Alright. I've been eating out a lot but madly busy with my master's thesis, but, you know, sometimes the work's gotta sit still. So here's a high speed brain dump of the places I've been eating at for the last two months.
Firstly, Sa Rit Gol. This was the second Korean BBQ place I ate at when I got to LA, 4 years ago - written up as it was in Counter Intelligence. I enjoyed it vaguely, but not as fully as I ought to, for two reasons: firstly, I think my K-dar was not fully developed, and secondly, I was on an early date in a short-lived relationship with a girl who turned out to be mildly meatphobic.
And she dissed my favorite bands.
Anyway, I recently became obsessed with black pork, due in part to the Wonder&Perfection of ShinSenGumi Hakata Ramen (far better than Diakyoku, in my humble opnion, for your black pork ramen fix). Anyway, I saw some note in the J.Gold Top 40 about Sa Rit Gol's black pork specialty, and I was there.
Black pork belly there turned out to be very, very purely porky. Exceedingly satisfying. But, unexpectedly, the true obsession-giving parts of the meal were the panchan. Bright, crisp pickles, with a high, singing flavor; lovely kimchee; etc. etc.
Most of the K-town joints, I'm realizing, are either using bottled panchans or slapping them together. Very little love in most of the panchans. Sa Rit Gol's panchans are all vitality, energy, freshness.
Best of all: the starter thing (is it a panchan?), the usual little bowl of refreshing vinegar-y cold soup with bits of pickle. Here, the sweetest, simplest, gentlest pickle flavor - like the sound of a soprano sax on its way up.
Very hard to describe if you haven't had this sort of thing. I've always loved pickles - zesty, hearty pickles - and my first encounters with pickle delicacy were in Torrance, before the LA food cops busted up all the home-brining operations and the pickles went to hell down there. But, luckily for me, Korean pickling methods are so bacteriologically intensive, and the Koreans are masters of pickling. The sort of gracious, varied high tones of pickles I've had in the various Korean shops have been a true pickle education. Thank you, Koreatown.
Anyway, this pickle soup is one of the three great pickles of K-town, along with Yongsusan's kim chee, and Kabawoo's kim chee, to be written up in a second.
Far, far better panchan than Soot Bull Jeep; significantly better than ChungKiWah's, for inter-BBQ comparison.