Genwa – Koreatown Los Angeles, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, my parents love to visit us in LA to celebrate special occasions. So for my mom’s birthday dinner earlier this month, they drove up for a K-Town adventure to one of our favorite Korean restaurants, Genwa. There’s a certain appeal to hole-in-the-wall joints where the cleanliness is questionable and the service is nearly nonexistent, but Genwa falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. With a spotless dining room, impeccable service, high quality cuts of meat, and two dozen varieties of banchan, Genwa is definitely the place to take guests (or maybe that special date).

Grillin' up some galbi at Genwa

Grillin’ up some galbi at Genwa

Genwa’s menu features cuts of beef that blow those the cheap all-you-can-eat places out of the water. Gorgeous marbling, generous thick slices, marinated, plain, if you can dream it, they just might have it. Every dish is available a la carte, or you can choose one of the many preset menus. For our party of four (yes, Martin and I go on “double dates” with my parents) we selected Course E at $125.

Banchan - 21 varieties, plus rice paper and sliced picked daikon

Banchan – 21 varieties, plus rice paper and sliced picked daikon

The sheer quantity of banchan available at Genwa is simply staggering. Pickled vegetables, dried fish, kimchi (cabbage and cucumber alike), salted bean sprouts, potato salad, even small squares of pajyun (Korean pancakes). All excellent accompaniments to the grilled meat. Better still, if you favored any of these, there’s an unspoken policy of free refills ;) We may or may not have gone through over 5 dishes of pajyun…

Chamisul Original Soju with Lemon Juice... in a Psy shot glass

Chamisul Original Soju with Lemon Juice… in a Psy shot glass

As part of the larger course sets, a bottle of soju comes complimentary. As if it were not strange enough drinking with my dad, it was stranger still to be sipping soju out of a shot glass with Psy’s caricatured face on it. I love the trick they do with the bottle cap in order to juice the lemon. It’s pretty cool, though difficult to describe…

House Salad

House Salad

Ahh, the house salad… the obligatory side dish of refreshing green leaf lettuce drizzled in a light acidic vinaigrette. Fragrant from the hint of sesame oil, the salads at Korean barbecue places always taste as though they’ve been perfectly formulated to pair well with meat.

Japchae - stir fried glass noodles

Japchae – stir fried glass noodles

Have I mentioned yet just how much I LOVE japchae? I love the chewy texture of the glass noodles, the bright colored julienned vegetables, and, in this particular version, the very fine ribbons of egg omelet. Genwa’s japchae is definitely worthy of your precious stomach space. (Though Course E was “recommended for 4 people,” we found it was a LOT of food!)

Dolsot Bibimbap

Dolsot Bibimbap

For this dish, Course E gives you a selection of dwenjang jigae (miso stew), kimchi jigae (kimchi stew), or bibimbap. At first I was leaning toward the soups for want of something hot, but I’m glad my mom stepped up and suggested the bibimbap. It turns out, the bibimbap at Genwa is actually dolsot bibimbap, served in a hot, sizzling stone pot! (That’s our server mixing the rice in the photo above; he joked that we would owe him a royalty for use of his hands. haha)

Crispy Bibimbap

Crispy Bibimbap

Bibimbap means “mixed rice” for its assortment of shiitake mushrooms, carrots, onions, scallions, and other vegetables with rice. Our server drizzled in a bit of gochujang (red pepper paste) and pressed the rice against the walls of the dolsot to maximize the crispiness.

My serving of bibimbap

My serving of bibimbap

I prefer my bibimbap with extra gochujang ;) Luckily he left behind the red squeeze bottle for our customization needs.

Kobe Special Rib Eye

Kobe Special Ribeye

The first meat to arrive was the Kobe Special Ribeye. A beautiful pale pink in color from all of the bright white fat, these thick slices of ribeye are stunningly marbled. Place it on the grill and the fat just melts away.

Grilled Kobe Special Ribeye

Grilled Kobe Special Ribeye

Oh – when the server was setting up our grill, he tossed in an assortment of chunks of onion, bell pepper, button mushroom, and… skin-on sliced bananas? The bananas were confusing to say the least, but they were pretty darn tasty — hot, grilled, sweet, and sticky.

Kot Sal and Prime Galbi

Kot Sal and Prime Galbi

The next offerings were Kot Sal (thinly sliced unseasoned boneless prime short rib) and Prime Galbi (boneless marinated prime short rib with its rib bone). Though not “Kobe,” galbi cuts are always my KBBQ must-have favorites. Both are succulent and tender; if pressed, I’d have to give a slight edge to the sweet and savory marinated one as my favorite. The rib itself was a bit tough to eat with the hard cartilage and partly rendered fat, but I thought it was necessary to complete the experience.

Shrimp & Scallop (pardon the blurriness - perhaps one too many shots of soju by this point)

Shrimp & Scallop (pardon the blurriness – perhaps one too many shots of soju by this point)

Just when we felt like we were reaching our breaking point, out came our final dish – Shrimp & Scallop. The shrimp were sizable prawns and were slightly seasoned (soy sauce and sesame oil?). Sweet and briny, I only wish they arrived head-on (judging from their size, I’d bet the heads would be full of flavorful tomalley-like goodness).

Grilled Scallops

Grilled Scallops

Though only a pair, the scallops were fresh and looked lovely with the grill’s sear marks. We cooked them until they were just barely opaque. (In the background, you can see that we heated up our squares of pajyun on the grill as well… good as new!)

