LaOn is the newish tapas-style Korean eatery by the owner of Park's BBQ, located right next to Don Dae Gam. I'd read an interview with the owner couple of weeks ago and I was intrigued to try it, particularly given its connection to the venerable Park's.
Good god, was this bad. They are absolutely confused about what they should be doing with the food & who their target audience is. The dishes ranged from bad to downright inedible - spicy octopus was absurdly spicy w/ the chewiness of shoe leather, bean paste bibimbap was cold & anemic on toppings. The wharo thing was absolutely ridiculous - a cutesy version of kbbq w/ a 4"x8" stone brazier holding ~10 lumps of charcoal placed on the table w/ a metal grate perched atop to cook, what, 6 pieces of meat at a time? Come on. We got 2 orders of meat ("tapas" portions, ~10-12 pieces each), order of mushrooms & pork-wrapped rice cakes (2 skewers of 3), and it probably took a good 45 minutes to get through thanks to the minuscule cooking surface & slow heat.
It pains me to no end to say this since I love Park's and I love the idea of ktapas, but they really have to rethink the entire setup and work on getting the flavors right. The wharo is cute and novel, and would be ok for a party 2 with lots of time and patience, but it would be absurd to expect a party of 4 to cook in this fashion. Maybe they bring out 2 of them for a party of 4?? I don't know. Even then... much patience would be required. It was just a less effective & frustration-inducing version of the standard kbbq setup.
I saw glimpses of authenticity in the flavors - I wouldn't necessarily say they were dumbed down for the mildly curious crowd who isn't quite up to the Soot Bull Jeep down-&-dirtiness. They weren't fusion-y in any way. They were just executed very, very poorly. I actually think Korean flavors are quite conducive to "fusioning" and would prefer that over this sad attempt.
The servers ranged from friendly but high-school-amateurish to expedient. One girl (yes, she seemed to be about 16 yo) was so sweet & eager to help yet so green, that I felt like she saw us as her sorority sisters who came over to her first-ever dinner party in her first-ever apartment where she was serving her first-ever platter of bruschetta & wine in a box.
With 7 items and 2 cokes, the check was $70 before tip. I wouldn't mind paying that for delicious, well-executed dishes, but I'm not keen to do it again. Especially since I can go next door to Don Dae Gam or to Park's and eat far better food for significantly less and not made to feel like I'm playing with dolls.
1145 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006