Monday, September 28, 2009

Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ: An obsession with crispy bits

Saturday night's dining companion came equipped with the L.A. Times' recent 25 delectable dining deals article, so I relaxed and let him pick the restaurant, a refreshing change of pace for a food blogger. I haven't had Korean barbecue in quite a while, so we ended up at Hae Jang Chon, next to Kyochon Chicken on Sixth St. The all-you-can-eat meal for $16.99 includes a choice of a dozen meats. You could probably try all of them, but it's easier to keep track of what you're cooking if you select fewer than a dozen. I picked beef tongue (my new mini-obsession), marinated shortribs, bulgogi, pork belly and squid. The panchan arrived quickly -- it wasn't the most impressive selection I've seen, but we liked the tofu strips and the refreshing daikon slaw. A pile of cut-up kimchi pancake and a heap of kimchi are also placed on the grill, which you can snack on throughout the meal. The tongue cooks really fast, and my friend was surprised to find he liked it better than he thought he would. Pork belly seemed way too thick and fatty at first, but after a while it cooked way, way down and crisped up nicely. Service was really erratic -- the rice wrappers arrived only after we waved down a server, and after the last meats were put on the grill, they basically disappeared so we had to finish cooking the meats ourselves. By that time, we were too full for the kimchi fried rice that finishes the meal, but they never appeared to offer it anyway. I then became enraptured by various crunchy, caramelized nubbins of beef, pork, onion and kimchi. I just couldn't stop dipping them in the sesame oil and salt, wrapping them in rice paper and reveling in the splendor of the Maillard reaction. The quality is decent at Hae Jong Chon and the price is right, but unless you're a starving college kid, you won't really need an all you can eat experience. But no matter where you get your Korean Q, just make sure to save lots of room for those lovely blackened bits that linger on the griddle.
Hang Jong Chon
3821 W. 6th St.
(213) 389-8777
Hae Jang Chon Restaurant on Urbanspoon


SinoSoul said...

Feel like them barrel for chairs + tables yield instant hemorrhoids, especially after the meat fest...

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Pat,

Nice review, thanks. :) I was curious about this place for a while now; thanks for your thoughts (saves me some money :).

What's your favorite KBBQ place currently?

Anonymous said...

Next time you eat pork belly, cook kimchi along with it! Let it absorb the fat from the pork and cook until it turns golden. It's good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I should have read the entry all the way through before getting excited about the pictures.