With the migration of lunchtime at POT to the lobby of The Line Hotel in Koreatown, gone is the enclosed, smoky and cavernous setting that we’ve come to know as the Korean restaurant experience. In the daytime, anyway. It’s a smart move, to be sure, more conducive to the power lunch, and the menu is nonetheless a delightful range of authentic to hybrid, but always tastefully imaginative.
This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.
May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.
It’s curious that Pingtung is called an “Eat-in Market,” the “market” designation perhaps being a way of propping up the Asian goods that lie on overhead (to me) shelves along the sides of the deep-drawn cafe. Though I have a few guilty snack pleasures such as Yan Yan, Shrimp Chips, that clear, Japanese soda with the swingy little ball, Calpico and the like, I’d make the trek to 99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Zion if I wanted to go Asian grocery shopping. (I’m trying to cut down on the snacks, much less MSG-laden ones, anyway.)
I’ve never pegged myself as the most adventurous rib on the rack of food bloggers. So for those of us to whom the dish is new (including myself until a few weeks ago), it is necessary to resist that initial reaction we get upon hearing “goat stew” referred to in an appetizing way.
It is imperative, because in this case and as with many, the fact that it’s not just goat but “stew” is probably even more important than the actual meat in question. In fact, it’s evidence that as long as you make something into a stew with just the right herbs and seasonings, practically anything becomes delicious. Then again, I’ve always been a broth lover, putting more emphasis on the soup than the contents that sit submerged in it. To me, broth is the foundation.
Yumso tang, as it’s called in Korean, is best appreciated by those who have a certain spice for life – so be prepared to order the heat level keen to your tolerance. And save for my love of broth, the meat was actually delicious. Tasty. And tender.
This tabletop, gas-fired brew begs the question, “When was there ever a Korean flavor I didn’t end up loving?” The stew is vibrant, even, thanks to the spice and plenitude of onions. Each person gets a condiment dish with chili, mustard, onions and perilla seeds for ultimate customization. And as should be the case with Korean comfort food, expect to spend not a whole lot of money for a whole lot of food. Fiona and I shared a hot, steaming $30 pot that came with a good number and variety of banchan (appetizers) as well as its own Korean hostess to serve the stew out. We even had leftovers to take home.
Just don’t forget to make the most of your stew and request that your remains be supplanted with rice and the provided extra seasoning for the ultimate fried rice finale. Make sure that your rice develops that delicious, crispy crust before devouring. In some time, you’ll find yourself thinking or even saying, “I am really craving goat right now.”
1134 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
A couple days ago, there was an announcement of an alliance formed by Farid Zadi, David Haskell & Susan Park called FOH/BOHÂ³. Derived from Front of the House and Back of the House acronyms (“to the third power” is of no detail), the name is meant to capture the essence of their partnership – the pursuit of proper, hands-on restaurant training from the ground up.
The trioÂ wasted no time getting down to business as it has just been announced that they will be debuting at Jenee Park’s (also of Parkâ€™s BBQ and Don Dae Gam) LaOn (previous review) on Western this weekend. The location of their first projectÂ was secured at thisÂ newish restaurant just 3 hours after their interview with LA Weekly Squid Ink’s Amy Scattergood was finished. It’s a perfect setting for their launch, as Zadi has worked in Seoul for three years as a chef and managing partner at a restaurant. It also is expressive of David Haskell’sÂ intense passion for Korean food.
Park andÂ Zadi created a special menuÂ of 8 dishes, dubbed “Lucky Cat”, to complement LaOn’s traditional menu. One thing’s for sure: The menu of this “limited engagement” is not to be underestimated.Â Nothing on the menuÂ will be watered down, but instead will showcaseÂ the fabric of what Korean food is all about.Â
â€œI have a lot of respect for Korean cooking. My mother in law is from Jeon-Ju, the culinary capital of South Korea,” Farid says.Â â€œThis isnâ€™t fusion or even modern Korean. Weâ€™re taking Korean ingredients, flavors and techniques and recontextualizing them while retaining the soul of Korean cuisine: the bold, stick to your guts flavors that make it so satisfying.â€
Haskell will be pairing each menu item with a wine or beer, the pairingÂ pours of which will be available for $6 each – or glass pours for $12 each. Expect this pairing experience to evolve your perceptions ofÂ and experiences in Korean food, as I can’t recall a single time I’ve had traditional Korean foodÂ with proper wine pairing. FOH/BOHÂ³’s “front of the house” team will be on-hand to ensure top-notch service throughout both nights.
