Our 10 Favorite Korean Restaurants In Los Angeles
There is much more to Korean food than BBQ beef short ribs and kimchi. Koreans also have delicious porridges, sashimi, stew, noodles and a variety of ingredients and dishes that vary from region to region. Fortunately, Los Angeles has some of the best Korean food outside Korea. Here are some of our favorites, and as always, leave your own picks in the comments.
Blowfish Barbecue (Photo by Philemon Jung )
Dae Bok Restaurant
Here you can get dinner and a buzz (even if you're not drinking). You may be familiar with fugu, aka the poisonous blowfish available at high-end Japanese restaurants, but what about its Korean cooked counterpart? Dae Bok has spicy blowfish barbecue, stew, and deep-fried blowfish. Although the blowfish is eaten cooked unlike the Japanese-style dish, you can still expect to feel the same tingly, numbing sensation.The star of the show at Dae Bok is their blowfish stew (jiru), which starts out as a soup and ends up more like a shabu shabu hot pot. The stew comes with veggies cooked table-side over an open flame. After you're done with your blowfish and veggies, the staff takes the leftover broth and adds rice to the concoction, effectively turning the remnants into a delicious porridge. The barbecue blowfish tastes like a fish version of the typical bulgogi beef found in Korean barbecue and the deep-fried blowfish is made sweet and sour style with pineapple.
FYI, Dae Bok has a lunch special with smaller portions of their blowfish specialties if you don’t want to commit to a larger, dinner portion.
Dae Bok Restaurant is located at 2010 James M Wood Boulevard in Los Angeles, (213) 386-6660.
Abalone Porridge (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Hungry, sick, or hungover at 3 a.m.? Open all day, Mountain Café is the go-to place in Koreatown for comfort food. Don’t expect anything fancy or any sort of service for that matter. This hole-in-the-wall only has a handful of seats. You get in, eat, and get out. Their specialty is their abalone porridge, which is topped off with a raw egg. Your meal comes with four side dishes. It includes kimchi, radish, beef strips, and pickled radish. Besides the porridge, Mountain Café is also known for their ginseng chicken soup with glutinous sticky rice. Mountain Café also has dumplings on the menu, but stick to the abalone porridge. Whether you’re hungover, battling the flu, or just plain hungry, you won’t regret making it your stop!
Mountain Café is located at 3064 West 8th Street in Los Angeles, (213) 487-7615.
Jae Boo Do
If you love seafood, you need to check out Jae Boo Do for their Korean grilled seafood. The servers start you off with Korean-style ceviche, followed by a slew of appetizers like peppers, kimchi, cream corn, pancake, pickled veggies, soup, sashimi salad, etc. Depending on which combo set you order, a gigantic seafood platter will be placed on the charcoal grill with a selection of seafood that may include lobsters, abalone, baby octopus, eel, clams, scallops, shrimps, oysters, and more.
You will also be handed a single glove MJ-style to wear so you don’t burn your hands when handling the seafood shells. Just when you are stuffed to the point of no return, the meal ends with soup noodles that are cooked in a light, seafood broth over the grill. Jae Boo Do is worth a visit just to get an Instagram-worthy video of live abalones and lobsters ‘dancing’/being cooked alive on your grill.
Jae Boo Do is located at 474 North Western Avenue in Los Angeles, (323) 467-2900.
Ginseng Chicken Soup with Sticky Rice (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Buil Samgye Tang
Most people drink chicken noodle soup when they are sick or recovering from a hangover, but Koreans drink a rich ginseng chicken soup that puts plain old chicken noodle soup to shame. Samgyetang is the ultimate Korean comfort food. A whole chicken is stuffed with ginseng, sweet sticky rice, mung beans, sweet potato, green onion, garlic, and other goodies. Buil Samgye Tang has different versions of their ginseng chicken soup with different herbs and ingredients added to the base all according to the principles of Eastern Medicine. You can choose from the regular soup, or go with the more unique items like chicken gizzard and abalone. The meal also comes with a few side dishes and a cup of ginger tea. Chicken noodle soup will never be the same again.
Buil Samgye Tang is located at 4204 West 3rd Street in Los Angeles, (213) 739-0001.
Korean BBQ surrounded by sides like sweet corn and mozzarella cheese (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Kang Hodong Baekjeong
What happens when one of Korea’s most successful emcees/comedians opens a chain of Korean BBQ restaurants? You get really good food and long, long lines! Kang Hodong Baekjeong is the ‘it’ place to go for Korean BBQ. Unlike many Korean BBQ joints in Koreatown, it’s not all you can eat, but the quality of meat more than makes up for it. The servers cook all the meat, change the grills, and handle everything for you. Just sit back and relax.
Kang Hodong Baekjeong has beef and pork combos. The beef combo comes with thinly sliced brisket, marinated prime boneless short rib, and your choice of either prime boneless short rib or prime rib eye. The pork combination includes pork cheek, neck, and belly. The most unique part about Kang Hodong Baekjeong is their special custom interchangeable grills. The inner charcoal grill adds a smoky flavor to the meat. The outer section of the grill is filled with small compartments that cook kimchi, veggies, sweet corn and mozzarella cheese, and a raw egg mixture. The fatty, oily goodness from the cooked meat ends up dripping into the side dish sections resulting in some amazing goodness. Kang Hodong Baekjeong also provides a unique dipping sauce made of onions, jalapenos, and wasabi. For diners who don’t want regular white rice, you can replace white rice for Dosirak-rice with fried egg, seaweed, kimchi, and bean curd that arrives in a tin box. The server will vigorously shake and mix the crap out of it. Your meal ends with either a bowl of bean paste soup or kimchi soup. Expect a long wait, but the host will take your phone number and call you when your table is ready.
