just some words on sagan in buena park. sorry it's so long! :)
sagan, in buena park, renounces the typical humble korean heritage in every possible way. it appears that the owner actually put quite a bit of money toward interior design - soft, neutral colors, dark wood furniture, and subtle asian accents like water, stone, and lacquered wood sculpture. it is not quiet, but there is no chaotic din from an overexposed kitchen overflowing into the dining room. the servers don't shout, but communicate with each other and the staff through earpieces and mini walkie talkies. diners get their attention with a button at each table that mysteriously alerts the staff that there is a request. it's quite matrix-ish, without the black leather and sunglasses.
this all made me skeptical of course, because my very unscientific statistics show that korean restaurants can have good food OR a good ambience, NOT both, and very rarely are they something in the middle (*ahem* woo lae oak). but i was pleasantly surprised that sagan could deliver on both, and somewhat shocked that i would ever find it in orange county (my apologies to anyone who might be offended by that statement, but i will forever be devoted to koreatown in la).
bahnchan were brought to the table, some traditional, some a little unfamiliar to me, but all of them together balanced spicy, salty, sweet, crisp and soft.
the galbi and bulgogi were properly marinated, and i won't fault sagan for it being a bit sweet for my taste - i have accepted that as a general taste trend in korean barbecue. the galbi meat was already cut off the ribs to make for a less neanderthal-like experience, but i do miss the chewy periosteum and connective fibers of the bones. the bulgogi was good as well, but the star of the table was the saeng-sun gui. unless the fish itself is bad, i can't really imagine a restaurant making this badly. it's just crispy fish and salt. as if pounds of beef and an entire fish wasn't enough, we finished the meal with naeng-myun and mahn-doo gook, which were, apparently, quite good because we finished almost all of it.
still, though, i am not sure i am completely comfortable with this eliza-doolittle-ization of korean cuisine. sagan, like me, suffers from a bit of an identity crisis - not sure who it is or what it wants to be. it's a korean restaurant, but it also has authentic japanese foods and korean-japanese foods on the menu (didn't try any of those). it's housed in what looks like a remodeled applebee's. it seems a little out of place there on a strip of beach blvd. dotted with the tgi fridays and chili's that cater to the tourist family crowds of knott's berry farm. there are grills on each table with both gas and charcoal. it's quiet, upscale, almost sophisitcated, but it is, after all, korean food.
oh well, we're in america, a bibimbap of cultures and cuisines. and this is l.a. - it's normal to be mildly schizophrenic.
7801 beach blvd.
buena park, ca 90620