Check out the menu below:
LAON MENU (traditional tapas)
- íŽ¸ì±„ PYEON CHAE Beef carpaccio with onions,sesame leaf,radish sprout – 10
- ì¹ ì ˆíŒ SEVEN WRAP Cucumber,carrot,beef,shiitake mushroom,egg with radish wrap – 7
- ì–´ì„ FISH WRAP Steamed fish and assorted vegetables in an egg wrap – 10
- ê¶ì¤‘ë–¡ë³¶ì´ TEOKBOKKI Rice cake in soy based sauce – 10
- ê°ˆë¹„ì°œ GALBI JJIM Braised short rib – 15
- ì˜¤ì§•ì–´ìˆœëŒ€ STUFFED SQUID Stuffed with tofu,beef,squid & vegetables – 10
- ì „ë³µìš”ë¦¬ OPEN FLAME ABALONE Lightly seasoned fresh abalone – MP
- ìž¡ì±„ JAPCHAE Clear noodle with mixed vegetables – 7
FOH/BOHÂ³: Lucky Cat LaOn
- Spicy chicken kochi/foie gras fat fingerlings/ garlic chips – 12
- Crab and kimchi brik/orange and onion salad – 8
- Thai cobb ssam – 10
- Thai curry bacon, avocado, duck rillettes, quail egg, tomato, fried shallot, lettuce
- Grilled oysters – 3 each
Dashima, ponzu, serrano mignonette and gochujang vinaigrette
- Uni and scallop chawanmushi – MP
- Â½ dozen peel ‘n’ eat grilled prawns/shiso chimichurri – MP
Laotian curry marinated whole prawns
- Braised beef cheeks/ slow roasted corn cheese/baby carrot/arugula quick-chi – 14
Riff on braised kalbi
So be sure to secure your table now. This limited engagementÂ will sell out fast! Call 323.798.4648 or email David Haskell at [email protected] (Also note that reservations go til 1 AM – perfect for you nightowls.) Reservation lines are open now.
I arrived to our 7-top reservation on account of an invitation from Josh of Food GPS, but only after first following the noise and crowd into the very popular Don Dae Gam, which was located in the same plaza. I turned to each occupied table (they all were), and when I didn’t recognize one face I went back out the door.
At LaOn, we were one of two parties total that dined there in the duration of our feast. As the only non-Caucasian in the party, I had also learned that before I arrived, the servers verified repeatedly that indeed, this was the restaurant at which they wanted to be, and not next door.
Don’t judge a palate by its cover…
As each cooked or uncooked dish arrived in the practically empty restaurant, it became apparent that we were one of the first to discover this little gem. The best thing about our big party was that we were able to order a lot to ensure getting a bite of everything while not leaving a scrap by the time we were finished.
With the same people behind Park’s BBQ masterminding LaOn, this surprisingly pleasant dining space – though furnished with the obligatory fans above each table – isn’t the spot to court your singularly focused meat-minded friends (often the stigma I’ve found associated with Korean food). Sure, you’ll get an on-table iron charcoalÂ grill on which to cook your skirt steak, beef tongueÂ and skewers (the bacon-wrapped duk, or tubular rice cakes, are a must), but you’d really be missing out if you overlooked the peewee fingerling potatoes in green pepper & green chile sauce to start, the pork/egg/shiitake/cucumber/carrot wrapped in daikon “tacos,” the rice paper-wrapped steak tartar topped withÂ quail egg,Â the garlic abalone dish, the roe-uni stone pot riceÂ … I think you get the point.
With the only included banchanÂ being pickled, thinlyÂ sliced cucumbers and more-than-decent kimchi, it’s clear that this isn’t a Korean restaurant that rests its laurelsÂ on filler. But the servers and chef/owner wereÂ more than courteous – even friendly. Now gone are the days where I had to “corner a Korean” (UCLA proved useful for this) just so I could have a go-to guy that could order for me without the awkwardness of the language barrier and risk of being taken a less-than-courageous customer.Â A nice surprise was a dish that we hadn’t ordered but was gratefully sent out: AÂ kind of chapchae, butÂ made with rice cakes, instead. I would definitely classify this as a staple and would order this next time.
The best part about it? The raw cuts are of quality whileÂ LaOn’s location and audienceÂ in Koreatown prevents the BBQ as well as theÂ small plates from being too precious. Just make sure that in a party this big, you order 2 of most things. Proof: By the end, we were stuffed, and had only spent $34 per person including tax,Â just oneÂ bottle of wineÂ and 20%+ tip (no dessert).
So go forth and visit LaOn. “Small plates” is the arguably hackneyed phenomenon these days, but this little Don Dae Gam-adjacent place in Koreatown is a stand-out gem that does it all so well.Â And for those cravings of theÂ Americanized KoreanÂ tradition of BBQ – there’s more than enough to go around.
Mon – Sat: 5 PM – 1 AM
Sun: 5 PM – 11 PM
1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the headquarters of CHAM Korean Bistro (Pasadena) and iT! Jeans for a kimchi pickling workshop. We were treated to CHAM cocktails made with sparkling wine, yuzu, Korean Makgeolli as well as tofu rice pockets filled with everything from kimchi (and candied anchovies) to seaweed salad, pepper-encrusted ahi tuna and salted and roasted kale chips. It was a dinner filled with Korean fusion delight.
For the learning portion, we got a demonstration on how CHAM makes their kimchi, with recipes and instructionÂ straight from Chef EJ Jeong (formerly of A.O.C. and BOA). Check Cathy of Gastronomyblog‘sÂ great write-up of the Napa Cabbage kimchi we were all taught to make.
