When I got the invite to check out Gwang Yang BBQ, a new upscale Korean barbecue restaurant in Koreatown, I was surprised find that none of the Los Angeles area Food Critics (you know who you are) have written about it. I don’t get it as the food and service were superb. Gwang Yang BBQ in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles is the first location in the United States for the family-operated restaurant from South Korea. If successful, the plan is to expand the business throughout the US. But before doing so, Americans would have to understand that Korean Barbecue restaurants is just like an American Steakhouses with the exception that you grill your own meat at your table. With time and perserverance, I think Gwang Yang BBQ has the template to set the standard for a new type of steakhouse in the U.S.
I must point out the service at Gwang Yang BBQ. It is high quality service almost like the service that encountered at the Michelin recommended R & G Lounge in San Francisco. I noticed the overall professionalism and organization of the service the minute that I stepped inside the restaurant. The service is very hospitable and there wasn’t a delay in preparing the tables for seating or attending to the clientele. For a restaurant that has been opened for almost four months, it was nice to walk inside Gwang Yang BBQ and feel very welcomed. As a matter of fact, every single dining party that walked in after us were treated with excellent customer service. To me, service like this is a lasting impression.
Our dinner at Gwang Yang BBQ was all about learning Korean Barbecue and how this restaurant redefines Korean food for the American taste buds. Our Server, a Korean American, was very helpful and gave us some insightful info about what we had in store for dinner. Gwang Yang BBQ brought their trained Korean Chefs to the U.S. to preserve the quality of the food in Los Angeles. Our dinner started with a wonderful Beef Tartare of julienned Prime Wagyu Beef (the Westernized version of Kobe Beef) and Asian Pear with a touch of seasame seed oil. In Korean, this outstanding dish is called Yuk-Hwoe. What I love about this appetizer was that it was served super chilled and it had a nice subtle sweetness to it, because of the Asian Pear. The textures of the meat was amazingly soft that it felt like it melted on my tongue as I consumed it.
We were also provided with several side dishes or Banchans that complimented our upcoming main courses. According to our Server, there are different Banchans to serve with different main courses. We had this awesome salad with a heavenly Vanilla dressing. There were also some pickled greens, a scallion salad, egg, Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodles) and salted fish/shrimp banchan.
Our beverage of choice was a Jinro Chamisul Soju. It’s a slightly fruity, crisp yet mildly rounded alcoholic beverage that’s the equilavent to a Japanese Sake. This soju paired perfectly with our Yuk-Hwoeand our next banchan; a chilled radish soup.
Our second appetizer was Yook-Jeon, a mini Beef Pancake. Now American then to think pancakes were only made during breakfast time. However, keep in mind that pancakes in Asia are savory ones. I liked these, but they were a bit bland. I would have loved to have condiments like Gochujang (Spicy Hot Pepper Paste), Himalayan salt, and perhaps a drizzle of Sesame Seed oil for flavor.
We were approaching half-time, when our Server returned to our table with two platters of Bulgogi; a popular marinaded beef dish in Korea. It was a beautiful sight to see the fatty marblization of Wagyu Beef being served. This quality guarantees tender beef. At Gwang Yang BBQ, they only serve Prime Wagyu Beef Bugogi. There are, however, two types of Bulgogi marinades on the menu, a Gangham-style Bulgogi (pictured above), is a lightly marinaded beef with a subtle sweet flavor. The second Bulgogi, called LA-style Bulgogi, has a more bolder sweet flavored marinade.
According to our Server, Gwang Yang BBQ also specializes in using a special charcol for grilling. Also, the Wagyu Beef has to grilled differently as it can easily burn. In the picture above, you’ll notice how the beef is placed in a large mound directly above the hot coals. As the beef cooks, the rendered fat sort of bastes the beef to lock in the juices and to keep the beef moist.
Between the Gangham-Style Bulgogi and the LA-Style Bulgogi, my favorite was the Gangham-Style Bulgogi. This particular marinade had a more refined yet subtle sweetness to the grilled beef. The LA-Style Bulgogi was good too, but it had to be grilled a little longer to tone down the sugar level in the marinade. What helped was dipping the meat into the Seasame Oil. I must say that I do love a Wagyu Beef Bulgogi. There is a clean flavor to the meat, because it is a prime quality. I also love the soft texture of the beef. Wagyu Beef is expensive, but after eating it as a Bulgogi, I would order it again. I definitely would. It’s such a lovely thing to dine on this prime quality beef.
It wasn’t on our planned dinner set, but we also ordered Marinaded Prime Beef Short Ribs called YangNyeom Galbi. Supposedly, at least according to my Korean friend Yumi, all Korean restaurants are judged upon their version of this particular Korean delicacy.
Like the Gangham-Style Bulgogi, I loved the YangNyeom Galbi.It is incredibly delicious and very, very tender! According to our Server, the YangNyeom Galbi is cut a certain way to soak up the marinade and to make the meat tender. Even cutting the grilled beef a certain way makes the meat even more tender for consumption. Check out the video of our conversation with our Server about why meat is cut a certain way…click here.
Our next courses were cold noodles. Now it seemed odd to get a couple orders of cold noodle dishes in the cold winter weather that we have had in the Los Angeles area for the past three weeks. I assure you that these cold dishes are also specialities of the restaurant and worth enduring a little chill to eat. As a matter of fact, I loved both cold noodle dishes. Absolutely delicious!
The Bibim Naengmyeon is a cold noodle dish served in a spicy beef broth.
The Mul Naengmyeon is cold noodles served with a plain beef broth.
Our final course was a sweet tea called Sujeonggwa. It’s made with cinnamon, ginger, and dried persimmons.
Parking structure entrance and valet ($2) are located off of Alexandria Avenue. Reservation and walk-in. Cash and credit cards are accepted.