When I lived in Korea, one of my favorite meals was tak kalbi, a mess of chile-paste marinated chicken stir-fried on a griddle at your table with napa cabbage and logs of rice cakes. It’s a specialty of Chuncheon-do, a province on South Korea’s east coast.
A nice and shiny tak kalbi restaurant existed years ago for a while in a minimall on 8th Street (as did a restaurant whose Korean sign proclaimed that it sold dog soup), but after it closed there was only this kind of sketchy-looking place on Olympic, a few blocks east of the Koreatown Galleria. OK, even in Korea some of the best restaurants are deceptively crappy looking, but it still took me a long time to get around to trying it.
The menu is pretty brief. There’s tak kalbi, samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly), pork kalbi, and … actually, that might be it. I can’t remember whether they had beef. No mak kuksu, I was disappointed to find.
But the tak kalbi hits the spot. This isn’t a refined dish, so I’m not going to rave about the nuances; just know that the spicy-sweet seasoning permeates and does lovely things to the satisfyingly chewy rice cakes, which soften beautifully as they cook; the tender chicken; and the crunchy cabbage. And what sets this version apart is plenty of kkaenip, an anise-scented herb that haunts my dreams. Good on you, Mapo Galbi.
Blog post with photos: http://frimframsauce.com/blog/2008/03...
3090 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006