[LA Koreatown] Kang Hodong Baekjeong

I’ll start this post by saying that Kang Hodong Baekjeong is the best Korean BBQ I’ve ever had. Period. And you know that I’ve had a lot of Korean BBQ. Unfortunately (there’s always some bad news), it’s in Los Angeles.

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And boy, is this place popular. We’ve actually visited twice, and both times there was a 2 hour wait for dinner. On our first visit, we simply walked around the neighborhood (there was a Zion market about a block away) to pass the time until we received our call for dinner. The second time around, we were actually in LA for a show, so we signed ourselves up at the restaurant before heading to the show, and by the time we got out, our table was ready!

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The special thing about KHB is the “moat” around the grill. In the photo above, you can see a large section on the right side – that’s actually egg! There’s also corn & cheese, and bell peppers and onions – the idea is that as the meat cooks on surface, the rendered fat and juices will run down to the side and add that extra flavor.

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There are some assorted side dishes for us to enjoy, and salads that could be used to mix with the meat or simply eaten on its own – per the instructions at every table, haha.

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The special dipping sauce that’s mentioned contains wasabi, in addition to the usual yuzu-soy. We really liked the wasabi and thought that it really brought out an extra “kick”!

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On our first visit, we ordered the beef combo ($49.99 for small), which includes marinated boneless short rib, thinly sliced brisket, choice of prime boneless short rib or prime rib eye, and a bean paste stew.

Brisket

Brisket

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Prime Ribeye

Boneless Short Rib

Boneless Short Rib

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Kogi BBQ

Continuing our exploration of different Korean BBQ restaurants in San Diego, we decided to try out Kogi BBQ, an all-you-can-eat joint located on Kearny Villa Rd off of Hwy 163 and Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

The main reason that we were interested in Kogi is because of their Happy Hour special – $16.95 after 9pm. The menu is slightly limited compared with the regular menu ($19.95), but it had everything that we wanted. (Unfortunately, my picture of the menu didn’t turn out so well – here is a link to a pretty decent photo from Yelp.)

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Unlike other KBBQ restaurants that have a full table of banchan, there’s only a small plate of assorted side dishes as shown above. I actually really liked the kimchi and the potato salad, though. I’m pretty sure there are unlimited refills, although we didn’t ask for any as we didn’t want to fill up on the sides. Also, unlike other KBBQ, Kogi has a separate “Sides” portion of the menu – you can order as many as you want, but there’s also a charge if you don’t finish everything, just like the meats.

Corn Cheese

Corn Cheese

The corn cheese was the side that I was most curious about – and we really liked it. It’s super simple, basically just corn mixed with melted mozzarella cheese, but those two things just happen to be two of my favorite things I guess, haha. We ended up liking it so much that we ordered another one later on.

Thinly-sliced radish

Thinly-sliced radish

Another one of the sides that you can order is the thin radish slices, which I like to pair with the grilled meat to balance out the salt and grease.

Soy Bean Soup

Soy Bean Soup

Our friend A ordered the soy bean soup, which is one of her favorite soups. I tried a bit of it, and it’s pretty salty but has a good amount of spiciness! I’ll have to try some more next time.

Steamed Egg

Steamed Egg

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Blue Korea House

S and I recently tried out Blue Korea House as part of our “try-every-Korean-BBQ-restaurant-in-SD” quest. We saw that it had high reviews on Yelp, but didn’t know anyone who had actually eaten there… so we decided to check it out, along with a couple of our friends.

Blue Korea House

The first thing that we noticed was that the menu design looked super similar to Dae Jang Keum’s… I wish that I had gotten a picture of it. It made me wonder whether they had the same owner? Or perhaps someone who previously worked at DJK decided to open Blue Korea House?

Anyway, this place is also a non-AYCE Korean BBQ joint – over the past year, S and I have gravitated towards those instead of the all-you-can-eats, since we tend to overstuff ourselves too much, and the experience becomes less enjoyable.

Shortly after ordering, we were presented with the usual assortment of banchan (side dishes):

Side dishes

Side dishes

Side dishes

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Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of 5-Minute Mug Cakes, which ends on January 1st!

