Recently my blog-buddy, neighbor and good friend Mr Nathan Hazard set out on the streets of Los Angeles’ Koreatown on an adventure with me to test drive a brand spankin’ new Korean Restaurant Guide Book. This obsession of indulging in a Korean feast together started a few weeks ago when we were both swooned by a multi-course Ssam presentation hosted by The Taste of Korea. Words cannot describe the level of sophistication in these wrapped bites…in a word (or few) it has changed me.
People…There is more to Korean food than BBQ!!!! A heck of a lot more.
We both live relatively close (read: stones throw) to this LA neighborhood and were both shocked that we haven’t taken more advantage of the diverse food. A place that solely specializes in tofu!? Yes please! A tiny one-woman shop stocked with unmarked mason jars filled with fermented delights?! Check and check.
We ate…a lot. We got a little too excited about the housewares section in the Han Kook Supermarket. Oogled over kimchi of various sized containers and potencies….aaannnd at the end of it all we may or may not have indulged in a few sticky wings and a mug (or two) of Hite. Yup, it was a good day.
Outfitted with our Los Angeles Korean Restaurant Guide, provided by The Taste Of Korea, we hit the street in search of our first meal… lunch at OO-KOOK! Let’s go!
Nathan: A cartoon cow; what better way to convey this is gonna be fun!? Determined to reach beyond our KBBQ comfort zone, we started with the Korean-style Kimchi Jjigae, a spicy stew comprised of tender pork, shellfish, tofu, and of course sour kimchi. Deeply savory and comforting, I noticed my palate adjust to the strong flavors, ultimately scraping the bottom of the bowl.
Kristin: If it’s possible to fall hearts in your eyes love style for a restaurant…it would be OO-Kook. The purple cow sign out front, the jasmine vinyl floral booths and the excitement of cooking your own meat at your table? Yup, it’s pretty spectacular. Having both eaten our fair share of BBQ in this part of town, Nathan & I decided to try two new dishes. I’m pretty sure that was one of our best decisions ever. Mostly due to this bubbling pot of meat, tofu, mushrooms and fermented cabbage.
Bottom line: If I could write a love sonnet in the key of kimchi, I would. I would also sneak in a grilled cheese sammie to dunk into this magic sauce, just because it knocks the socks off of any tomato-based stew I’ve ever laid lips on. I’ll be back, I’ll be eating the whole bowl myself, I will not apologize.
Nathan: To follow, we went for the 10-Greens Raw Meat Bibambap, an elegant display of pickled and fresh vegetables, raw egg yolk, steamed rice, raw beef, and spicy gochu jang sauce. Unlike Dolsot Bibimbap, a cold brass bowl sat in for sizzling stone, where we mixed all of the ingredients with chopsticks for a bright and refreshing main dish. Fun? You bet!
Kristin: They weren’t kidding when they knighted this the “royal” bibimbap. Holy wow that’s a lot of food! I was personally a newbie to this excellence and kinda needed some sort of drivers manual on how to mix up all the goodies. Luckily it turns out you just dump and mix – pretty straight forward. You know what’s not straight forward? The flavors. Out of this world combo of sweet, salt, sour and the texture…who needs BBQ when you can get a pile of everything that’s right with this world!? Including raw beef…there I said it. Just go with it.
Nathan: With its handy size, sleek design and crisp color photographs, the Taste of Korea Los Angeles Restaurant Guide is a sexy and sophisticated resource that would fit as nicely on the bookshelf alongside your Wallpaper* city guides as close to the hip in your purse. The reviews are concise and cut to the bone, bullet-pointing vitals and house specialties, in both English and Hangul. When in doubt, celebrity foodie and restaurant critic testimonials weigh in, helping demystify the healthy and diverse cuisine that Los Angeles is so lucky to be chock-full of.
Head over here and check it out for yourself! (OR… Enter below for two copies we’re giving away – holler!)
Kristin: As much as I love the tactile nature of books…I’m leaning on the app over here. Especially when not wanting to look overly tourist-y on my hometown streets. This app is discrete and has your back… Need to know exactly what budae jjiae is? No problem. Flip open the Los Angeles Korean Food Guide App and take a gander at their glossary. No one will know the wiser and you’ll take comfort, for once, that everyone thinks you’re just an anti-social junky of text-eating.
Here’s hoping they continue to add new restaurants and content to this app to keep things fresh and adventures on-going. We suggest you pop over to the iTunes Store, download the app and hit the streets STAT!
Nathan: Outside of this pub there are two signs. One reads OB Bear, and the other OB Beer. As this institution slings Korean OB beers as most do Bud, I have to wonder if the name was incidental, if not altogether an accident. I digress. Any pub known for their spicy-sweet chili-glazed chicken wings and pitchers of Hite cheaper than domestic bottles is a pub I want to frequent. With dark, cozy booths and friendly push-bell service, be warned, happy hour holing up at OB Bear could be habit-forming.
Kristin: After an extensive detour at the HK Market and ponderings which included whether or not to purchase a rustic wooden machete and a 15 pound vat of kimchi (truths) we took a break at good ol’ OB Bear before heading back home. I’ve heard countless tales of loud Lakers game viewings and wing-age up to your eyeballs, but I had no idea what a treat this pub would be.
I confess, I’ve maybe had chicken wings 5 times in my life…this is sadly about to change because I have never met an uglier, more delicious plate of crispy sticky bits of awesome. Return visit already scheduled…
What a fun day rediscovering our own city! I cannot wait to check more places off this list and discover all the new flavors of Korean food that I never knew! If you live in Los Angeles or plan on visiting soon, Koreatown is a a tiny neighborhood just outside of downtown and is a must that needs to make the top of your eat-sheet.
Oh and hey – you might have heard the rumor! We’ve got two bound copies of this amazing Los Angeles Korean Food Guide to give away and we want to share the love. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us what makes you most excited to explore K-town (or which karaoke song you’ll be singing at the end of the day) and head over to twitter and give the ol’ like-a-roo to @chocomeat and @thecuisinerd !
Make sure to share with your friends on the interwebs for an additional chance to win. There aren’t many of these bound book versions available and I think the food-adventurest in you would like this in your collection.
While you’re navigating those zeros and ones trying to win this awesome hand guide of yum, head over to Nathan’s website and experience our day in the form of adult libations. His ever so refreshing and punningly clever “Shiso Lovely” cocktail is a crowd pleaser and would go lovely with that vat of kimchi I know you can’t wait to smuggle home…I kid, but not really, this cocktail is tops and goes with everything.
Nathan Hazard lives in Los Angeles, documenting gastronomical pleasures & spirituous libations on his blog The Chocolate of Meats (@chocomeat). He also co-hosts The Table Set podcast on the Homefries network as the resident boozer.
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