(photo by wm. christman)
This was supposed to be the first posting to “…but the devil sends the cooks” but time and design got in the way. Park’s Barbecue wasn’t the genesis of this blog but more like the straw that broken the devil’s…er, camel’s back.
Les and I have been working on publishing something (anything!) for a few years now. We always came back to food…we eat lots of good, unique food and we finally took a step to write about food and dining and cooking in ways that would be uniquely ours.
Park’s Barbecue (actually Chung Dam Dong Park Dae) in Los Angeles was 1/3 of a weekend of food excess back in March. I live in the SF Bay Area and Les (originally from San Jose) lives in LA and we take a few turns a year, assaulting each other’s cities for outstanding eats. Korean barbecue for us has been a given for many years as the South Bay has a whole Koreatown in Santa Clara with enough K-food to last a lifetime. Same deal in LA only more so…and it was time to invade one of the better Korean barbecues.
Park’s Barbecue actually has a Michelin star but you’d never know it from looking at it in a garishly white, multi-level strip mall in the heart of Koreatown on Vermont in LA. But the façade is just that; walking through the doors opens a whole new clay jar of kimchee.
Throughly modern and simple inside, Park’s is a buzzing hive of activity, both on and off the grills. Once seated (um, you want to make a reservation here, btw…), you’re faced with several gargantuan tasks, the most important is which of the 10+ selections of meat are you going to order. Although you can get dol sot bibim bap and beef soup, the meat is the thing here. Kobe style beef, prime short rib, bul gogi, pork belly…just about any animal with it’s back to the sky can be had here.
(photo by wm. christman)
We opted for the non-marinated prime rib and the “Tokyo-X” marinated pork belly (the pork belly is the picture at the top of this article taken with the only camera we had handy, a cell phone cam) but started with the “seafood pancake” (Hae-Mul Pa-Jeon). Most renditions of this are soft, delicate affairs. Not this one. Cracking crisp on the outside and soft on the inside where shrimp and scallion rule the day, this massive dish is so addictive, we almost filled up on it.
While we made quick work of half of the pancake, the banchan started to arrive. Banchan is the small dishes of spicy and not-spicy sides of vegetable, fish and tofu. The spicy daikon (ggakdugi) was the most pungent and tasty of the lot.
The prime short rib was first and we were surprised that our waitress cooked the food for us (didn’t mind that at all). The short rib was succulent and picked up the smoke from the grill. Because it wasn’t marinated, it was a pure meat delight.
The Tokyo-X pork belly was a sight. Imagine a pork belly about 3 times the thickness of what you might buy at a butcher shop (see the picture above). This was so juicy and flavorful, that we contemplated ordering another…it was sweet and smoky and the fat-to-meat ratio was perfect, plying mouthful after mouthful of delight.
To make the gluttony complete, we ordered the bulgogi (not in the original plan) and it didn’t disappoint either. Thinly sliced and marinated in a slightly less sweet (more soy), it cooked up quickly as we polished off the rest of the banchan, beer and soju.
From the design inside, to the outstanding food, right down to the super-efficient venting (we did not smell like we spent a couple of hours in a smokehouse), Park’s Barbecue earns its Michelin star easily by providing perhaps that best Korean barbecue in the state of California.
Chung Dam Dong Park Dae, 955 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90006, 213-380-1717