were first appearing in Koreatown) and Tahoe Galbi. Tahoe Galbi is pretty good for the $14.99 AYCE bracket. It's pretty nice inside. I've noticed that if you sit in the patio, you can get the charcoal-style bbq grills which I love. Indoors, you're stuck with the conventional gas grills. From that point on, I only like grilling over charcoal. But the problem with the AYCE places is that they rarely marinate their meat because they are too busy sending out brigades of meat. If they do marinate, the meat would have a very light taste. You really get what you pay for at these places.

For a change, J and I decided to not gluttonize ourselves at a korean AYCE restaurant, and headed over to Soot Bull Jeep. SBJ is located on 8th and Catalina, clothed in bricks and slightly tinted windows. The restaurant looks big on the outside because it's occupying two spaces, but isn't that deep. If you remove the windows and sign, you can see that the bricks and consistent billow of smoke make SBJ look like a chimney. As a pre-dinner ritual, I rubbed my hands together in delight and opened the door for J. And WHOOOMP!

We were hit by the Korean BBQ Train. *Cough Cough* Damn, that was some garlicky, tasty meat in the air. And jesus, this place was freaking smoky. You would think there is a fire burning ablaze in here. I think I just got a preview of my lungs! The place was so smoky, that even the people looked gray.

The Interior of a Chimney/Tailpipe/Berkeley Student's Dorm/My Lungs
Notice the haze by the lights. Notice all the people coughing. Yes, good eats. *Cough Cough*

Within minutes, we were seated and the waitress slapped some menus down for us. Few minutes later, she was back with all of the korean fixings, banchan. I love banchan - I can just eat this straight as a meal. SBJ's banchan is very mediocre though, but I think it's made this way so that the main dish, beef, isn't overpowered.

SBJ has a nice selection of meats and seafood to choose from. Since this was our first time, we had to give SBJ the simple kalbi benchmark test. If they can make a nice kalbi, it's likely that the rest of their food is edible. In the case of a pho restaurant, if the pho doesn't taste good, it says a lot about the rest of things on their menu. We chose the marinated kalbi and beef tongue. My trip to Japan and frequent dining at Musha made beef tongue a hot commodity. Almost every table had the grilled squid and some sort of stew in a metal pot (chi-gae/tang). I'll try that next time. *Cough Cough*

Beef Getting A Tan
The kalbi steak was marinated beautifully and tasted delicious. I like to grill my meat on the rare side because I like tasting the beef more than the marinade. Over-marinating of meat is a common technique in restaurants used to cover up lower grade meat which makes it edible, therefore keeping food costs low. After we finished the meat, we grilled the kalbi bone for a few minutes, and the waitress came over with a pair of scissors to cut the tendon off the bone. It was chewy, but very good. As for the tongue, they were sliced a little too thick but that didn't stop me from finishing the whole plate myself. Because beef tongue is a chewier piece of meat, it's critical that you get carpaccio-thin slices to ensure that you don't dislocate your jaw from chewing. *Cough Cough*

A Beautiful Shot of Beef Beach
When eating with others, it's better to use tongs to flip the meat - not your own chopsticks. *Cough Cough*

Garlic Goodness
SBJ has no regard for the way you're going to smell after eating there, only that you're having an optimal bbq experience. So they offer garlic in a foil cup with sesame oil. It goes well very well with the beef. SBJ also does not serve the square rice noodles like Tahoe, Manna and Shik Do Rak, but instead give you romaine lettuce. I actually prefer this over the rice noodles which you fill you up faster. A tip in eating korean bbq with lettuce wraps. Dip your grilled meat in the soy/vinegar sauce, salt/pepper oil, bean paste (den jang), add some of the spiced, scallion salad and wrap all of that in your romaine lettuce for a korean-style taco. For spice, add a piece of kimchi. So good.

The minimum at SBJ is a plate per person. The meat dishes range from $15.99 to $21.99 and the portions are smaller. So you'll have to eat your beef with the romaine and devour up the soup and banchan to get your money's worth. SBJ is definitely one of our favorites. For their kalbi, it's worth the smokiness and lingering odor in your hair and clothing. We came back here a 2nd time within a month because we loved the charcoal smokiness to the meat. It's a total dark, hole-in-the-wall and that's another plus for us. Places like Chosun Galbee, although nice, rely more on atmosphere to satisfy the customers. And with korean bbq, I'd like it as rustic and authentic as possible. The employees of SBJ are really working hard for their money putting up with all that smoke. I seriously think they should a) get new vents or at least turn them on b) wear paint masks with SBJ written on it. At SBJ, the service is good. If you can tolerate a smoky place and do not plan on going to a party afterwards, check them out. I guarantee you will reek the next day if you don't take a quick shower. *Cough Cough*

Soot Bull Jeep At Primetime
Here's a photo the waitress took of J and I after we finished our meal. Thanks to the constant flow of smoke emanating from other grills - my usual task of censoring faces was taken care of. Don't we look happy? *Cough Cough*

For anyone that knows about any other korean bbq places that use charcoal, we'd love to check them out. I know SBJ isn't the only one out there that uses charcoal. *Cough Cough* Thanks for reading.

Soot Bull Jeep
3136 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005-1903
(213) 387-3865

Smoke/Carcinogenic Health Clinic
4621 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045-1987
(213) 387-9964