So I went to the new Koreatown Galleria on the SE corner of Olympic and Western. It's a four-floor shopping mall with adjoining parking. It rocks. The second floor with boutiques is boring. Half of the third floor, however, is a Korean food court, and the first floor is a supermarket plus some other smaller food shops. (There's a basement that I didn't go into.) If you know the Koreatown Plaza a block or two north along Western (I hadn't seen it myself until this evening), the Galleria is similar but also newer, nicer, and more populated. If I were the Koreatown Plaza right now, I'd be worried.
I'd been in Korean supermarkets before, I think, but none of them gave such a forceful impression as this one -- a Korean supermarket really is distinctly different from a Japanese or Chinese market. They have an awful lot of Korean stuff, including lots of ready-to-eat food and some fish that I don't recall seeing elsewhere, including these beautiful big red fish that it seems a shame to eat. Their produce section is big and pretty good quality, with some distinctive varieties but a little more familiar to Western shoppers than a Chinese or Vietnamese grocery's produce.
Alongside the supermarket on the first floor are a couple of bakeries, the Wien bakery selling relatively European baked goods (though you must try these soft buns they have coated with something that looks like a cross between grated cheese and shaved coconut -- I never had anything like them in Wien), and a super-interesting, super traditional-looking sweet shop called Ho Won Dang that you'll just have to figure out for yourself because I'm not sure I could explain it.
The food court is a trip. For those who have never been to an Asian food court with family food vendors, it's nothing -- nothing -- like a food court in a corporate shopping mall. I had steamed pork and vegetable dumplings from a naengmyon place called Kang Seo Myun Oak (there's almost no English writing on it, but you can tell it from the pictures of naengmyon and a sign that says something like "Since 1968") and bibimbap from the place next door called Yang Ji Express (whose name is in English). The dumplings were first-rate. Many dumplings have an undifferentiated mess of stuff inside, but here the fillings were crisp and had well-defined tastes. The bimimbap wasn't the best ever, but it was quite good and was a total bargain at six bucks.
I arrived at the food court at maybe 5pm. Most food courts are dead at dinner, but this food court was hopping, and it was still hopping when I left about 8pm. They had young Korean turntablists and rappers performing for the kids out on a small balcony, and indoors it was a very Korean all-ages scene with young families and tables of handshaking businessmen and everyone else. There's also a cafe at the far end of the third floor from the food court (not even a chain place like Starbucks, if you can believe that), separated off from it so it's relatively quiet, but I didn't get anything there.
So check it out. There's an LA Times article about it from August 14th that I printed out when someone posted it here, and it's a real good guide, walking you around all the vendors and explaining who they are and what they do. I can't find it on the Web any more, but if you can track down a copy you might want to take it with you.
Finally, a question for those Korean food eaters who have gotten this far. I think it's time for a comparison tasting of gook soo noodles. I know about Ma Dang Gook Soo a few blocks north on Western, and there's a gook soo place in the Galleria. Are there other gook soo places that you would recommend?