Comfort cuisine reigns supreme at Ma Dang Gook Soo, a charming den of Korean home cooking. Ladies donning red-striped aprons were quick to pour glasses of iced barley tea as The Astronomer and I perused the menu and considered the plethora of dishes available.
The food photographs plastered overhead were helpful in narrowing down the array of options.
To start, we shared an order of mandu, boiled dumplings stuffed with minced pork, tofu, and scallions. A dab of vinegar and a touch of soy sauce and these parcels were all set.
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The Astronomer and I couldn’t escape the smell of grilled seafood the morning after our banquet at Koreatown’s Jae Bu Do. The distinct nose of burning embers, meshed with a hint of gochujang, seemed to follow us around the apartment, even though we had both showered and tossed last night’s clothes in the wash.
After searching every corner for the culprit, we finally discovered that the smell was emanating from my cell phone. The evening’s flavors had soaked into its plastic screen, so every time I sent a text or made a call for the next couple of days, the delicious memories from Jae Bu Do came wafting back. It was glorious and maybe even a little gross.
Jae Bu Do has been on my friend Ben‘s list of restaurants to try ever since Jonathan Gold wrote about its slimy hagfish back in 2010. While the awful-sounding fish is no longer on the menu, Jae Bu Do continues to grill up a plethora of fabulously fresh fruits of the sea tableside.
The wait for a table was nearly 40 minutes when our party of three arrived at 7 PM on a Friday night. With plenty of time to weigh and debate the three menu options at hand, we were ready to order as soon as a table opened up. We chose option B ($74.99), which included all sorts of good stuff like oysters, shrimp, and “ork” shell, and was ideal for groups of three to four according to our waiter.
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For the nominal price of $17.99 per person, Hae Jang Chon provided my cousins, The Astronomer, and me with an all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue feast that was so stupendous that it left our clothes and pores imbued with smoke and meat for days.
What set this barbecue emporium apart from others that I have visited in Koreatown [See: Don Day, Don Dae Gam, Tahoe Galbi] was the smooth stone grill used in place of the more common metal grates.
According to the restaurant’s website, the stone grill is ”nature’s best cooking surface.” It “produces various healthy minerals,” “absorbs and decomposes heavy metal ions,” and best of all, “absorbs excessive oil to bring out the exquisite taste of pork.” I don’t know if any of these claims are actually true, but I am sold nevertheless.
Another one of the restaurant’s notable touches was the homey tablescape that was neatly set before we were seated. Each place setting included an array of condiments in addition to silverware and plates. I went through two dishes of the fermented bean paste during the meal because meat just tastes better with a hit of salty funk.
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I stumbled upon mixed messages while researching Mirak, a temple of goat delicacies in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. While Yelpers claimed that goat meat contained properties beneficial to women, bloggers alluded that it had a Viagra-like effect on men. Now that I’ve had my fill of the meat in question, I must say that both health claims are dubious at best and beside the point really. One ought to eat goat because it is delicious. Period.
Goat comes grilled, roasted, and stewed at Mirak. The Astronomer and I took a cue from the parties dining beside us and ordered a goat hot pot for two ($15 per person).
Before the main attraction arrived, our waitress brought over a few banchan for us to nibble on. There were two types of kimchi (cabbage and radish), marinated bean sprouts, and blanched broccoli and cauliflower drizzled with a sweet red chili sauce.
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A few days before leaving town for the holidays, The Astronomer and I met up with a group of friends for a weeknight dinner at Kobawoo House, a porky palace that’s been around since 1983. I get the shakes when I go too long without a meal in Koreatown, so it felt damn good to be back in the land of kimchi and all-you-can-eat meat this evening.
Due to the restaurant’s popularity, layout, and capacity, our party of 12 could not be seated for a solid 45 minutes. Additionally, we were split between two tables. This place isn’t great for big groups, but with the promise of pork belly to come, everyone remained in high spirits.
As soon as our butts hit the seats, hot tea and an array of simple banchan arrived at the table. My favorite of the bunch was the green onion-specked omelet, which was served cold. We requested a second helping of it because one slice per person just wasn’t gonna cut it.
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