Last month, I celebrated my birthday along with three of my good friends – all of us have birthdays within a week of one another, so it’s a great chance to have a big party! This year, we chose Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ (yakiniku) shop that opened semi-recently in Scripps Ranch, as our celebration spot. 

We had a large group, 12 people total, and there were 2 grills for us. My side of the table decided to order two of the “Meat Lover’s Course for 2″, priced at $55, as well as a few additional a la carte items.

The course comes with several appetizers:

Cheese Wontons

Cheese Wontons

I wish that this were a little bit more crispy, but the flavor was actually not bad. I liked the spicy mayo dipping sauce.

Garlic Fried Chicken

Garlic Fried Chicken

I guess this is Gyu-Kaku’s version of karaage. It was pretty good, although I couldn’t detect much of the garlic.

Gyu-Kaku Salad

Gyu-Kaku Salad

The salad was actually my favorite appetizer. I liked the inclusion of hard-boiled eggs, radish slices, and the thousand-island-style dressing!

Miso Soup

Miso Soup

The last appetizer for the Meat Lover’s Course is miso soup – it was nice, a tad on the salty side, but nothing too special.

Edamame

Edamame

The other half of the table ordered a different course set (the Gyu-Kaku Course for 2), and shared some of their edamame with us. So nice!

Now comes the meat! The Meat Lover’s Course comes with bistro hanger steak (with miso), filet mignon (with ponzu), NY steak (miso), premium sirloin (garlic), yaki-shabu (miso), and toro beef (tare/sweet soy sauce). In addition, we also had double orders of beef tongue, pork belly, and chicken cheese fondue. The photos are in the order that everything arrived…

Filet Mignon - Ponzu

Filet Mignon – Ponzu

The filet mignon is apparently 21-day aged – I wish that there was less of the ponzu sauce, though, and more of the actual beefy flavor that came through.

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue [$7.95]

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue [$4.95]

Chicken Cheese Fondue

Chicken Cheese Fondue

The idea with the chicken cheese fondue is that you let the little aluminum cups of cheese sit on the grill to melt while you’re cooking the chicken, then dip the chicken in the cheese. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken with the cheese, and ended up eating the two separately…

Toro Beef Tare

Toro Beef – Tare

By far, my – and everyone else’s – favorite of the evening. This was described as “beef bacon”, and it was nice and fatty. This also had one of the lightest marinades out of everything that we ordered, and I really liked the light sweetness of the soy sauce….

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Buga Korean BBQ

In case you haven’t figured out yet, S and I really love Korean BBQ. Lately, we’ve been indulging in our cravings quite a bit, trying out several places around San Diego that we haven’t been to before – Buga was one of them!

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Buga’s location isn’t super nice – it’s on Clairemont Mesa Blvd near I-805, and shares a parking lot with the Motel 6. The building exterior also looks to be under construction and basically looks unfinished. But anyway, once you get inside, the place is pretty nice. There’s a big TV on the wall, which got us excited since there’s now one more place for us to watch football, haha.

Unlike many of the Korean BBQ places that we visit, Buga is not all-you-can-eat. Instead, you order the meats à la carte (like Dae Jang Keum, which I posted about recently). There are also a couple of special combos, which we thought would be a good deal – we chose the Special A2, a combo for two that includes beef brisket, beef tongue, and pork belly, as well as a bean paste stew.

Banchan

Banchan

A variety of side dishes arrived pretty quickly. I thought that the peanuts with a sweet molasses glaze (bottom right) was really interesting, as well as the fried tofu (top right). The rest, including the kimchi, didn’t stand out to me, though.

We really wanted to try the steamed egg and asked our waitress if the bean paste stew in our A2 combo could be substituted with steamed egg instead. She was super nice about it and okay’ed the switch.

Steamed Egg

Steamed Egg

S and I have slightly different preferences for steamed eggs. His favorite is from Manna, which has a really soft and custardy egg cooked with chicken broth. I like the egg a bit firmer, the way Taegukgi makes it. This was sort of in between for texture, and the flavor was quite nice.