After our appetizers, kimchi lesson and deliciousÂ main course (pork shoulder, cabbage kimchi, salted shrimp and sesame leaves) – we got a taste of a different kind of kimchi, which ended up being my favorite of the night: Persimmon kimchi! The recipe for this is actually the same as the traditional cabbage kimchi, save for the elimination of salted shrimp. It became intuitive that fishy, saltyÂ persimmons are not appetizing. But the subtle and firm sweetness of the persimmon is paired so perfectly with the chili flavoring I’ve learned to love in Korean kimchi. It was like a live, Korean version of the Trader Joe’s dried chili red mangos that are so popular. An interesting tip with this recipe is to use unripe persimmons, because they will actually ripen as they are fermenting in their container and in your refrigerator!
Chef EJ Jeong’s Persimmon Kimchi Recipe
2 lb peeled persimmons
12 oz kimchi marinade
Kimchi marinade ingredients:1 cup sweet rice powder
5 cups purified water
2 lb radish
4 oz minari
4 oz kat (red mustard)
4 oz Korean chives (thinner than Chinese chives)
5 oz garlic
10 oz Asian pear (peeled)
9 oz onion (peeled)
1 oz ginger (peeled)
1 cup Taeyangcho rd chili pepper powder (coarse)
1/4 cup anchovy fish sauce (Korean)
3/4 cup salted shrimp sauce (Korean)
4 oz fresno
4 oz green onion
Preparation & Procedure: How to make porridge
Mix puried water with sweet rice powder, dissolving the power until there are no lumps. Heat the water and rice powder mixture over the stovetop, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When it starts to form bubbles, reduce heat and stir continuously. Once the mixture becomes thicker and is translucent, turn the heat off. The process from once the mixture is heated to when it becomes the correct consistency and color takes approximately ten minutes. Cool down completely.
Preparation & Procedure
I’m no hotshot in the kitchen, but I plan on giving persimmon kimchi a try. And if you feel so inclined to get your own kimchi education, CHAM is luckily going to be hosting another workshop on Saturday. You’ll get to take home your own jar of cabbage kimchi so you can leave it in your refrigerator to ferment for at least 20 days before eating. It’s the workshop that keeps on giving!
I’ve found a couple more reasons to eat in Pasadena. With those reasons being a few favorite dishes at CHAM, I thought I’d share the news of the now one-year old Korean bistro that is actually an off-shoot of the spectacular, all-meals-prepared employee perks program of iT! jeans. The creators of the jeans line and the bistro are one and the same, and casual Pasadena diners are reaping the benefits of their kitchen.
This is definitely approachable Korean food – so all you hardcore types can save your money while those who have been previously scared away by these flavors can appreciate the foray into Korean cuisine. A great starter with a spin on the traditional was their pickle sampler, which showcases white asparagus, sweet onions, carrots and thinly sliced beets. I appreciated that the brines in which each of the vegetables were specialized with the beets and onions being sweet yet the carrots and white asparagus having a perfect amount of sour. The white asparagus was my favorite, if only because I’ve rarely seen it prepared pickled, before.
My favorite sugared chili dish was the Spicy Cold Bibim Noodles. Bibimbab, it’s not; cold noodles with just the right, spicy flavoring to go with its cool temperature and texture – it sure is. While the dish wasn’t traditional, the flavors seemed like it.
My other favorite dish was the Tofu Crouton Salad. The tofu were perfectly fried with an almost-tempura like texture on the outside. The butter lettuce was the perfect choice of greenery with barley to add a perfect weight. The black sesame vinaigrette was thankfully not too sweet and ultimately delicious.
The other favorite at this Korean Bistro is decidedly not Korean food – but let’s not fault Executive chef E.J. Jeong (former A.O.C.) for having an imagination, shall we? This other favorite featured very sweet, cubed watermelon at its center with refreshing mint notes in the salad and in the vinaigrette and generous helpings of earthy feta and figs sprinkled on top. This is the quintessential summer treat.
The kicker of this eatery is that their beer list is rather intriguing and offers great pairings with the vibrant flavors of your Korean-style food. Sure, there is Hite, but also the Maredsous 8, Oskar Blues (Mama’s Little Yella Pils), Houblon (Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel) and Lost Abbey’s Devotion. The wine list is also modest but really, all you need. I especially enjoyed the Saddlerock Chardonnay straight from Malibu with my food.
The next time I’m in Pasadena (I am locatedÂ further east, after all) and need a bite – or three – to eat, I would certainly stop by Cham. While this isn’t the place to order your soon tofu on the scale of spiciness like an O.G. Korean eatery, Cham is a place that does justice to and serves its influences well.
P.S. – At the end of your meal, don’t forget the raspberry lambic beer float made with Framboise. Unlike other beer floats, this one is decidedly a dessert for your sweet tooth!
All food, beer and wine were hosted.
Mon – Sat: 11 AM – 9 PM
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova St.
Pasadena, CA 91101