Don't Eat the Magic Marshmallows!

Don’t Eat the Magic Marshmallows!

In a final act of showmanship, one of the waitresses brought out four little marshmallow-like tablets. Don’t eat them! Do you remember those magic towels that you could buy as souvenirs from amusement parks when you were kids? They’re baaaaaaaack!

Barley Tea

Barley Tea

The first time we went here, they served us a small flute of cinnamon iced tea at the end of the meal. I asked them if they had any, and though it was unavailable, they did bring out iced sweetened barley tea that was equally palate-cleansing and refreshing. We were pleased.

With a solid 4.5 stars over 1,200+ reviews and a cushy seat on the top 5 “Best of Yelp: Los Angeles” list for as long as I can remember, Genwa impressively lives up to the hype. Just ask my mom — she seemed to really enjoy her birthday celebration! ;)

———————

Check out Genwa Korean BBQ: genwakoreanbbq.com

5115 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

See their Yelp reviews here!

Advertisements

Min Sok Chon – San Diego, CA

Food Adventures, San Diego

What’s the easiest way to feed a ravenously hungry fourteen-person reunion in San Diego? Korean barbecue, of course! According to our local friends, Convoy Street is where all the good Asian food can be found, and this Korean barbecue joint is just one of many great eats in the area. Though Min Sok Chon is not all-you-can-eat, the a la carte orders are large and great for sharing among friends. Bonus – since we were eating an early dinner, we got to take advantage of the Happy Hour pricing on cocktails and soju. Score!

Party Time at Min Sok Chon!

Party Time at Min Sok Chon!

Our party was seated at a long table, so we thought it would be best to pick out a few crowd-pleasing dishes and order a set of everything for each segment of the table. Luckily, I was near the decision-makers so I got to squeeze in a few requests (and luckier still, everyone seemed to enjoy the food). We had barely placed our food order when about half the table got up to order drinks at the bar.

A Glance at the Cocktails List...

A Glance at the Cocktails List…

I spotted a very distinct Shooter on the cocktails menu that I wanted to try — The Hello Kitty. A splash of vodka topped off with watermelon soju, this adorably pink elixir was deceptively potent under its sweet and sour notes. If pink’s not your thing, check out the Scooby Snack or just go for a carafe of flavored soju.

Hello Kitty Shooters

Hello Kitty Shooters

Before long, plate after plate of food started to arrive. First, the kalbi (galbi). Sweet and salty marinated beef short ribs sizzling on a bed of caramelized onions, kalbi has to be my Korean barbecue meat of choice. The thick slices stay juicy and tender while picking up the wonderful smoky charred essence of the grill. So good.

Kalbi - Marinated Short Ribs

Kalbi – Marinated Short Ribs

Next up was a particularly comforting Korean dish — seafood pajyun (also romanized as pajun or pajeon; pancake). A flat disc made of scallions, squid legs, shrimp bits, and other goodies strewn throughout a flour & egg batter and pan-fried till crispy. The server cut it into wedges like a pizza and we all dove in.

Haemul Pajun - Seafood Pancake

Haemul Pajun – Seafood Pancake

Although originally intended as an appetizer, the third item to arrive was the spicy chicken wings, described on the menu as their best selling dish. Crunchy Korean-style fried chicken wings served alongside a sweet, sour, and spicy dipping sauce, these wings reminded me of college days when I would walk down to Westwood and grab a box from BBQ (Best of the Best Quality) Chicken off Le Conte. Yummm….

Spicy Chicken Wings

Spicy Chicken Wings

I have a confession to make. I love noodles. I’ll eat any sort of noodles — ramen, udon, soba, somen, rice noodles, glass noodles, egg noodles, pasta, handmade fresh or dried from a package. Any day of the week. So when I go out for Korean barbecue, the first thing I look for on the menu is japchae. Japchae is one of my all-time favorite Korean dishes. Period. An elegant stir fry made of strips of beef, fine julienne of carrots, long wilted green bits of scallions, sliced white onion and of course, a sweet potato based chewy glass noodle, all tossed in a savory mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil, japchae is a wonderful thing.

Japchae - Stir Fried Glass Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

Japchae – Stir Fried Glass Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

And last but not least, sizzling skillets of bulgogi finally grace our table. Thinly sliced marinated beef also grilled and served on a bed of caramelized onion, bulgogi is not usually my favorite because of its tendency to be overcooked and dry. Not so here at Min Sok Chon. The beef slices were juicy and flavorful and excellent over the complimentary white rice… or to add a bit of extra beefiness to the japchae. (Guilty as charged.)

Bulgogi - Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef

Bulgogi – Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef

Min Sok Chon seemed to attract a younger crowd, and as day grew into night, someone turned up the volume and the jams transitioned to familiar electronic dance music. A huge plus in my book! The service was prompt when we used the call button (standard for Korean dining tables) and we did not feel rushed even though we lingered nursing our drinks and picking at the last bits of each other’s plates of food. Apparently they even have karaoke in private rooms you can book for parties or hanging out with friends. If you’re in the San Diego area and craving some good Korean noms, definitely consider swinging by Min Sok Chon. Geon bae~! (건배)

———————

Check out Min Sok Chon: mscsd.com

4620 Convoy St
Ste D & E
(between Dagget St & Opportunity Rd)
San Diego, CA 92111

See their Yelp reviews here!