Bon Vivant's written and pictorial diary of her culinary adventures that will amuse and excite your virtual taste buds...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Koreatown Plaza Food(ie) Court

Here, Dear Reader, is a new feature: Guest Blogger! I want to thank Hiking Gourtmet T for writing this review:

Bon Vivant, Raven and I hit the Koreatown Plaza at Western and 9th Street at noon on a Sunday, ready to sample what its food court had to offer. Like those at most other malls, the food court was full of hustle and bustle and lacked much atmosphere. However, the food choices more than made up for it. Of the 10 or so food vendors in the food court, the primary dishes offered were Korean soups and stews, noodles and meat dishes.

After surveying the various choices, we each decided to get one dish and share. Bon Vivant had had her eye on Chew Young Roo’s dumplings since her last visit. Her order of the steamed dumplings, or mandu, consisted of four large dumplings, which resembled bao. Inside the warm, plump buns were a mixture of vegetables, including leeks and onions, sautéed in garlic, ginger and other flavors. The dough was fresh (you can watch them make the dumplings) and light, contrasting nicely with the flavorful vegetables and crunchy celery. The dish comes with a dipping sauce that tastes like soy sauce and vinegar. Four buns would be more than enough for a filling lunch.

At Gamja Bawi, which specializes in bibimbap, Raven ignored the cashier, who tried, yet again, to steer her toward the less interesting #1 bibimbap, and ordered the beef dolsot bibimbap. A mix of rice, vegetables, meat and a freshly cracked egg in a stone pot, the dish is filling and comforting. Like the dumplings, the mix of the soft rice and crunchy bean sprouts (with the bean) stood out. Richly flavored bits of beef add texture and flavor. It came with a variety of traditional Korean side dishes (panchan), as well as radish soup and seaweed soup, which are basically light broths.

I ordered cold noodles (neng myung) from Plaza. The thin noodles are served in a tin bowl, floating in a clear, thick, faintly sweet liquid, with cucumbers, a boiled egg and bean sprouts on top. The nest of noodles can be a little hard to untangle for the inexperienced. Both the noodles and the soup have a delicate flavor. While I enjoyed the noodles (I love noodles), the lack of a strong flavor in either the liquid or noodles left me feeling like something was missing. However, this was the third dish we sampled and thus the stronger flavors of the first two may have made noodles pale in contrast. I can also see how on a hot day, one would not want strong flavors drowning out the cool noodles.

Each dish was around $7, quite a bargain. I highly recommend a visit to Koreatown Plaza’s food court as well as a stroll around mall, especially some browsing time at The Plaza Market.

Editors Note: After Hiking Gourtmet T left, Raven and I went to get some pot bing soo:

Koreatown Plaza Food(ie) Court
928 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90006

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Soot Bul Gui Rim

A preview of coming attractions:

Our meal started off right at this Koreatown favorite. The top photo reveals our first round: unmarinated short rib, beef tongue, and the de rigueur pork belly. Glimpses into our second round in the bottom photo: marinated short rib (and we also threw on some fresh garlic and jalapeno).

Lately, I've been having a hankering for charcoal Korean bubbaque. With all of the Korean bubbaque places in Los Angeles, only a small percentage use charcoal. On this past Easter my nose took me (you can literally smell this place a block away) to Soot Bul Gui Rim which is known for being the best all you can eat bubbaque places in the city ("awesome" said one reviewer): what makes Soot Bul Gui Rim stand out from all the other all you can eat places is the use of charcoal briquettes and the high quality of meat.

Come, delight your senses in the world that is Soot Bul Gui Rim:

So, for the first round we were limited to the three choices. I thought that the unmarinated short rib was more tender than at Cham Sut Gol ($24 there) and the pork belly was much tastier than at the over rated, in my opinion, Honey Pig (don't even get me started on Honey Pig!).

I really liked the marinated short rib; at most places I feel that they put too much sugar in the marinade and what I'm left with after barbequing is candied meat. At Soot Bul Gui Rim the marinated meat was more on the savory side. And with our second round we also got a dainty...

Have a heart - literally:

You know, Dear Reader, I fail to understand why people do not eat heart more often? It's like a really tasty and uber tender filet mignon.

Ooh, look at the flames:

Below, photos of some panchan - a lovely bean sprout salad and a healthy dose of kim chee:

Take a full tour of the panchan and the dipping sauces:

I forgot to film one dipping sauce (the chili garlic paste) which was fabulous with the pork belly.

And finally, my thoughts on charcoal Korean bubbaque:

Soot Bul Gui Rim
233 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Orochon Ramen and The Wall of Bravery

Some like it hot:

Although it has many fans, and is often quite full, Orochon Ramen is my least favorite ramen place of the elite ramen restaurants in the Los Angeles County area. It does have one thing going for it, that the others do not, and that is a gimmick:

So if ones finishes their super spicy Special No. 2 within a half hour, the waitstaff will take a Polaroid picture of The Brave One with his or her (most likely his) empty bowl and posts it on the restaurant's front wall. I have never attempted to get on The Wall of Bravery but I have been there with people who have and it's quite entertaining.

On this past Friday the 13th my friend and co-worker Chris attempted to get on The Wall. I know he likes spicy food, really spicy, so I figured this was going to be easy for him. Was it? We'll find out. Here we are when the clock starts ticking:

Actually, Chris came up with an impromptu strategy: he dumped a big cup of ice into his soup to cool it off and to facilitate slurping the broth. Not only was the spice meter hot, hot, hot but the temperature was as well (this worked out in my favor - see below).

So while he's tackling his soup, let's talk about mine. I normally order the regular No. 2 (miso) which is three levels below the Special No. 2 and is called "Hyper." For some reason, I ordered the No. 7 which is the lowest of the nine spice levels and has the very unsexy name of "Non-Spicy." Hmmm. But this time I can taste the miso which I don't like very much - it was too salty and didn't have any vestiges of fement funk.

Let's check in on Chris:

Here, hear Bon Vivant got tongued tied and ask a really dumb question:

Now back to my soup. So I was dreaming about the spicy miso from Hakata Ramen and wishing that there were far more noodles in my soup (some skinny teenaged girl who won't eat carbs was probably cooking in the kitchen based on the amount of noodles we all received) when I remembered that I wanted to order some chashu for my soup (if you don't order it, $.99, then you get about a quarter sized slice of pork in your soup). So I decided to let my noodles soak up the broth and expand while I awaited my pork.

So I kept thinking about the succulent slices of pork from Santouka Ramen and then my slice of pork arrived: WTF! I felt like Christina Crawford in a chapter of "Mommy Dearest" - my pork was ice cold and the fat was congealed to the point of being as hard as a coconut. I quickly threw the piece into my blazing hot soup and burried it in my soaking noodles.

Like the ugly duckling that emerges as a beautiful graceful swan (this is so cheesy!), in two minutes my pork became meltingly delicious (note to self - next time order two slices of chashu):

I tried Chris' broth:

Did Chris make it onto The Wall of Bravery? Let's see:

I have to say that even though I initially had problems with my ramen, it turned out to be the best that I have ever had there.

Orochon Ramen
123 Onizuka Street
Third Floor, Weller Court
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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