hey all - recently went to typhoon, a pan-Asian restaurant that's located at the Santa Monica airport. we were there for lunch, so no bugs ;) i didn't love it, but i didn't hate it. mostly because i think i really did order the wrong things - we got all korean dishes, which didn't taste horrible, but they tasted absolutely NOTHING like Korean food to me...
we started with an ahi tuna tartar, curious to see what its claim to Korean-style would entail. It was a tiny mound of chopped tuna served with sliced cucumbers and fresh raw garlic. Other than the raw garlic slices, there wasnt much Korean style to this ahi tuna at all. In fact, there wasnt much of any style at all. The tuna was dry, even though the characteristic fragrance of sesame oil was very apparent. I also came across what felt like dental floss in my mouth silvery, shiny fibers that should have been removed from the flesh. Slices of a cucumber that has been scraped lengthwise with the tines of a fork to create a lacy decorative edge looks much more Thai or Vietnamese than Korean to me. But thats just a nit. The whole thing was supposed to be Korean, but it did not taste good, nor did it taste Korean.
I was excited to see yook-gae-jahng (my spelling; Typhoon spells it as yukkae-jang). This spicy Korean beef soup is one of my favorites, and since I hadnt had it in a very long time, I thought now would be as good a time as any other to get my fix. Even after the somewhat disappointing tuna tartar, I was anxious to see how a pan-Asian restaurant would do with full-blown Korean rather than just in-the-style-of Korean. Im pretty sure we had ordered a small (all soups can be ordered small or large) but the bowl was one of those enormous plastic white bowls with a red and dark pink Asian border around the edge that Chinese restaurants use to serve sizzling rice soup and such. But it wasnt the size of the bowl that surprised so much as the contents.
this was not the yook-gae-jahng Im used to. The soup base not only didnt feel right because it was thick and opaque, but it didnt taste right either. It was spicy, but not as spicy as I would expect from the color. It was actually, sweet! It had not been made with goh-choo-gah-roo. They had used goh-choo-jahng, red pepper paste used for heat/flavor in cooking as well as a texture element because starches that are used to make it a paste can thicken liquids. I am suspecting they used chap-sal goh-choo-jahng, a red pepper paste thats made with sweet rice thats used more as a condiment rather than a cooking ingredient. If not, then Typhoon had to have simply added sugar to the soup. It was like a candy apple red béchamel.
But the base wasnt the strangest part of the yukkae-jang. The ingredients in the soup, I always call them ahl-maeng-ee, were unusual. Traditionally, yook-gae-jahng is made from flank steak that has been simmered in water that eventually goes on to become the soups beef broth. The flank steak is then shredded, rendering long fibers of meat, like carnitas, not cut across the grain into slices. Long fibers are definitely not the best for optimal eating in the grand scheme of things, but thats just the nature of yook-gae-jahng. The beef in Typhoons yukkae-jang were thin slices of beef cut across the grain, and looked like they had been cooked in a separate sauté pan and added to the soup later, not cooked with the soup from the beginning. The meat tasted like it had been marinated, like bulgogi. Had Typhoon put bulgogi in the yukkae-jang?!?! I saw bulgogi on the menu, so I wouldnt be surprised.
The strange thing is, if I hadnt known it was yook-gae-jahng, perhaps I would have been a bit more forgiving. As a sweet and spicy soup, it tasted alright. As yook-gae-jahng, it did not.
we also ordered jahp-chae, Korean rice noodles and julienned vegetables that are tossed with a soy and sesame oil seasoning. From the moment the dish was placed on the table, I was suspicious of Typhoons jahp-chae, which had an abnormally light color, and was garnished with a few thick and wide strips of nori that looked out of place. Given the appearance, I was doubtful. And I was right to be. The noodles were not the noodles that are normally used for jahp-chae they were thinner, and unfortunately, could have been forgiven except that they were overcooked, mushy, and broke apart when I lifted them from the dish. Some of the vegetables were unusual, as Ive never seen cabbage, red or green, in jahp-chae. Like the noodles, these were all overcooked, too. The seasoning didnt taste bad, but it definitely did not taste like jahp-chae seasoning. Unlike the yukkae-jang, which still tasted okay, even though it didnt taste like yook-gae-jahng, the jahp-chae didnt taste good, no matter what it was supposed to be.
yukkae-jang was the only thing that actually tasted okay, but is it even fair to say that it was good if it didnt actually taste at all like it was supposed to? The two other dishes, the tuna tartar and jahp-chae, however, didnt even taste good , no matter what they were supposed to taste like. For a nice lunch at the airport, I'd probably try the Hump for my first time before going back to Typhoon. But if I have to go back to Typhoon, I'll order foods from another country, like Japan or China, or even try Burma. For Korean food though, Ill stick to trips to Koreatown.
at the Santa Monica Airport
3221 Donald Douglas Loop
Santa Monica, CA 90405