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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Back in mid-February, I was invited to speak on a panel about food trucks at UCLA. I wasn’t sure if I’d have much to contribute to the dialogue, but couldn’t refuse once I heard the line up. Joining in the discussion were Chef Roy Choi (founder of Kogi), Erik Cho and Brooke Howell (founders of Frysmith), and Natasha Case and Freya Estreller (founders of Cool Haus). Moderating the talk was none other than wordsmith extraordinaire, Jonathan Gold. I had to say yes.
As anticipated, the evening’s conversation was more about the business of trucking than the business of blogging, so I sat back and listened while my fellow panelists discussed their experiences. The highlight of it all was Chef Choi’s anecdotes about the genesis of Kogi and his passion for Los Angeles. I walked away from the talk craving his brand of bold Korean food with a distinctly L.A. soul. And thus, the “Roy Choi Restaurant Tour” was born.
After the tremendous success of Kogi, Chef followed it up with a rice bowl venture called Chego, which roughly translates to “the best.” The concept was inspired in part by the rice-bowl-hawking tenants who previously occupied the restaurant’s space, as well as the Chinese oven that they left behind. When Chef saw the metal box in the kitchen, he knew it would be perfect for cooking all manner of proteins slow and low.
The Astronomer and I dined here on a Saturday night along with our friends Nastassia and Reed. The line for grub stretched into the parking lot when we arrived, but it didn’t take too long to get through. We perused the menu upon making our way to the front and were pleased to find that everything from “Beginning” to “Middle” to “End” was priced under $10.
Continue reading ‘Chego – Los Angeles (Palms)’