Finally, our platter of meat arrived:

Special A2

Special A2 [$38.95]

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Dae Jang Keum

S and I LOVE Korean BBQ – in San Diego, there are several all-you-can-eat KBBQ restaurants, our favorite being Manna. However, we’ve been wanting to try non AYCE, since the meat quality is supposed to be better, and we don’t like to stuff ourselves silly anymore. One weekend, we invited our friend along to try out Dae Jang Keum, which is a highly rated “a la carte” KBBQ restaurant.

Dae Jang Keum

We were seated promptly, and the first thing I noticed was that the grill is different from Manna’s.

DJK Grill

DJK Grill

It’s actually a charcoal grill instead of propane gas! And depending on the type of meat, they either put a flat pan or a wired rack on top for grilling… I have some pics later.

Salad

Salad

Banchan

Banchan

Thinly-sliced daikon

Thinly-sliced daikon

We were presented with an assortment of side dishes. Normally at AYCE Korean BBQ, I don’t eat too much of them since I try to save more room for meat. But here, I actually took the time to enjoy each of them… haha. I liked most of the banchan, but especially the lotus root and garlic stems! There’s complimentary refill on the banchan, too – we asked for a couple more helpings of the garlic stems and lotus.

Onto the meats! We started out with three meats: thinly-sliced pork belly, beef tongue, and beef rib finger meat (joo mool luck).

Hyuh Mit Gul - Beef Tongue [$18.99]

Hyuh Mit Gul – Beef Tongue [$18.99]

Remember how I mentioned earlier that they put a pan over the grill? Yup, this is what it looks like. One of the nice things about non-AYCE places is that there’s typically someone to cook the meat for you! I guess they’re worried that customers would mess up the good quality meat, haha. Our server was a really nice Korean lady who cooked everything wonderfully.

Beef Tongue & Pork Belly

Beef Tongue & Pork Belly

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Taegukgi Korean BBQ House

I am a huge fan of Korean BBQ – sliced meats of all kinds, grilled at the table, sometimes marinated with a spicy sauce and paired with various dipping sauces. In San Diego, there are several all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurants, the most popular (and my current favorite) being Manna. However, S and I still like to try out new places whenever we get a chance. We’ve heard mixed reviews of Taegukgi, an AYCE-KBBQ place that opened up last year (after the new Zion Market opened), and in February, they had a special: their original AYCE dinner menu would be $18.99 instead of $21.99. So, S and I went on the last day that this special was offered. To be honest, the special is only a dollar cheaper than Manna’s “A2″ AYCE menu, but we’re cheapos…

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The place is pretty decked out… including an outdoors deck area! Haha.. oh boy, I’m feeling punny tonight. Anyway, it’s odd that there’s an outdoors seating area – we didn’t see any grills on the tables. Oh well. The atmosphere of Taegukgi is more “sports-bar-like” than Manna or any other KBBQ place. S and I imagined that it’d be fun to watch a football game here when NFL season is back.

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The place was pretty empty by the time we left… which is when I took these photos of the interior. As you can see, there’s a vent above each table, which can be pulled down close to the grill. It’s supposed to help mitigate the smell that will be all over your clothes and hair after eating KBBQ… haha. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I guess I felt less sticky and greasy afterwards than usual?

When we were seated, the waitstaff quickly brought us a bowl of salad, an assortment of side dishes, and a plate of beef brisket.

Salad

Salad

Grill & Side Dishes

Grill & Side Dishes

I never know how to take “good” photos of Korean BBQ meals… so here are some photos of our meats and grilling experience:

Beef tongue; brisket

Beef tongue; beef brisket

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Pork belly; Taegukgi pork ribs

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[LA] Tamaen Japanese BBQ

Here’s another post from my recent visit to L.A. (Actually, I’m going to L.A. again this weekend, so this month might pretty much be L.A.-focused. Haha.) We were meeting up with some of our college buddies, and we decided to eat something nice. Since one of my friends is pretty familiar with the Torrance area, he took us to a Japanese BBQ restaurant in Lomita. We didn’t have reservations or anything, but luckily they had a table for four available on a Friday night. The place was pretty small, very cute, and reminded me a lot of Tsuruhashi – Japanese “Korean” style BBQ.

