Posts Tagged ‘Korean bbq’

burger, fries and onion rings from Hodad's in San Diego

burger, fries and onion rings from Hodad's in San Diego

I’m back in London after spending five days in La Jolla, California, which included quick trips to LA and the ‘burbs of Orange County. I couldn’t get enough of the sunshine and wide, sandy beaches of SoCal, but sadly, my year-old Canon Elph drowned in seawater during a kayak outing off the coast of San Diego (Ziploc, how could you fail me?!?), so all the food photos I wanted to share are now lost.

Nonetheless, here’s a picture-free roundup of three seriously good meals in case you ever find yourself hungry in SoCal (and click here for my earlier post about our phenom meal at Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica):

Hodad’s. It’s a San Diego institution. And once you’ve tried the goods, it’s easy to understand Hodad’s popularity. The sweet, crispy onion rings are alone worth the 11-hour flight to LAX and 2.5-hour drive down to San Diego. I ate so many of them that I failed to save room for their equally-fabled milkshakes. Next time (and there surely will be a next time) I won’t make that rookie error.

Hodad’s, 5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107; +1 619-224-4623.

Hodad's on Urbanspoon

Cho Sun Galbee. My close friend and Orange County-Korean-chick-about-town, Jane, recommended this Korean barbecue in the heart of Koreatown. In the heat of summer, I had my doubts while driving past ugly concrete-block strip malls, but Cho Sun Galbee is an oasis. Jon and I sat outside in a shady garden and devoured Cho Sun Galbee’s tender, smoky-sweet bulgogi, which may be the best we’ve ever had. It wasn’t cheap ($24 a portion), but good Korean barbecue never is. Job chae and bibimbap were also tasty, but paled in comparison. Sleek interiors tells you this isn’t your grandmother’s Korean barbecue, but the food is classic and quality. The restaurant offers free valet parking, which I think is so L.A.

Cho Sun Galbee, 3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019; +1 323 734 3330.
Chosun Galbee on Urbanspoon

Nha Hang Van. OC-born-and-bred, our friend (and talented wedding photographer) Lu knows his Vietnamese food. And when I told him I was craving banh xeo, he took us to Nha Hang Van, which specializes in banh xeo, of course. Perfect. The pancakes were thin and crispy and the prawns and beansprouts plentiful. A first for me, Nha Hang Van’s version included mashed-up mung bean which glued the fillings together and added a creamy texture. Also on offer were gorgeous sweet-potato fries and banh khot, which are coconut-scented mini-pan pizza versions of banh xeo. Basically, the cooks at Nha Hang Van know how to work a fryer and pancake batter, and with most dishes costing about $5, it’s no wonder that the place is busy all day. Wrap everything in lettuce and mint leaves and you can pretend you’re not clogging your arteries, but for a “lighter” dish, the steamed banh beo were excellent, too.

Nha Hang Van, 14122 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove, CA 92843; +1 714-530-6858.

Nha Hang Van's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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seafood pajeong at Koba Restaurant in London

A few weeks ago, my friend Jane (who introduced herself to me by declaring: “Koreans are the fun Asians”) organized a big group outing to Koba for some Korean food. I wasn’t able to make it, but between Jane’s endorsement and then this positive review by Worldfoodieguide a few days later, I was sold on checking out Koba.

I have to admit that when I lived in New York, I craved Korean food usually after drinking heavily, and then when I lived in DC, I wasn’t able to get my Korean food fix very often because most of the good stuff was out in the ‘burbs of Annandale (and god forbid I ever need to drive a car somewhere). When I first moved to London, my friends Cathy and Bobby convinced me to visit New Malden, but you didn’t get to cook your own bulgogi at Asadal, the Korean bbq we visited, so I was disappointed enough that I haven’t been back to New Malden since.

My point is that it’s been years since I’ve had Korean food at a restaurant, so my ability to evaluate Korean food is pretty basic and limited. That said, I thought Koba served pretty good food in a sleek dining room at reasonable prices.

Worldfoodieguide was definitely right about the pajeon (photo at top). It was *delicious*. Sweet, savory scallions and chewy, juicy seafood held together with a hot, airy egg batter, pan fried to a golden crisp. One of the best types of pancake in the world. £6.90 for this bit of appetizer heaven.

japchae at Koba Restaurant in London

The japchae also disappeared quickly. Served hot, Koba’s version was chock full of crunchy sweet pepper slices, scallions, shitake mushrooms and pork. Sesame seeds and oil added crunch and a rich, nutty aroma.

bulgogi on the grill at Koba Restaurant, London

Where Koba fell down on the job for me was the bulgogi. We ordered the “regular” bulgogi (i.e., just marinated beef sirloin) and the osam bulgogi (spicy squid and pork belly). The server cooked both portions on the tabletop grill, but she put the raw meat on the grill *and then* turned on the heat, so you can imagine how nothing caramelized or got seared. Instead, there was so much marinade on the meat that at times, the meat was just kind of boiling or steaming.

That said, because the marinade is so delicious, the bulgogi was still a treat, overall. But it’s just not the same as getting the crispy, sweet caramelized crust that comes only from grilling and searing.

Last note is that it’s super annoying that Koba charges you for normally-free basics like kimchi.

Overall, though, servers were polite and helpful; the dining room is chic and simple; and prices are good, with most dishes costing no more than £8.

I’d definitely go back for the appetizers alone. £48 was our tab for two for the pajeon, japchae, two bulgogis and two beers.

Koba, 11 Rathbone St, W1T 1NA, 020 7580 8825; closest Tube station: Tottenham Court Road

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