Kang Hodong Baekjeong is located at 3465 W 6th Street in Los Angeles, (213) 384-9678.
Eight different types of flavored pork belly (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Eight Korean BBQ
Palsaik Samgyupsal Korean BBQ, which has been renamed Eight Korean BBQ, is a pork belly lover's heaven. How could you go wrong with eight different flavors of pork? For newcomers, the sample pork set is the best thing to order to get a taste of everything. The Palsaik sample set comes with all eight flavors: original, wine, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste, and red pepper paste. After you find out which of the eight flavors you like best, you can follow up with individual a la carte orders of your favorite ones.
The meat is grilled on a tilted griddle that causes the fat and grease to slide into a compartment. At the end of your meal, you can also add a seafood soybean stew, a spicy seafood stew, or a kimchi fried rice to your meal. If you’re afraid of your clothes getting smoky and smelly, Eight Korean BBQ’s chairs double as compartments to store jackets and purses. The servers are supposed to cook everything for you, but service can be a real hit or miss. If you pay in cash, you’ll get 8% off the bill.
Eight Korean BBQ is located at 863 South Western Avenue in Los Angeles, (213) 365-1750.
Fresh Dungeness Crab (Photo by Eunjae Jung)
Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant
Situated on the Redondo Beach Pier, Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant serves fresh seafood they catch straight out of the tanks and cook right in front of you. After you pay and find yourself a table, you are given a bib and mallet to prepare for the mountains of seafood that will soon be coming your way. The most popular items to order are the Dungeness Crab, live shrimp (sashimi) with fried shrimp head, and the spicy Korean fish stew. You can also request melted butter, ginger, wasabi, kimchi, or spicy sauces to dip your seafood in. Pacific Fish Center also serves extremely fresh Korean-style sashimi, which uses cho jang—a sweet, spicy sauce—instead of soy sauce. Don’t expect much service from Korean ahjummas (aunties) that run the place, but the food is well worth it.
FYI, if you grab a window seat you'll get a beautiful view of the ocean and of seagulls.
Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant is located at 131 Fishermans Wharf in Redondo Beach, (310) 374-8420.
Fresh clam 'knife noodles' soup (Photo by Ava T.)
Miari Noodle House
Miari Noodle House in Koreatown specializes in clam kalgooksoo, which literally translates to "knife noodles." Their knife-cut noodles are paired with fat and juicy clams in a light broth and seasoned with peppers. The broth tastes light, refreshing, and has a slight milky flavor. It’s topped with potato slices and squash. Miari Noodle House has a fresh tank outside where they get the clams from. They don’t skimp on it either. Expect upwards of 15 clams in each bowl. Miari’s kimchi is also extremely fresh. Each table gets a tiny can with a tong and scissors for cutting up the three different variations of kimchi they provide.
Miari Noodle House is located at 3224 West Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, (323) 735-0647.
Duck fat fried rice (Photo by Chuck S.)
Sun Ha Jang
Kick your Korean BBQ game up a notch with Sun Ha Jang's barbecue duck! Sun Ha Jang offers 3 different duck meat options to choose from: spicy-seasoned duck, fresh duck strips, and duck slices. The most popular duck dish to order is the spicy-seasoned duck, which the server cooks in a lake of scorching duck fat. The duck skin becomes extremely crispy.
Once all your meat has finished cooking, you will see a puddle of magnificent, artery-clogging duck fat. At the end of the meal, the server will take all the leftover duck fat and pour rice on the pan and add the remaining banchan (side dishes) left over to make a drool-inducing duck fat kimchi fried rice. The restaurant is located right outside Koreatown. They do not have an English sign so look for the picture of the two ducks to find your restaurant.
Sun Ha Jang is located at 4032 West Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, (323) 634-9292.
Korean BBQ with more than 20+ ever-changing side dishes (Photo by Ivy Wang/Instagram)
Genwa Korean BBQ
Genwa Korean BBQ is one of a kind. You won’t find any other restaurant that comes even close to surpassing the 20-plus banchan side dishes it offers that change from week to week. In addition to the sides, your meal also comes with rice paper, daikon wrap, steamed egg, soup, and salad. For the main entrée, you can choose from a number of pre-set combinations or order a la carte from a selection of various beef, pork, chicken and fish items. The most popular option is the Prime Kalbi, a marbled cut of deliciousness that melts in your mouth. Other popular choices include sliced prime beef tongue, brisket, pork belly, short ribs, ribeye, etc.
Genwa is one of the priciest Korean barbeque eateries out there, but it’s also one of the most professional and cleanest. Every table has their own attentive server who serves, cooks, cuts the meat, and changes the grill for you. The best part is that you will not feel like you just ate something super oily or reek of smoke once you leave with Genwa's innovative grills and circulation system. At the end of your meal, you are given small marshmallow puffs that transform into hand towels when you add water. In addition, everyone is given a Korean lollipop and sweet rice drink to cleanse your palette. If Genwa's dinner prices and long waits scare you, then lunch is the way to go since they have good lunch specials. The only issue is that meat is not grilled during lunchtime: it comes out prepared and already cooked. Genwa takes reservations so don’t go without making one!
The original Genwa Koreatown location is located at 5115 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, (323) 549-0760 and the new Beverly Hills location is located at 170 North La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills, (310) 854-0046.