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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Old School Korean Trio: Dong Il Jang, Ham Hung, and Jeonju

I walked into Dong Il Jang and thought to myself, “Holy crap! This looks like a place that my grandparents used to go to.” I looked around, and sure enough, other people’s grandparents were there. It was nice to see a retro place that hasn’t yet been colonized by trendoids.

Dong Il Jang has a fairly well rounded menu with all of the Korean classics, but the specialty of the house is the “Roast Gui”:

While many covet the Roast Gui, I felt that it was dullsville compared to what you can get at other Korean barbeque places. While the fatty pieces were just ok, the leaner pieces had a very dry and unpleasant texture to them. Instead of getting nice and brown most of the meat cooked up watery and grey.

But this insipid foreplay had to be endured before my happy ending: Kimchee Fried Rice. The fried rice was as great as the Roast Gui was bad. Kimchee, rib-eye trimmings, and whatever was leftover of our daikon radish panchan was cooked with rice in the Roast Gui scraps:

Ham Hung is another old school Korean with many classics on the menu but they specialize in Naeng Myun, or cold buckwheat noodles in very cold broth. This has been the only Korean restaurant in which I have felt like yanki-nom (the Korean version of gwailo) since we were heavily induced to order the noodle/kabli combo; yes, we probably could have ordered something else but I have a feeling that we would have ended up with the combo anyway, and I noticed that we hardly got any panchan compared to the other tables.

I ordered the Bibim Naeng Myun which is dry cold noodles in a sweet spicy chili sauce. It was good as was the Kalbi. Raven ordered the Mul Neng Myun, and though she says that it was very good, it looked very pallid: the noodles seemed to be more grey than the nice rich deep brown that I am used to.

Jeonju is one of the best mom ‘n’ pop dives in Koreatown. You’ll never find this place unless you already know where it is (or can read Korean); it’s located in the same mini-mall as Sokongdong.

Jeonju is known for their Dol Sot Bimbibap. You can get three kinds: beef, kimchee and beef, or seafood. It’s great when everyone at the table orders the bibimbap so that you can hear a chorus of the sizzling rice.

The Bibimbap is pretty good but I go crazy for their Jo Gee Gui (whole fried Yellow Corvina fish). The fish is simplicity at it’s best. While eating it, I was singing The Cat’s song from Red Dwarf:

I’m gonna eat you little fishie
I’m gonna eat you little fishie
I’m gonna eat you little fishie
‘Cause I like eating fish!

I got my comeuppance a few days later when a big mean raccoon ate my fish out of the pond in the backyard.

Although I haven’t had them, the jigae look really good. Next time it’s more Jo Gee Gui and some kimchee jigae for me.

Dong Il Jang
3455 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Ham Hung
809 S. Ardmore Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90005

2716 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

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