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The menu indicates that they have “Special Selected” as well as “High Quality” U.S. Kobe beef. But we decided that U.S. Prime beef was good enough for us (and our wallets), haha.

Salted Beef Tongue [$6.50]

Salted Beef Tongue [$6.50]

Pork Fatty Meat [$5.50]

Pork Fatty Meat [$5.50]

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Mapo Korean BBQ

S and I really love Korean BBQ. I first discovered all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in Raleigh, North Carolina, on my 21st birthday! Haha. Looking back, the place really wasn’t that great – especially now that I’ve had Korean BBQ in California – but I really loved grilling all the meat that I can eat. In San Diego, we’ve only been to Manna BBQ, which is ridiculously popular; I’ve rarely seen the place without a long list of people waiting. There are several other AYCE KBBQ’s in SD, but we’ve never gotten around to any of them since they’re usually priced around the same as Manna, and we’ve always heard that Manna has the best quality meat. However, some of our friends have been recommending Mapo Korean BBQ, so we went with a group for a birthday celebration.

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The best thing about Mapo is that there wasn’t a line. We had made reservations, but at Manna, there’s a wait even if you make reservations (and you can only do so if your group is larger than 12). There were several other tables still available, too, so if you’re a walk-in customer I’m sure you could have been seated immediately. Anyway, above is their “Premium All-You-Can-Eat” Menu B, which offers a pretty decent selection. Like Manna, they have a 2-hour time limit, although we’re not sure how strictly it’s enforced.

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Banchan & Salad

We were served a few assorted side dishes (banchan) and a salad. The side dishes were all right – I liked the broccoli and cucumbers. However, I do admit that the sides were not as good as Manna’s.

Dipping sauces

Dipping sauces

The dipping sauces served here are pretty different from other AYCE restaurants that I’ve been to. From left to right: a lightly sweetened soy sauce with pickled jalapenos, garlic, and onion; chili sauce that was vaguely reminiscent of Chinese dou ban jiang (toban djan); sesame oil with sea salt and peppers (supposed to be for pork belly).

KBBQ doesn’t really lend itself to great photos, and I was busy grilling and eating (okay, mostly eating), but I managed to snap a few photos of our meat…

Beef Brisket

Thin Sliced Beef Brisket & Rib Finger Meat

Pork Belly

Sliced Black Pork Belly

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Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ

On the last evening of my dad’s visit, he treated S and I to Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ. Tsuruhashi has been on my bookmarks list for a while, and since Japanese BBQ is hard to find where my dad lives, he was happy to try it out.

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The restaurant is located in the Original Pancake House plaza on Convoy (same plaza as Sakura). The inside was actually smaller than I expected – the picture above captures the entire width of the restaurant space.

I read online that Tsuruhashi is a region in Osaka, known for having a large number of Korean-Japanese citizens and for its yakiniku, or Korean-style barbecue restaurants. Indeed, we were reminded of Korean barbecue when we were seated at the table with a round griddle in the middle (I’ll be honest, I thought of Manna). However, instead of All-You-Can-Eat, here you order each plate of meat individually.

We noticed on the menu that there was a “Family Set” special that includes rib-eye, outside skirt steak, boneless short rib, and chicken for $30, only available Monday through Thursday. Luckily we were there on a weeknight!

Family set: rib-eye, outside skirt, boneless short rib, chicken ($30)

Family set: rib-eye, outside skirt, boneless short rib, chicken ($30)

Right away, we could tell that the meat is top-quality (well, duh… the beef is USDA Prime). The chicken was marinated in a light soy-garlic sauce. Everything was very tender and flavorful – I particularly enjoyed the rib-eye and short rib.

We also chose a couple of other items:

U.S. Kobe boneless short rib ($12.50)

U.S. Kobe boneless short rib ($12.50)

Pork belly with green-leaf lettuce and miso sauce

Pork belly with green-leaf lettuce and miso sauce ($6.75)

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