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Food

Delicious Spree LA to Z...Chosun Galbee

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LAist is going on a delicious spree around LA from A to Z. This week, let's C. Today, Chosun Galbee.

We remember when Chosun Galbee used to be on Western Avenue, the entrance hidden in the back, a modest street presence, sandwiched between two neighboring businesses, smaller space, and a very plain, simple interior decor. Now, the building stands alone on the corner of Olympic and a small side street Manhattan Place, screaming its name from two sides. The interior has been dressed up to sleek and modern with lots of metal, glass, and light colored wood; not like other Korean restaurants that are either undecorated, or have a dark, all-wooden, traditional Korean countryside feel.

Most of the seating is in the front outdoor patio, an area that’s enclosed on the sides by greens and decorative opaque plastic screens. Though it’s heated, and covered over with steel rafters to protect less from the maybe-three-days of rain we get in L.A. and more from the chaotic traffic outside, it’s well ventilated to keep hair, clothes, skin from reeking of smoke for days.

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Chosun Galbee is big-time now; and is oft-recommended to non-Koreans as a fairly good representation of Korean cuisine. LAist has eaten there a few times since they’ve relocated, but not since we’ve seen their website, and their commercials on TV. Hmmm. TV commercials are for Applebee’s and Red Lobster. That makes us worry.

A lot can be surmised about the quality of a Korean meal by the bahnchan (small side dishes) that come out first. Chosun serves a decent variety of only decent tasting bahn-chan. There were some traditionally Korean ones: moo (sweet, spicy shredded daikon), kong-namul (seasoned soybean sprouts), and boo-choo jun (chive crepes). However, the kimchee was underripe, and had no real flavor other than red pepper and vinegar. Certainly, kimchee has a fairly strong taste just based on the fermentation alone, but usually garlic should also be an obvious contribution. LAist still wonders how potato salad became a Korean bahn-chan.

The galbee is only so-so, and confirms our belief that galbee is now universally too sweet. Saeng galbee is better, expecially with a generous smear of daen-jahng (fermented soybean paste). When all the sahl (meat) is cooked and gone, the raw, flat, wide bones are finally placed on the grill. We have a momentary suspicion that perhaps they will be used to clean the grill, but why waste? We grab them with our hands and gnaw away at the fat, ligaments, and finally, the periosteum. Bet you didn't know LAist knew such a scientific word. Now you know.

After the sweet, sticky, smoky galbee, naeng-myun, buckwheat noodles served cold in a broth, is a refreshing palate cleanser. Chosun's naeng myun tastes better than their galbee.

LAist is a bit of a connoissuer when it comes to hae-mool pah-jun, a type of seafood pancake or crepe. The best pah-juns we’ve had in the past are far less a pancake with seafood, and much more hae-mool, tenuously held together with a thin batter. The pancake, as large as a medium pizza, invokes marvel at how the chef could have flipped the thing in the pan and kept it whole. It falls apart with chopsticks, leaving bits behind in a small bowl of red peppered vinegar soy sauce. The outside is oily crisp, fried dark around the edges and soft, slightly runny on the inside from the liquer around each crab (real meat), squid, shrimp, and most especially, oyster.

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Chosun galbee’s hae-mool pah-jun is far from any of that, and unfortuantely, is a woeful embarassment to Korean cuisine. The pancake batter itself is far too floury, making it dreadfully dry and thick, which could have been ignored if there had been enough hae-mool and vegetables to cut the flour. Of the paltry representation of the pseudo-ocean that was there, it was only imitation crab meat and pitiful rings of squid that, given their rubberband-like chewiness, were obviously frozen then thawed in a microwave. There were a few slices of o-deng (fishcake) on top, but for god’s sake, at least the imitation crab looks like crab; they used the ones that have neon pink edges. No shrimp, no clams, no oysters. And to add insult to injury, the miserable seafood pancake – for it hurts to call it hae-mool pah-jun - is garnished with a gaudy maraschino cherry. We have no words. We cannot speak.

LAist was so deflated, disappointed, appalled – a whole number of words – by the haemool pah jun. Not only did it taste bad, but Chosun Galbee is a place that many non-Koreans come to get a taste for the cuisine. It makes us a bit sad.

We can accept the sticky sweet galbee, since now that seems to be a general trend in Korean cuisine, and sugar appeals to many tastebuds. The naeng-myun was fairly good, too. But bad bahn-chan and horrendous hae-mool pah-jun? If LAist has a choice, we wouldn’t go back. Unless someone drags us there and pays for it. And even then, we would never order the hae-mool pah-jun.

Chosun Galbee
3330 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90019
www.chosungalbee.com