Palsaik Samgyupsal Korean BBQ: The Belly of Koreatown

Pork Belly on the Grill

If you’re not into pork belly, there are a few other things on the table that you could savor at Palsaik Samgyupsal. I’m just not convinced that this restaurant is exactly your calling.

You have to pretty much love pork belly to sustain a dinner with 8 flavors of it at its centerpiece - agree? Fortunately, none of my fellow diners were ill-informed, but equipped with nil-to-small lunches eaten that day.

Banchan

The number of marinades is a novelty for, yes, the sheer number. The garlic, miso and red pepper were the favorites in the group. The herb was unintelligible; the wine and curry flavors, fortgettable. But if you learn one thing from this post, remember that when you go back in and order the pork belly in the marinades you like the most, there are 4 strips that come with each individually-ordered flavor. Whereby the 8-marinade sampler comes with 1 strip each, we ended up essentially doubling our dinner when we went with seconds on 2 of our favorite flavors.

The secret’s in the sauce, or marinade, if you will. When Krista asked about Palsaik’s smoker when they brought out a complimentary sampling if their “smoked” flavor, our server clarified that it was a sauce. I wasn’t too surprised.

But the sides are nothing to gloss over. The banchan, while basic and few in variety, were just enough. Much like AYCE in my Korean dining experiences, gone are the superfluous small dishes earmarking quantity over quality. The pink, pickled daikon wraps; shiso leaves; and romaine leaves were really the most important accompaniments (allowing for the construction of real Korean tacos, as I say). The green onion salad, too - as if they were all a reminder to leave room for the pork belly.

Pork Bellys, Vegetables, Kimchi and Bean Sprouts

aThe hot seafood soup simmering over the table’s burner was a delicious one, leaving me craving for more. We also ordered a bowl of cold, springy buckwheat noodles that I supplied with as much mustard as my sinuses desired. I always love a good bowl of cold noodle soup to lighten up the meat load – and the chili soybean paste I put on practically every bite of pork. So much for those marinades. Habits are just so hard to break.

And so. We pressed on through 16 strips of pork belly, all 5 of us. The service was team-oriented and pretty capable, with someone coming by periodically to magically scrape the carbon traces off our draining grill with a daikon-cube-on-a-stick, curate our bellys on the grill and even cut them up into bite-sized pieces with scissors. The place is new and modern, even by outside-of-Koreatown standards, which means new fans in addition to black and white, minimalist furnishings. I surprisingly wasn’t as compelled to relegate my clothes to the hamper as urgently as I was used to. And the damage despite inadvertantly overordering food and including 2 bottles of Hite? Just $25 per person including 20% gratuity.

Oh, beautiful Koreatown.

Protip: Ladies, your seats (tree stump-like stools) open up so you can keep your purse safely inside.

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Mon – Sat

11 AM – 12 AM

Sun

11 AM – 11 PM

Palsaik Samgyupsal
863 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213.365.1750

Weekday Afternoon Food Coma: Red Medicine’s Bánh Mì

Pork Belly Bánh Mì ($12)

As someone who has held a tenure at the same company and building for over 5 years, I’ve seen lunch places come and go from my little perch on Wilshire Blvd. I like to joke that we are in the real “Slums of Beverly Hills” since we, in the stretch closest to the L.A. line, hold a 323 area code instead of the usual 310 everyone west of us is assigned. The most varied of lunch options is a short drive to Miracle Mile because of the food trucks. And yes, I do, thanks to my frustration with the lack of options as well as my resistence to Trimana – the chain deli across the street which unabashedly microwaves their eggs in plain sight of their customers.

Singapore Sling ($10)

I’ve been in that space at the intersection of Gale plenty of times before, with Red Medicine being the 3rd changeover entity I’ve witnessed. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s dark, dingy bar called The Continental was the scene of learning exactly which co-workers I never wanted to go drinking with, ever again. Hokusai, a Japanese spot, offered $7 cash-only, combination bento boxes – the best lunch deal in the vicinity.

Now, Red Medicine is my next-block, one-stop-shop for the best bánh mì Beverly Hills (and the vicinity) ever did see. Their bar beckons me; liquid lunches are as enticing and accessible as ever, thanks to Matt and his house-made juices and sodas. I enjoy his Pimm’s Cup (only in L.A. during January is this acceptable, y’see) and his Singapore Sling. The others, I can’t wait to try. Yes, this is Beverly Hills but the cocktails at Red Medicine are also only $10. Fernet lovers (or nay-sayers, depending on whom you ask): They carry Malört, probably one of the only places this west of Chicago to do so.

