A Mecca of Korean Cuisine
Over the past decade, Los Angeles has become as famous for its food as it is for its celebrity sightings. It is also home to the country’s largest Korean population, and with them came incredible, authentic Korean cuisine in all shapes and sizes. Here are a few restaurants that won’t disappoint next time you’re in the mood for Korean food in LA.
This simply marked but stylish Korean barbecue restaurant is authentic enough to appease those who grew up eating their mom’s version of these dishes. Chef-owner Jenee Kim keeps it simple, focusing on traditional Korean grilled meats and sides. The best part? You get to help. Items such as bulgogi (thinly-sliced and seasoned Kobe beef) and galbi (seasoned short ribs) are cooked in the center of your table on a charcoal grill. Once cooked, place it in a lettuce leaf or rice paper and doctor it up with chili bean paste, scallions and garlic.
955 S. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006; 213.380.1717; parksbbq.com
Hanbat Shul Lung Tang
A one menu item restaurant, serving sul lung tang–a classic Korean soup of tripe, liver, intestines and spleen boiled in a broth for 24 hours, so that the fat and proteins from the meat and bones emulsify. The soup is purposefully under-seasoned so that diners can add their own salt, pepper, chopped scallions and other toppings at the table. It’s the essence of Korean home cooking.
4163 West 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020; 213.383.9499
If you want something a little fancier, head to Genwa on Wilshire Boulevard. Genwa is one of the top five Korean barbecue experiences in the country, the perfect place to bring a Korean food novice with its amazing dishes and impeccable service. They’re known for the dizzying array of banchan and superb ahl jjigae (fish egg soup), galbi (short ribs) and sam gyup sal (grilled pork belly).
5115 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036; 323.549.0760; genwakoreanbbq.com
Often touted as Koreatown’s best seafood restaurant, you can’t go to Soban without trying the raw marinated crab. It’s a seemingly simple dish that brings out the best possible essence of the ocean. Beyond the crab, order the the haemul pajeon, or crispy seafood-filled pancake.
4001 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019; 323.936.9106; sobanusa.com
Ham Ji Park
Ham Ji Park is a mainstay in Los Angeles, and it’s always packed with people who’ve come to slurp down the perfectly rendered pork neck soup or barbecued pork ribs.
3407 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020; 213.365.8773
This market is chock full of Korean delicacies. It offers a complex selection of sides and pickles, or banchan, such as fermented shiso leaf, spicy-and-sweet root vegetable, sesame-infused squid and dried anchovies. The Korean staple kimchi is prepared daily by expert hands. And you don’t have to wait until you get home, you can eat right at the market.4317 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004; 323.953.9600
Myung Dong Kyoja
Located on Wilshire Boulevard, this Koreatown restaurant has long been popular with the karaoke-singing, bar-hopping crowd in need of some Korean comfort food before hitting the hay. It’s open past bar close and they have some of the best house-made pork dumpling soup in the city. What more could you ask for?
3630 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90010; 213.385.7789
Toe Bang is a K-town hot spot, catering to young locals craving Korean snack foods such as savory kimchi pancakes and dukbokki, spicy rice cakes with ramen noodles, cabbage, fish balls, and green chile.
Roy Choi’s latest venture is a raucous, energized restaurant that’s all about hot pots, barbecue, and soju cocktails with a healthy dose of hip hop. The dishes have playful names–Boot Knocker, Jamaal Wilkes, Jiggae What Jiggae Who–and most are inspired versions of Korea’s best home cooking. Hearty stews like the Old School come with marinated ribeye, bulgogi, kimchi and scallions, but the star of the show may be the spicy rice bowl with fresh lobes of uni.
Kang Hodong Baekjeong
There may be more well-known and established Korean barbecue joints in the neighborhood, but Kang Hodong Baekjeong certainly gives them a run for their money. Fairly new to the scene, this restaurant is smoky and loud, but the super high-quality, well-marbled cuts of pork belly, ribeye and short ribs, are well worth it.
3465 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020; 213.384.9678
If bossam is what you’re in the market for, then look no further than Kobawoo. This Koreatown institution does it best. What’s bossam? Pork belly, kimchi, chiles, tiny fermented fish, all wrapped in a cabbage leaf, and it’s delicious.
698 Vermont Avenue #109, Los Angeles, CA 90005; 213.389.7300