Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eating on the run in Koreatown

The Kogi BBQ truck has become almost as famous as that Scottish wallflower who is about to win the Britain's Got Talent contest, even if it gets fewer hits on YouTube, but other Korean offerings in Los Angeles are less well-known.

But an L.A. Times list of good eats in Koreatown and its vicinity has come from an unlikely place: a list of places to eat along the route of the Los Angeles Marathon

The relevant places:
Koreatown is where eating options really multiply. This stretch of the race route along Olympic Boulevard is a 3.3-mile fast track to downtown that's jam-packed with culinary excitement.

Manna is a high-volume haven for "unlimited meat." For $16.99, belly up to a grill-topped table on the covered patio and grill short rib, brisket, black pork belly, marinated pork, chicken and beef.

Kaesung Kimchi sells seven types of kimchi, including turnip green and standard cabbage. Down the block, Kyong Ji and her husband Yeng have built ChoSun Galbee into an ivy-covered temple for refined marinated short ribs.

In the shimmering new Olyford Plaza - named for the intersection of Olympic and Oxford - Miari Noodle House is a contemporary restaurant specializing in chicken, clam or kimchi noodle soup.

Sa Rit Gol is patterned after a traditional country house in Korea. Owner Kyung Hah has earned a devoted following for her cuttlefish pancakes and chile-blasted pork belly.

Around the corner, Healthy Zone 52 specializes in porridge. A tank near the door hosts clinging abalone, just one of the available toppings.

An unnamed restaurant with a cartoonish crab and fish logo resides on the corner of Olympic and Harvard. Grab a chile-doused bowl of steamed crab or sea squirt, then cross the street for red bean buns, almond cookies or cakes at Francaise Bakery.

A lesser-known but larger branch of Guelaguetza showcases "Autentica Comida Mexicana." Consider multiple moles and chilacayota, a sweet drink with squash, cinnamon and brown sugar.

A smiling pig in a chef's hat signals your arrival at Moo Bong Ri, which focuses on soon dae - Korean blood sausage.

O Dae San Korean B.B.Q. is a sleek barbecue parlor named for a Korean mountain. Owner Chul Oh's place features leather booths, stainless steel hoods that swallow smoke and short ribs marinated in "house special sauce."

Market World Plaza is best known for a Korean supermarket, but in the wings, you'll find Tous Les Jours, a link in a 1,000-branch bakery chain popular for items like snow pea rolls and sweet potato "pie." Adjacent Pizza Land pipes crusts with sweet potato and stuffs "walnuts" with red bean paste.

Beverly Tofu House resembles a mountain cabin, with tables, benches and stools crafted from tree cross-sections. Since 1986, it has focused on soon tofu - soybean cake stews - pairable with barbecue meats and seafood for a bargain feast.

J. Plaza features Jeon Ju, a 12-year-old restaurant named for a Korean city that's famous for bibim bap. Jennifer Lee features sizzling stone pots with short rib or a mélange of octopus, squid, shrimp, clam and imitation crab. Ju Sun Ko produces "kal kook soo" - traditional housemade noodles – at 2-month-old Seoul Noodles. You'll also find wheat flakes and herbal chicken stew with jujube, ginseng, chestnut, garlic and rice.

Neighbors Nak Won and Hodori are both open 24/7/365 and feature photo specials. At the former, grab a bowl of spicy soup loaded with clear vermicelli and braised beef. At the latter, snag a heaping platter of kimchi fried rice.

Dae Sung Oak – Jenny Lee's "Big Shiny House" - hosts tabletop barbecue grills and handmade buckwheat noodles. Watch the runners pass by from the upstairs dining room.

Shik Do Rak is dedicated to duk bo sam, slippery rice paper filled most often with deckle, brisket or marinated kalbi.

Seoul Garden serves sizzling beef on platters shaped like turtles and cows, plus slabs of broiled cod in spicy soy sauce.
All I can say is that I hope the proprietors' ability to cook is better than their (in)ability to Romanize. 

[above: The beef may be high quality at Chosun Galbee, but the staff suffers from Mad Vowel Disease.]

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