The bar at Red Medicine

But back to solid lunch. The main selections are the Bún Chả ($12-$15) and Bánh Mì, both of which I have had – with pork belly – and have been extremely happy with. Let’s not fool ourselves: We’re not in Westminster nor Vietnam, and there’s nowhere in Beverly Hills you’ll get away with eating for less than $10. But if you want those flavors with an avant garde flourish, Red Medicine is your best bet. After all, the sandwich is a full foot long. The quality of the Bánh Mì is also held up in no small part by the Bouchon bread, which I’ve noticed has been tinkered with and increasingly toasted (over 3 sandwiches during 3 different occasions). The cilantro is super fresh as is the deliciously pickled, crunchy carrot. Sliced jalapenos give the sandwich a good kick while the modest helping of mayo adds just a hint of sweetness. If you need some more spice, look no further than the house-made sriracha sauce, plated on the side – a delicious and fresh rendition of the famous Rooster Sauce.

Feel like noodles, or looking for a lighter lunch? The Bún Chả delivers a fresh helping of noodles as well as the same, delicious and also noodle-like carrots. There are more pickled vegetables than in the Bánh Mì to match the light, sweet, vinegar-based and refreshing dressing. It’s a fancy patch of noodles that you can order with wagyu, pork or chicken but there’s no short-changing the flavor.

Controversies aside, I’m glad Red Medicine moved in. Things looked auspicious when I dined their Test Kitchen run at the debut of TK, itself, and I’m happy to see that once all the kinks (kitchen and PR, alike) are ironed out, it looks like Red Medicine may be the restaurant to break the curse of Gale and Wilshire. Bring on lunch!

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Lunch: 11 AM – 2 PM

Dinner and Lounge: 6 PM – 2 AM

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
323.651.5500

Taipei, Taiwan: Savory Snacks at Su Hung Restaurant

Braised pork belly, onion and cilantro

It was one of my last nights in Taiwan when my mom and I met one of her old childhood friends at Su Hung, a restaurant surprisingly located in a shopping structure adjacent to a subway station. As we ascended the stairs, a hot pot restaurant caught my eye – but I was ever lucky that Su Hung was the one that came recommended.

Loofah greens and shrimp soup dumplings

I had decided to resist the hype of Din Tai Fung, further dissuaded by word of endless waits and an eagerness to avoid being lumped into the “eating tourist” demographic. After all, why settle for the merely better-than-Arcadian version of the restaurant chain, with possibly an even worse wait? I had a bloodline to honor.

Su Hung offers not pork soup dumplings, but rather loofah-greens-and-shrimp soup dumplings. You can eat more of these than the very popular pork version and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more specialized soup dumpling anywhere else in Taipei – much less in America. There is less soup in these, but they’re a nice departure for diners looking for something lighter, a little different and less obvious.

Braised crab egg tofu

There are plenty of other dishes at Su Hung that will quench your appetite for the savory, including the very delicious tofu dish which comes in a stone pot immersed in a broth made with braised crab eggs. Though I enjoyed pretty much everything that came out from the kitchen, this was my favorite preparation of tofu during my entire Taiwan trip (and you can guess that with all the meals shared with relatives, vegetarian and non-, there were a lot). Never the brave one to crack the middle innards of a crab shell open (I’m a leg woman), I really appreciated this delicious sauce and barely fried tofu with a texture that was silken yet could hold its own to the temperature. Boiling stone pots never fail to excite me as they approach the table – and this one far exceeded even my expectations.

Simmered noodles

If you’re looking for a unique yet delicious noodle dish, order the Simmered Noodles – a simple bowl of wheat noodles-in-chicken-broth that attains its complex taste and texture by, you guessed it, simmering for a long time. It’s dressed with tiny dried shrimp and green onion, and was perfectly comforting for that rainy day we happened to eat at Su Hung. Divy up that medium-sized bowl with your dining partners, and your seconds and thirds will show you that you wished the portion was even bigger. Guess you’ll have to order another, or another of their specialties.

And of course, the title picture may evoke memories…of the East Village. Rather than being portioned out individually at Momofuku for $9 a pop, you’ll get enough green onion, wilted cilantro (just like New York) and braised pork belly to fill 6 “bao” tacos for NT $360 (USD $12). You actually are given only 4 shells to begin with, but the waitstaff will graciously bring you more should you have more honey-braised pork belly to stuff them with. Of course, this is an unfair price point and cost-of-living comparison, but it’s just one more reason this dish is a definite must-order when you dine at Su Hung. It’s your favorite Hunan-style hamburger, ever that much closer to the source.

Sesame rice crepe with red bean filling

No meal is complete without dessert, and Su Hung has the perfect version of your typical red bean-filled sesame rice balls you would otherwise see being wheeled around, cold, on carts at San Gabriel Valley dim sum. This version comes hot and flat, like a freshly-made, sweet rice crepe, with the red bean oozing out from all sides at which it is cut.

Su Hung offers unique and well-executed dishes that will surely enrich your Taipei dining experience. It was ironic that the Taipei Times’ review of the place published online on the very day I dined there. It had mostly favorable views, consistent with my pleasant experience.  It seems as though the businessmen that line their tables are really on to something – and those looking for a solid meal, period, would serve themselves well to take their cue.

11:30 AM – 2 PM
5:30 PM – 9 PM

Su Hung Restaurant
2-1, Jinan Rd Sec 1
Taipei City, Taiwan
02.2396.3186